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42. Metaphysics, Role in Science

WILLIAM SEAGER


Subject Philosophy » Metaphysics

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00045.x


Extract

We must begin with the admission that the term “metaphysics” does not have a very precise or agreed upon meaning (no more does “science”). In current philosophy of science, “metaphysics” is, by and large, a pejorative term applied to whatever is regarded as illicitly nonempirical. Traditionally, metaphysics is regarded as the study of what lies behind the world of appearance - perhaps constitutes that world, but is itself the only true reality. Obviously, a great many people would regard science, or at least the more basic sciences such as physics, chemistry, and perhaps astronomy, as fitting this description. Consider, for instance, Eddington's famous description of the scientific as opposed to the “commonsense” table: [The scientific table] does not belong to the world … which spontaneously appears around me when I open my eyes… . My scientific table is mostly emptiness. Sparsely scattered in that emptiness are numerous electric charges rushing about with great speed; but their combined bulk amounts to less than a billionth of the bulk of the table itself… . I need not tell you that modern physics has by delicate tests and remorseless logic assured me that my second scientific table is the only one which is really there. ( Eddington 1928 , pp. xii, xiv) Eddington's view of science is not only realist, but confrontational , and while few would want to stress so much the supposed ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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