Toying with the Toolbox: How Metaphysics Can Still Make a Contribution

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (2):211-230 (2018)
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Abstract

Current analytic metaphysics has been claimed to be, at best, out of touch with modern physics, at worst, actually in conflict with the latter The continuum companion to the philosophy of science, Continuum, London, 2011; Ladyman and Ross Every thing must go: metaphysics naturalized, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007). While agreeing with some of these claims, it has been suggested that metaphysics may still be of service by providing a kind of ‘toolbox’ of devices that philosophers of science can access in order to help provide an interpretation of theories in fundamental physics Metaphysics in contemporary physics, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2015). In this context it has been argued that ‘standard’ forms of dispositionalism simply cannot be sustained in the context of modern physics but that certain ‘non-standard’ views may provide the resources to help explicate the sense in which physics may be regarded as ‘modally informed’. Here that suggestion will be further extended in order to consider the implications both with regard to the overall relevance of metaphysics given advances in science and for the prospects of a naturalised metaphysics more generally. In particular, this paper will focus on three concerns: that the particular tools identified are not, in fact, ‘scientifically disinterested’ and thus that the distinction between ‘naturalised’ and ‘non-naturalised’ metaphysics is at best vague or poorly drawn; that the usefulness of such tools depends on their being shaped to fit the relevant physics and thus the latter ‘guts’ metaphysics; that if metaphysics does prove to be useful in this sense then we have no reason to scorn non-naturalised metaphysics to begin with.

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Steven French
University of Leeds

References found in this work

Does conceivability entail possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Every thing must go: metaphysics naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Don Ross, David Spurrett & John G. Collier.
Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties.Alexander Bird - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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