The articles and essays in this website range from off-the-cuff blogs to worked-out pieces. They also range from the short to the long. Many of these pieces are introductory (i.e., educational) in nature; though, even when introductory, they still include additional commentary. Older material (dating back mainly to 2005) is being added to this blog over time.
Monday, 4 May 2015
The Basics of Ladyman and Ross's Case Against Analytic Metaphysics
can be seen that the basic idea is simple.
the rise of modern science it was philosophers who investigated “the
fundamental structure and nature of physical reality” (as it's
often put). However, after the rise of modern science, philosophers
shouldn't be still doing this without the help of science.... at least not
a consequence of that, The
Every Thing Must Go position is against
any “a priori metaphysics” or the search for “a
facie, it's hard to make sense of this because I can't really believe that there's a 21st-century (or 20th century)
metaphysician who would claim to be engaged in an entirely a
priori pursuit. (Though perhaps I'm wrong.) In fact I'm not even
sure what the words “a priori metaphysics” mean or if it
would be achievable (in principle).
if such a thing does exist, James Ladyman and Don Ross class it as
Ladyman and Ross's main
criticisms of analytic metaphysics seem rhetorical – at least as
they stand. For example:
That metaphysics "contributes nothing to human knowledge”.
That metaphysicians are "wasting their talents”.
That metaphysics “fails to qualify as part of the enlightened
pursuit of objective truth, and should be discontinued”.
these positions can be argued for. However, it must now be said that
some commentators say that they aren't argued for by
Ladyman and Ross: they're simply stated.
may happen here, then, is that those who follow the every-thing-must-go position will simply end up talking different
language to those who practice analytic metaphysics (or just plain
metaphysics). And then it will come as no surprise that there's no
mutual ground between them (or even a conversation). It will become
like the situation between much Continental philosophy and analytic
philosophy (at least until, say, the 1980/90s).
Ladyman & Ross Do
central metaphysical position of the everything-must-go school (if
there is such a thing) is one of “ontic structuralism realism”.
And the fundamental aspect of this is the importance it gives to
the mathematical relations which capture the nature of physical reality
(i.e., in physics). Clearly, then, if one wants to explore this
position, then that's where to begin.
ETMG philosophers also class themselves as “neo-positivists”.
They acknowledge that there were big problems with the original
logical positivist school (if it ever was a school). That's not a
problem because the logical positivists themselves realised that
there was a problem with (much of) logical positivism. In fact it was
mainly - or only - former logical positivists who destroyed logical
positivism. (I doubt that other philosophers would have had the
knowledge or skill to carry out that feat.)
also seems that Ladyman and Ross are saying that metaphysicians should
be scientifically-literate holists who should try to show us “how
everything fits together in a broad sense” (as Nelson Goodman or
Wilfred Sellars once put it).
other words, the “ontological structure” of the universe is the
domain of physics and science generally. Metaphysics, on the other
hand, should attempt to find a unified and “cross-disciplinary”
philosophical synthesis and analysis of how the sciences tell us the
universe is structured. (Put that way, it's similar to Quine's
position; though he didn't really emphasise cross-disciplinary
unification and suchlike.)
a metaphysician says that analytic metaphysics is concerned with
problems which aren't (strictly speaking) scientific (as well as when
he says that it uses analytical and logical methods that aren't those
of of science), then, I suppose, Ladyman and Ross may give the
problems and tools of metaphysics shouldn't be distinct from science
– even if they aren't identical.
if you were to take this position too far, metaphysics will simply
become physics/science (or, at the least, a part of science/physics).
problem is that no only may Ladyman and Ross throw out metaphysics
and even all philosophy (if you follow their logic), it may even be
the case that much science will also be thrown out too. (This point
was famously made against certain positions advanced by the logical
example, what about empirically-untestable string theory? Is that
“neo-Scholasticism”? What about some of the well-known
mathematical and logical problems? That is, the ones which can be
seen as “intellectual puzzles” and nothing more? Everything must go?