Empiricism and the Problem of Metaphysics

By (author) Paul Studtmann

Hardback - £78.00

Publication date:

11 October 2010

Length of book:

180 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739142554

If there is one utterly inescapable problem for the metaphysician, it is this: is metaphysics itself a theoretically legitimate discipline? Is it, in other words, capable of a systematic and well-confirmed set of theoretical results? And if not, why not? From its inception, metaphysics has found itself exercised by the nagging worry that its own inquiries might reveal it to be a subject without an object, or a mode of inquiry without a method. Such concerns were voiced as early as Plato's discussion of the battle between the Gods and Giants. Since then, no era of its history has spared metaphysics some rehearsal of this question.

In Empiricism and the Problem of Metaphysics, Paul Studtmann defends an empiricist critique of metaphysical theorizing. At the heart of the critique is an empiricist view of a priori knowledge, according to which all a priori knowledge is empirical knowledge of the results of effective procedures. Such a view of a priori knowledge places severe limits on the scope a priori speculation and indeed places beyond our ken the types of claims that metaphysicians as well as traditional epistemologists and ethicists have typically wanted to make.
In Empiricism and the Problem of Metaphysics, Studtmann presents a clear, novel, intriguing and extended argument against metaphysics. If sound, it constitutes a devastating critique of the discipline. Studtmann argues that all metaphysics involves modal concepts, but that modal concepts are not theoretically legitimate. Unlike, say, logical positivism, Studtmann's position is itself put forward as an empirical hypothesis, one to be either confirmed or disconfirmed by science itself, but one for which the current evidence is strongly in favor. In the course of his argument he introduces a multitude of startlingly original theses, such as that all so called a priori knowledge is knowledge of the results of effective procedures, and is not really a priori at all. Like Hume, Wittgenstein and Carnap before him, Studtmann aims to leave empirical science, logic and mathematics intact while cutting a broad swathe through both traditional and contemporary metaphysics. This book is compulsory reading for all those who are enthusiastic participants in the contemporary renaissance of metaphysics, but also for sceptics and interested bystanders.