Descriptive versus Revisionary Metaphysics and the Mind–Body Problem

Philosophy 42 (160):105-118 (1967)
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I have appropriated the terms ‘descriptive’ and ‘revisionary’ metaphysics from P.F. Strawson's Individuals. In the Introduction to that work he draws a broad general distinction between two types of metaphysics. Descriptive metaphysics is concerned to ‘describe the actual structure of our thought about the world’ while revisionary metaphysics is ‘concerned to produce a better structure’. They also differ in that revisionary metaphysics requires justification of some sort whereas descriptive metaphysics does not. Strawson makes this point when he says, ‘Revisionary metaphysics is at the service of descriptive metaphysics’. Thus, the descriptivist has the sober, scientific task of elucidating our extant conceptual schema while the revisionist has the speculative, slightly literary job of inventing a new conceptual schema.



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