Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2019)

Julia Göhner
University of Münster
Markus Schrenk
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Metaphysics of Science is the philosophical study of key concepts that figure prominently in science and that, prima facie, stand in need of clarification. It is also concerned with the phenomena that correspond to these concepts. Exemplary topics within Metaphysics of Science include laws of nature, causation, dispositions, natural kinds, possibility and necessity, explanation, reduction, emergence, grounding, and space and time. Metaphysics of Science is a subfield of both metaphysics and the philosophy of science—that is, it can be allocated to either, but it exhausts neither. Unlike metaphysics simpliciter, Metaphysics of Science is not primarily concerned with metaphysical questions that may already arise from everyday phenomena such as what makes a thing (a chair, a desk) the very thing it is, what its identity criteria are, out of which parts is it composed, whether it remains the same if we exchange a couple of its parts, and so forth. Nor is it concerned with the concrete entities (superstrings, molecules, genes, and so forth) postulated by specific sciences; these issues are the subject matter of the special philosophies of science (for example, of physics, of chemistry, of biology). Metaphysics of Science is concerned with more abstract and general concepts that inform all of these sciences. Many of these concepts are interwoven with each other. For example, metaphysicians of science inquire whether dispositionality, lawhood, and causation can be accounted for in nonmodal terms; whether laws of nature presuppose the existence of natural kinds; and whether the properties of macrolevel objects supervene on dispositional or nondispositional properties. This article surveys the scope (section 1), historical origin (section 2), exemplary subject matters (section 4), and methodology (section 5) of Metaphysics of Science, as well as the motivation that drives it (section 3).
Keywords laws of nature  causation  dispositions  natural kinds  reduction  counterfactuals  supervenience  necessities  grounding
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A Plenitude of Powers.Barbara Vetter - 2018 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 6):1365-1385.
Social Science as a Guide to Social Metaphysics?Katherine Hawley - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (2):187-198.
The Return of Causal Powers?Andreas Hüttemann - 2021 - In Stathis Psillos, Henrik Lagerlund & Benjamin Hill (eds.), Causal Powers in Science: Blending Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 168-185.

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