Immodest and Proud


In his ‘Ambitious, Yet Modest, Metaphysics’, Hofweber (Metametaphysics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 260–289, 2009a) puts forward arguments against positions in metaphysics that he describes as ‘immodest’; a position he identifies as defended by Jonathan Lowe. In this paper I reply to Hofweber’s arguments, offering a defence of immodest metaphysics of the type practiced by Lowe (The possibility of metaphysics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998) inter alia.

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  1. 1.

    In fact, there are (at least) two options available. According to Hofweber, there is scope for us to carry out modest metaphysics. To do this, Hofweber claims, we must deploy a distinction between internal and external quantifiers. As he (2009a: 288) notes: ‘Metaphysics will be alright, but it will be different than how most metaphysicians think of it.’ What I’m interested in, here, is whether or not we can continue to think of metaphysics ‘as most metaphysicians think of it’. I don’t engage, then, with Hofweber’s positive re-construction of the project of metaphysics. Rather, I’m interested (in this paper) in defending the traditional approach from his attack. For more on Hofweber’s distinction between internal and external quantifiers, see Sect. 4.

  2. 2.

    Or, at least, that whatever role there is for metaphysics it is not the same as that described by Lowe.

  3. 3.

    In effect this is to say that exdurance is right about how world is (entities are counterpart related to one another) but that the endurance theorist or perdurantist is right about what is required for persistence.

  4. 4.

    Similar remarks apply to the regress argument.

  5. 5.

    Or, at the very least, that this is the interpretation suggested by the texts.

  6. 6.

    See, inter alia, Hawley (1999: 479). Of course, it’s not at all clear that Hawley’s very brief remarks on this score entail a regress argument. However, her concerns about how knowledge of metaphysical possibilities can be generated, indicate that a regress argument is one natural way to unpack Hawley’s brief remarks (cf. 3.2 and the ‘knowledge regress’). See, also, Ladyman and Ross (2007: 6–7).

  7. 7.

    He references Hofweber (2000, 2005).

  8. 8.

    I’m very grateful to three referees for this journal for their comments on an earlier version of the paper.


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Correspondence to Jonathan Tallant.

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Tallant, J. Immodest and Proud. Erkenn 80, 853–868 (2015).

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  • Ontological Commitment
  • Composite Object
  • Metaphysical Theory
  • Metaphysical Question
  • Inferential Role