Science-Guided Metaphysics

Authored by: Kerry McKenzie

The Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics

Print publication date:  July  2020
Online publication date:  July  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138082250
eBook ISBN: 9781315112596
Adobe ISBN:


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It seems ludicrous to deny that serious metaphysical enquiry ought to be ‘informed by science’ – the basic tenet of naturalistic metaphysics. But while seemingly so unobjectionable, this chapter discusses three problems that must be addressed by any metaphysician defending a naturalistic approach. First, that the very notion is ill-defined without a clear demarcation of what counts as ‘science’ – a task that was largely abandoned as hopeless in the 1980s. Second, that there is no consensus on what the methodology of naturalistic metaphysics is – in particular on the role of supra-empirical virtues in it – and as such no clear place to start assessing the claim that its methodology is superior to that of its rival. Third, that the ‘problem of theory change’ that vexed philosophers of science has yet to be addressed in the context of metaphysics, and there are extra reasons to be pessimistic about the idea that metaphysical theories can be said to ‘make progress’ through shifts in their underlying scientific paradigms. In sum, while on the face of it a naturalistic approach to metaphysics seems an attractive, even compulsory, position, much work remains to be done both in characterizing it and in securing its superior epistemic credentials.

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