The Possibility of Naturalized Metaphysics

Dissertation, University of Copenhagen (2016)
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This project investigates naturalized metaphysics as a recent trend in analytic metaphysics originating in the naturalist attitude of James Ladyman and Don Ross in their seminal work Everything must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized (2007). The primary focus, however, will be the more recent article “Neo-Positivist Metaphysics” (2012) by Alyssa Ney that originates in this tradition. The project will conclude that naturalized metaphysics is an unsuccessful attempt at an answer to the question ’how is metaphysics possible’. More precisely, the project will establish that any answer to this question must instruct how to succeed at attempts at assertions about the Kantian thing in itself. This requirement is the result of an argument that no other conception of ’reality’ is robust enough to accommodate an ambitious metaphysics. Subsequently, it will be argued that naturalized metaphysics is conceived by its proponents as an attempt at such an answer, but that naturalized metaphysics does not provide the required instruction. This problem occurs because of Carnap’s challenge to metaphysics. Carnap observes that no assertion can be made outside a linguistic framework which has the consequence that metaphysical assertions must be about the conceptual conventions of the linguistic framework rather than the thing in itself. It is the view of Ney and the other proponents of naturalized metaphysics that metaphysics is possible as a naturalized metaphysics; a metaphysics that appropriately defers or yields to the findings of science. The project argues that this requirement does nothing to ensure that Carnap’s challenge is avoided. The challenge is equally significant to naturalized and non-naturalized metaphysics, so long as both require that successful attempts at metaphysics must be assertions about the thing in itself. The project concludes that until or unless Carnap’s challenge is refuted, naturalized metaphysics remain impossible, just like the metaphysics it is supposed to replace.
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