Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Metaphysical Intuitions; Blog Anniversary


First a housekeeping comment.  It turns out that this blog went mostly dormant when I began full time graduate work in philosophy two years ago.  It was a wonderful outlet for my thoughts when I had a different sort of day job, but now I have trouble making time for it. In any case, I note that its tenth blogiversary recently passed, and I’m grateful for all who have read or commented over that time.

One thing I’ve been thinking about again is whether our metaphysical (modal) intuitions are any good.  Reading Ladyman and Ross (Everything Must Go) was one trigger for this.  Another was reading (but not finishing) Peter Unger’s All the Power in the World.  The former included a strong critique of contemporary metaphysics, making the case that its disconnection from modern physics renders it futile.  The latter book can be viewed as L&R’s worst nightmare: a freeform conversion of imagination into metaphysical conclusions which is completely unconvincing.  (See Katherine Hawley’s review of L&R here, and Timothy O’Connor’s review of Unger here -- obviously most contemporary analytic metaphysics is much more disciplined and better argued than Unger’s book).

Clearly we make mistakes relying on our imagination and common sense intuitions.  What also perhaps could be better appreciated is the fact that leveraging insights drawn from physics (implicitly or explicitly) can easily go wrong.  This happens both because the physics is outdated (and is always provisional anyway), and because the formalisms of physics do not and arguably cannot represent all the relevant aspects of nature.

Still, along with my other interests, I will do metaphysics as best I can.  After all, I only have this one shot at trying to understand the world!

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