Metaphysics — an example of what I criticize

by Neil Rickert

This morning, I came across a blog comment which is a good example of where I see metaphysics leading us astray.  I replied to that comment, and this post will mainly be quoting my reply.

Here’s what I wrote, starting with a quote from the comment to which I was responding:

Kantian Naturalist: More precisely, the point of the act/potency distinction (energeia and dunamis, respectively) is to characterize how the world must be in order for there to be modally robust empirical generalizations.

As a piece of metaphysics — indeed, a fundamental position in what might be called “transcendental realism” — it strikes as perfectly right that we should ask “how must the world be in order for science to be possible?” as well as the Kantian question, “how must the mind be in order for science to be possible?” And in answering the former question, it seems perfectly right to say that the world must have modal structure, otherwise there is nothing to make our counterfactuals correct or incorrect. (This is different from the epistemological question of how to explain our conceptual grasp of modality.)

Wow!

To me, this reads like philosophy’s version of “Adam and Eve.” That is to say, it comes across to me as the origins myth that is the founding belief of philosophy seen as religion.

I prefer the alternative: it is obvious that science is possible, so let’s investigate how does it actually work. Let’s not start with a dubious a priori assumption, that it works by generalization (induction).

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One Comment to “Metaphysics — an example of what I criticize”

  1. Are there modally robust empirical generalizations? Do we have a conceptual grasp of modality? I want my perfect circle and the frictionless surface that goes with it! Or wait, did he just give it to me – metaphysically?

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