Theories as recipes: third-order virtue and vice

Philosophical Studies 177 (2):391-411 (2020)
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Abstract

A basic way of evaluating metaphysical theories is to ask whether they give satisfying answers to the questions they set out to resolve. I propose an account of “third-order” virtue that tells us what it takes for certain kinds of metaphysical theories to do so. We should think of these theories as recipes. I identify three good-making features of recipes and show that they translate to third-order theoretical virtues. I apply the view to two theories—mereological universalism and plenitudinous platonism—and draw out their third-order virtues and vices. One lesson is that there is an important difference between essentially and non-essentially third-order vicious theories. I also argue that if a theory is essentially third-order vicious, it cannot be assessed for more standard “second-order” theoretical virtues and vices, like parsimony. This motivates the idea that third-order virtues are distinct from second-order ones. Finally, I suggest that the relationship between truth, progress, and third-order virtue is more complex than it seems.

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Michaela McSweeney
Boston University

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References found in this work

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Objects: Nothing Out of the Ordinary.Daniel Z. Korman - 2015 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press UK. Edited by Dana Zemack.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.

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