Why Should Metaphysics be Systematic? Contemporary Answers and Kant’s

In Aaron Segal & Nicholas Stang (eds.), Systematic Metaphysics: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (forthcoming)
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The other chapters in this volume discuss the important, but neglected, topic of systematicity in metaphysics. In this chapter I begin by taking a step back and asking: why is systematicity important in metaphysics? Assuming that metaphysics should be systematic, why is this the case? I canvas some answers that emerge naturally within contemporary philosophy and argue that none of them adequately explains why metaphysics should be systematic. I then turn to Kant’s account of systematicity for his explanation. I argue that, while Kant’s explanation of the systematicity of metaphysics rests on a host of additional weighty philosophical commitments that many philosophers would rather do without (e.g., transcendental idealism), he is not alone in this. The contemporary answers I earlier found wanting can be transformed into satisfying explanations, I argue, but only at the cost of philosophical commitments at least as weighty as Kant’s. I conclude on a note of agnosticism: it is far from clear whether contemporary philosophy has done, or can do, better than Kant at explaining the role of systematicity in metaphysics.

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Nicholas Stang
University of Toronto, St. George


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