Analogical Inference in Gustav Theodor Fechner’s Inductive Metaphysics

Grazer Philosophische Studien 98 (1):186-202 (2020)
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Abstract

Gustav Theodor Fechner was one of the main proponents of inductive metaphysics in the 19th century. The idea of inductive metaphysics is to use empirical sources and inductive forms of inference in metaphysics. Although this sounds like a research program which might well appeal to scientifically minded philosophers, some of Fechner’s metaphysical conclusions look very suspicious from a scientific viewpoint. For example, Fechner famously argues that the planets and stars are animated by a soul and that the same holds for the whole universe. In the present article it is shown that Fechner’s mystical cosmological views are based on a principle of analogy which is too permissive and that as a result of that his central argument to the conclusion that the earth is animated by a soul is not correct. As the article argues, the principle Fechner bases his inference on has to be supplemented by a causal condition along the lines of Mary Hesse’s account of analogical inferences, a condition Fechner at least implicitly recognizes but fails to meet.

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