Is Kant's Critique of Metaphysics Obsolete?


I raise a problem about the possibility of metaphysics originally raised by Kant: what explains the fact that the terms in our metaphysical theories (e.g. “property”) refer to entities and structures (e.g. properties) in the world? I distinguish a meta-metaphysical view that can easily answer such questions (“deflationism”) from a meta-metaphysical view for which this explanatory task is more difficult (which I call the “substantive” view of metaphysics). I then canvass responses that the substantive metaphysician can give to this Kantian demand for an explanation of reference in metaphysics. I argue that these responses are either inadequate, or depend, implicitly or explicitly, on the idea of “joint carving”: carving at the joints is part of the explanation of reference-facts quite generally and our metaphysical terms in particular refer because they carve at the joints. I examine Ted Sider’s recent work on joint carving and structure and argue that it cannot fill the explanatory gap. I conclude that this is reason ceterus paribus to reject the substantive view of metaphysics. Kant’s critique, far from being obsolete, applies to the most cutting-edge of contemporary meta-metaphysical views.



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Nicholas Stang
University of Toronto, St. George

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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.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. Quine - 1951 - [Longmans, Green].
The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.

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