Metaphysics or Metaphors for the Anthropocene? Scientific Naturalism and the Agency of Things

Open Philosophy 1 (1):191-212 (2018)
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Abstract

In this paper, I provide the outlines of an alternative metaphilosophical orientation for Continental philosophy, namely, a form of scientific naturalism that has proximate roots in the work of Bachelard and Althusser. I describe this orientation as an “alternative” insofar as it provides a framework for doing justice to some of the motivations behind the recent revival of metaphysics in Continental philosophy, in particular its ecological-ethical motivations. In the second section of the paper, I demonstrate how ecological-ethical issues motivate new metaphysicians like Bruno Latour, Jane Bennett, Timothy Morton, Ian Bogost, and Graham Harman to impute to objects real features of agency. I also try to show how their commitments lead to deep ambiguities in their metaphysical projects. In the final section, I outline a type of scientific naturalism in Continental philosophy that parallels the sort of naturalism championed by Quine, both conceptually and historically, and suggest that it might serve our ecological-ethical purposes better.

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