Ontology is often viewed as a subdisciplin of metaphysics, it is addressed in the context of epistemology, phenomenology, transcendental philosophy, and even theology. With all these many-layered aspects, philosophy stays its course and addresses the theoretical and empirical dimensions of Being (and by necessity also its relation to Nothing). We will focus on the theoretical foundation of knowledge as it is conceived by the human mind, with the contingency of finite reality and the grounds and implications both of its actual existence and of its intelligibility based on supreme categories of reality that allows one to discern the objects of knowledge (i.e., substance, individual, nature, personality; quantity, space and time, quality and relation, causality and purpose).

This course reviews ontology in a topical and chronological order beginning with the three central vistas for early ontological reflections about body: material, theoretical, and causal substance; then moving to the surprising panoply of interpretations that follow from these assertions. Representative readings for the unfolding of ontology will include works by Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Husserl, N. Hartmann, Zubiri, Kierkegaard, Heidegger; if time permits, we will attempt a brief excursion to Carnap, Quinton, Whitehead, and Quine.

Hailed by some and rejected by others, ontology continues to be a foundation for philosophical discourse, regardless of whether or not the discussants agree on its name or place in the history of ideas. By conclusion of this course students will realize that reflecting upon ontology provides the tools needed to discern the existential foundation of personhood.


Research Paper 25%, Position Paper 25%, Final Exam 25%, Attendance and Relevant Contributions to in-class Activities 25%, from a total of 400 pts.

Required Texts

Being and Some Philosophers by Etienne GILSON, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies 1952.

Dynamic Structure of Reality by Xavier ZUBIRI, U of Illinois Press 2003.

Plato's Parmenides by Samuel SCOLNICOV, U of California Press 2003.

Course Requirements

The final semester grade will be based on the six performance aspects listed above under “key.”

Research Paper

Clear your topic with the instructor and follow the topical instructions announced in class. Format: 20 pages, double-spaced and typed, 1 inch margins on all four sides, stapled, no cover page or folder or clear cover. The assignment must be well written, showing a high degree of English proficiency and analytical skills, authentic and honest, properly and appropriately referencing all sources, and crediting the ideas, words, and works of others. Any delay in submitting your paper past the posted deadline will result in a deduction of 5 points for each day. Primary target is your comprehension of complex ideas and orderly written arrangement of philosophical content.

Position Paper

Clear your topic with the instructor and follow the topical instructions announced in class. Format is identical to research paper, except the size is 7 pages. Primary target is your practice of philosophical argument.

Final Exam
There will be a short essay from a selection of topics previously discussed in class. On exam day, you will select one theme from a list of topics. Your essay will link philosophers with their ideas, explore philosophical concepts, and use key terminology related to ontology.

Attendance and Discussion

You will receive up to 30 points for attendance and up to 70 points for philosophically sound and relevant contributions to in-class discussion based on the assigned readings.


There are no make-ups or extensions for any of the assignments, except in very severe cases of emergency. In such a case, a message must be left in my office within 48 hours of an incident. No message – no exemption. There are no extra credit assignments.

It is helpful to schedule approximately 4 hours of active studying per week outside the classroom to receive a CR or a C grade. For every grade step add two additional hours per week.

Grade requirements and description of grades

F failure 199 pts. and below, or with proven plagiarism.

D barely passing 200 pts.

C average 250 pts. Indicates adequate fulfillment of requirements, and average, but not notable work.

B very good 310 pts. Is earned by fulfilling the course requirement with more than adequate scholarship.

A- outstanding 350 pts., A outstanding 375 pts., To earn an A or A-, the student must demonstrate outstanding scholarship above and beyond fulfilling all the course requirements.

CR same as grade C- (230 pts.) or better.

W Withdrawal prior to the posted deadline.

I Incomplete. Only in exceptional cases. Has to be removed within one calendar year.

Phil 390 is an upper division philosophy elective course primarily designed for philosophy majors; however, it is also enjoyable for any student who loves philosophical reflection about complex and rewarding subject matters. There are no prerequisites, but students are asked to be responsible and motivated to acquire all necessary skills for scholarly debate. All assigned readings will have to be completed prior to the class meetings. It is helpful to have had some exposure to philosophical reflection, a critical thinking course, or a general introduction to philosophy. In the absence of such preparatory exposure to philosophy, please be very motivated to fill-in the gap through personal motivation and diligence.


(1) Students with disabilities must communicate all requests for special accommodations during the first three days of class.
(2) All exams can be reviewed throughout one calendar year and will be recycled thereafter. (3) Preferred contact is office visit, then phone message, lastly by e-mail <>. (4) Please visit the following hyperlinks for SSU policy information: Grade Appeal Procedures Policy, Cheating and Plagiarism Policy, Campus Diversity Vision Statement.