The Empirical Stance

Review of Metaphysics 57 (4):870-872 (2004)

Van Fraassen begins with a swingeing attack on metaphysics in general and analytical metaphysics in particular. This is reasonably familiar territory, as he is best known for his antimetaphysical understanding of science. His chief complaint is that metaphysics purports to be a factual enterprise, but under examination it turns out to be mere word play. Analytic metaphysics offers a formal parallel with scientific inquiry—it offers “explanations” which mimic scientific explanations but which have no real purchase on us. No one offers genuine probabilities, specificities, or achievable goals; it is idle word play. However, such word play exerts a deep pull on philosophers: “Even analytic metaphysicians uninterested in religion succumb to this fascination with the logical problem of theodicy. But I point to it only as an instructive parallel. The constructed God is not so different from the constructed world. Both are abstract simulacra of something real and important whose appeal lies mainly in the logical problems they engender and the virtuoso displays of ingenuity we can enjoy”.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph200457471
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