Metaphysics after Pragmatism

Review of Metaphysics 42 (3):513 - 546 (1989)

ONE ASSUMPTION ABOUT METAPHYSICS is often shared by those who renounce it. Metaphysical theories are not true, they say, because of being neither true nor false. Opponents of one sort excoriate the theories as meaningless. Others say that truth and falsity are irrelevant to metaphysics, as they are to literature. Like novelists and playwrights, we metaphysicians are said to formulate the stories used for thinking about possible worlds, such as the imaginary ones of fiction and this actual world. Metaphysics, this implies, differs from literature only because its stories have a wider scope. Where novelists devote themselves to incidents and personalities, we metaphysicians tell stories that emphasize the categorial features of a world. Either way, these activities are motivated by a single objective: we formulate interpretations in order to use them for creating thinkable worlds. All of the intelligibility credited to any possible world--all its differentiations and relations--originate within these interpretations. But no one should suppose that interpretations are true or false; for these conceptualizations are not the representations of preexisting states of affairs. They are, instead, the very condition for the existence of possible worlds. Why? Because these worlds exist only as they are prefigured within, and created by, the interpretations used for thinking them.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph19894235
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