Ambitious, yet modest, metaphysics

In David Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 260--289 (2009)

Thomas Hofweber
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
There is a long history of worrying about whether or not metaphysics is a legitimate philosophical discipline. Traditionally such worries center around issues of meaning and epistemological concerns. Do the metaphysical questions have any meaning? Can metaphysical methodology lead to knowledge? But these questions are, in my opinion, not as serious as they have sometimes (historically) been taken to be. What is much more concerning is another set of worries about metaphysics, which I take to the greatest threat to metaphysics as a philosophical discipline. These worries, in effect, hold that the questions that metaphysics tries to answer have long been answered in other parts of inquiry, ones that have much greater authority. And if they haven’t been answered yet then one should not look to philosophy for an answer. What metaphysics tries to do has been or will be done by the sciences. There is nothing left to do for philosophy, or so the worry. Let me illustrate this with two examples, one of which is our main concern here.
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