The (meta)metaphysics of science: the case of non-relativistic quantum mechanics

Kriterion – Journal of Philosophy 63 (152):275-296 (2022)
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Traditionally, being a realist about something means believing in the independent existence of that something. In this line of thought, a scientific realist is someone who believes in the objective existence of the entities postulated by our best scientific theories. In metaphysical terms, what does that mean? In ontological terms, i.e., in terms of what exists, scientific realism can be understood as involving the adoption of a scientifically informed ontology. But according to some philosophers, a realistic attitude must go beyond ontology. The way in which this requirement has been understood involves providing a metaphysics for the entities postulated by science, that is, answering questions about the nature of what ontology admits to exist. We discuss how two fashionable approaches face the challenge of providing a metaphysics for science: a form of naturalism and the Viking/Toolbox approach. Finally, we present a third way, which adopts the best of both approaches: the meta-Popperian method, which focuses on discarding the wrong alternatives, or better saying, the metaphysical profiles incompatible with certain theories. We present the meta-Popperian method, a metametaphysical method capable of objectively assessing which metaphysical profiles are incompatible with certain scientific theories. For this, we will use quantum mechanics as a case study, presenting some previously obtained results. As our focus is on methodological questions about the relationship between metaphysics and science; with this method, we can see how science can be used to avoid error in metaphysical issues. In our opinion, this would be a way to develop a productive relationship between science and metaphysics.

Author Profiles

Raoni Wohnrath Arroyo
University of Campinas
Jonas R. B. Arenhart
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina


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