Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized
Ladyman (James), Ross (Don), Spurrett (David) & Collier (John)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Cover Blurb

  1. Every Thing Must Go argues that the only kind of metaphysics that can contribute to objective knowledge is one based specifically on contemporary science as it really is, and not on philosophers' a priori intuitions, common sense, or simplifications of science. In addition to showing how recent metaphysics has drifted away from connection with all other serious scholarly inquiry as a result of not heeding this restriction, they demonstrate how to build a metaphysics compatible with current fundamental physics ('ontic structural realism'), which, when combined with their metaphysics of the special sciences ('rainforest realism'), can be used to unify physics with the other sciences without reducing these sciences to physics itself. Taking science metaphysically seriously, Ladyman and Ross argue, means that metaphysicians must abandon the picture of the world as composed of self-subsistent individual objects, and the paradigm of causation1 as the collision of such objects.
  2. Everything Must Go also assesses the role of information theory and complex systems theory in attempts to explain the relationship between the special sciences and physics, treading a middle road between the grand synthesis of thermodynamics and information, and eliminativism about information. The consequences of the author's metaphysical theory for central issues in the philosophy of science are explored, including the implications for the realism vs. empiricism debate, the role of causation2 in scientific explanations, the nature of causation3 and laws, the status of abstract and virtual objects, and the objective reality of natural kinds4.
Amazon Reviews
  1. This material is dense, challenging and creative ... a provocative book ... the authors are to be commended for taking on the challenge to develop a systematic, scientifically informed metaphysics for the twenty-first century.
    Paul W. Humphreys, Metascience
  2. This challenging and provocative book contends that contemporary fundamental physics carries radically counterintuitive consequences for metaphysics
    Jarrett Leplin, Philosophical Papers
  3. An enticing work.
    Jeremy Butterfield, Times Literary Supplement
Contents
  1. In Defence of Scientism – 1
    → Don Ross, James Ladyman, and David Spurrett
  2. Scientific Realism, Constructive Empiricism, and Structuralism – 66
    → James Ladyman and Don Ross
  3. Ontic Structural Realism and the Philosophy of Physics – 130
    → James Ladyman and Don Ross
  4. Rainforest Realism and the Unity of Science – 190
    → Don Ross, James Ladyman, and John Collier
  5. Causation5 in a Structural World – 258
    → Don Ross, James Ladyman, and David Spurrett
  6. Conclusion — Philosophy Enough – 298
    → Don Ross and James Ladyman
    References – 311
    Index – 339

BOOK COMMENT:

Clarendon Press; 1 edition (5 July 2007)



"Ladyman (James), Ross (Don), Spurrett (David) & Collier (John) - Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized"

Source: Ladyman (James), Ross (Don), Spurrett (David) & Collier (John) - Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized


Preface
  1. This is a polemical book. One of its main contentions is that contemporary analytic metaphysics, a professional activity engaged in by some extremely intelligent and morally serious people, fails to qualify as part of the enlightened pursuit of objective truth, and should be discontinued. We think it is impossible to argue for a point like this without provoking some anger. Suggesting that a group of highly trained professionals have been wasting their talents — and, worse, sowing systematic confusion about the nature of the world, and how to find out about it — isn't something one can do in an entirely generous way. Let us therefore stress that we wrote this book not in a spirit of hostility towards philosophy or our fellow philosophers, but rather the opposite. We care a great deal about philosophy, and are therefore distressed when we see its reputation harmed by its engagement with projects and styles of reasoning we believe bring it into disrepute, especially among scientists. We recognize that we may be regarded as a bit rough on some other philosophers, but our targets are people with considerable influence rather than novitiates. We think the current degree of dominance of analytic metaphysics within philosophy is detrimental to the health of the subject, and make no apologies for trying to counter it.
  2. Lest the reader suppose on the basis of the above remarks that the whole book is a campaign of aggressive destruction, we emphasize that they describe only part of the first chapter. Having argued there that analytic metaphysics as it is now practised is irrelevant to our metaphysical project, we spend the rest of the book attempting to encourage truly naturalistic metaphysics by example. For reasons related to our naturalism, and stated early in the text, we expect that our particular positive account of the nature of the world will be deemed mainly or perhaps even entirely incorrect by future philosophers who will know future science. This is likely to be the fate of any generalizations of wide scope based on limited empirical observations. But we hope the kind of metaphysic we construct here — one motivated by currently pursued, specific scientific hypotheses, and having as its sole aim to bring these hypotheses advanced by the various special sciences together into a comprehensive world-view — will go on being constructed by others for as long as science itself is carried out.
  3. The structure of the book is as follows:
    • Chapter 1, as indicated above, is partly destructive in aim. It is intended to persuade the reader that standard analytic metaphysics (or 'neo-scholastic' metaphysics as we call it) contributes nothing to human knowledge and, where it has any impact at all, systematically misrepresents the relative significance of what we do know on the basis of science. We go on to explain and defend our particular form of naturalism, and our view of the relationship between physics and the rest of science. This is the most accessible chapter of the book, and it is possible that some readers, who are more interested in philosophers' attitudes towards science than in metaphysics per se, may want to read only it.
    • Chapter 2, by contrast, will seem to most philosophers to be the most conventional part of the book. Here we assemble foundations for the metaphysics to come on the basis of a particular position, 'ontic structural realism' (OSR), that we defend as the best synthesis of several decades of reflection and argument in the philosophy of science on the debate between empiricists and scientific realists, particularly in the light of the history of science and the relationships between successful theories and their successors. This provides the conceptual framework within which we then consider relationships among contemporary theories in different sciences so as to construct a unified world picture.
    • Chapters 3 and 4 constitute the heart of our positive naturalistic metaphysics, so we hope the reader will indulge their considerable length and complexity. In Chapter 3 we ask which among possible unifying principles are motivated by advanced physical theory as we now find it. We furthermore show how OSR is motivated directly by this physical theory, thus exemplifying our principle from Chapter 1 that the input for philosophizing must come from science. In Chapter 4 we inquire as to how the general image of reality suggested by contemporary (fundamental) physics can be reconciled — composed into one world with — the many special sciences that appear to have quite different theoretical structures and commitments. On the basis of this investigation we propose a theory of ontology — of what there is — that we call Rainforest Realism (RR) because of the relatively lush ontology it propounds.
    • In Chapter 5 we show how our naturalistic metaphysics, which consists in the combination of OSR and RR, achieves consilience among a wide variety of facts about the sciences, including the ways in which they investigate and understand causal claims, the status of scientific laws, and the principles of classification and arrangements of reality into types that scientists use as they discover and refine predictive and explanatory generalizations. The combined position, our positive naturalistic metaphysics, is called ‘Information-Theoretic Structural Realism' (ITSR), for reasons that will become evident. In Chapter 5 the reader who struggled through the often dense material in Chapters 3 and 4 will receive her payoff, as she sees the progress that ITSR permits us to make on a range of major preoccupations in the philosophy of science.
    • Finally, the brief Chapter 6 orients our metaphysic in the context of work by other philosophers that is closest in positive content to ours. We first ask how our general account differs from that of Kant, since strong affinities will have occurred to some readers. A similar question, and for similar reasons, is asked about our relationship to the philosophy of Daniel Dennett. We next consider traditional points of issue between realism and empiricism, showing that we side with realists on some, with empiricists on others, and that we reject the underlying terms of debate on still others. At this point we explain why it is appropriate to regard our view as a kind of ‘neo-positivism', despite our allowing for the significance of a minimalist positive metaphysics where the positivists insisted on none. Finally, before concluding, we note the arguments of an ultimately anti-naturalist theistic philosopher who argues for supernaturalism on the grounds that if one doesn't adopt it one will be forced to a theory exactly like the one we give in this book. The theist considers this the basis for a conclusion by reductio; we agree, but make the opposite judgement about what is absurd.
  4. This book began as a collaboration among four authors. As the project developed, the two of us (Ladyman and Ross) found our thinking shifting in a more empiricist direction than any of us had started from, and under the impetus of this we increasingly drove the project in a direction of our own. The other two original authors, however, David Spurrett and John Collier, were so important as consultants and researchers throughout the project that they are acknowledged on the cover and tide page. They also wrote parts of three chapters, as is indicated in the Contents.
  5. Our next greatest debt of thanks goes to Nelleke Bak, who checked the entire manuscript for consistency (while also formatting our references). This is obviously more important in a co-authored work than is normally the case for a philosophy manuscript. This is a long book that states many propositions; without Nelleke's diligence and acumen, we would have produced a book that more than once proclaimed P and ~P, and would thus have implicitly announced every proposition altogether.
  6. The following colleagues and friends read our first draft and commented trenchantly and constructively on it in detail: Jimmy Doyle, Katherine Hawley, Chris Honey, Harold Kincaid, Ausonio Marras, Alex Rosenberg, Emma Ruttkamp, and David Wallace, and an anonymous reader for Oxford University Press. The book is very much better than it was thanks to their assistance, though we repeat the standard mantra of authors that the remaining errors were made at our insistence.
  7. For their long-standing influence on our ideas, for discussion of many of the issues we address, for their encouragement of the project, and for comments on specific parts of the text, we thank Dan Dennett and Bas van Fraassen. In a similar vein, Collier acknowledges Cliff Hooker and Kai Neilson. The other great intellectual debt that we owe is to Steven French for the breadth and depth of his work on the subject matter of Chapters 2 and 3 and its profound influence on Ladyman. Much of our articulation and defence of OSR is derived from previously published joint work by French and Ladyman. We are also grateful to the following people for discussions and other help concerning some or all of the issues we address: Alexander Bird, Harvey Brown, Jeremy Butterfield, Michael Esfeld, Hannes Leitgeb, Samir Okasha, Oliver Pooley, Simon Saunders, and Finn Spicer.
    [ … snip … ]



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