The Long and Winding Road

Folly and Feedback in Metaphysics

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien
Author: Peter Simons1
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  • 1 Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
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Following its welcome revival in the late twentieth century, metaphysics in the analytic tradition has succumbed to decadence, with an astonishing variety of outlandish and extreme positions or “metaphysical follies” being taken seriously. This has caused an inevitable backlash among more scientifically-minded philosophers and incurred the scorn of scientists. Much of the reason for this is the blithe ignoring of empirical science by armchair metaphysicians. The roles of empirical knowledge in good, scientific metaphysics are however unclear. In virtue of its maximal generality, metaphysics is remote from straightforward empirical checks. This article explores, with historical and contemporary examples, the ways in which empirical information may inform and be fed back into metaphysics, the disputed role of common sense, and the delicate balance to be maintained, within a fallibilist, scientific metaphysics, between speculative, categorial and empirical elements.

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