, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 53-78

Neo-positivist metaphysics

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Abstract

Some philosophers argue that many contemporary debates in metaphysics are “illegitimate,” “shallow,” or “trivial,” and 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” (Ladyman and Ross, Every thing must go: Metaphysics naturalized, 2007). Many of these critics are explicit about their sympathies with Rudolf Carnap and his circle, calling themselves ‘neo-positivists’ or ‘neo-Carnapians.’ Yet despite the fact that one of the main conclusions of logical positivism was that metaphysical statements are meaningless, many of these neo-positivists are themselves engaged in metaphysical projects. This paper aims to clarify how we may see a neo-positivist metaphysics as proceeding in good faith, one that starts with serious engagement with the findings of science, particularly fundamental physics, but also has room for traditional, armchair methods.