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descriptive metaphysics

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


M etaphysics A term introduced by P. F. Strawson in Individuals , in contrast to revisionary metaphysics. Descriptive metaphysics aims to describe the most general features of our conceptual scheme , that is, to describe reality as it manifests itself to the human understanding. Conceptual analysis is its main method. Revisionary metaphysics, on the other hand, attempts to revise our ordinary way of thinking and our ordinary conceptual scheme in order to provide an intellectually and morally preferred picture of the world. Hence, revisionary metaphysicians generally like to establish a well-organized system beyond the world of experience. Strawson claims that the history of metaphysics can be broadly divided into these two kinds of metaphysics. Aristotle and Kant are considered to be the forerunners of descriptive metaphysics, and Strawson's own Individuals is also subtitled An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics , while Descartes, Leibniz , and Berkeley are representatives of revisionary metaphysics. This distinction may not cover all metaphysical systems, but it has been greatly influential in reviving work in metaphysics. “Descriptive metaphysics is content to describe the actual structure of our thought about the world, revisionary metaphysics is concerned to produce a better structure.” Strawson, Individuals ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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