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Philosophia

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 1355–1378 | Cite as

An Empiricist Conception of the Relation Between Metaphysics and Science

  • Sandy C. BoucherEmail author
Article

Abstract

It is widely acknowledged that metaphysical assumptions, commitments and presuppositions play an important role in science. Yet according to the empiricist there is no place for metaphysics as traditionally understood in the scientific enterprise. In this paper I aim to take a first step towards reconciling these seemingly irreconcilable claims. In the first part of the paper I outline a conception of metaphysics and its relation to science that should be congenial to empiricists, motivated by van Fraassen’s work on ‘stances’. There has been a considerable about of recent work devoted to van Fraassen’s ‘stance’ view, but it has not on the whole been noticed that the view has the potential to motivate a general empiricist conception of the relation between science and metaphysics. In the second and third sections I discuss two examples from biology to illustrate this conception: metaphysical punctuationism, and its relation to and influence on the thesis of punctuated equilibrium; and dialectical biology as defended by Levins and Lewontin.

Keywords

Metaphysics Empiricism Stances van Fraassen Punctuationism Dialectics 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Terry Sullivan, Greg Restall and Adrian Walsh for helpful comments and criticism.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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