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Keep the chickens cooped: the epistemic inadequacy of free range metaphysics

  • Amanda BryantEmail author
S.I.: New Metaphysics of Science


This paper aims to better motivate the naturalization of metaphysics by identifying and criticizing a class of theories I call ’free range metaphysics’. I argue that free range metaphysics is epistemically inadequate because the constraints on its content—consistency, simplicity, intuitive plausibility, and explanatory power—are insufficiently robust and justificatory. However, since free range metaphysics yields clarity-conducive techniques, incubates science, and produces conceptual and formal tools useful for scientifically engaged philosophy, I do not recommend its discontinuation. I do recommend, however, ending the discipline’s bad faith. That is, I urge that free range metaphysics not be taken to have fully satisfactory epistemic credentials over and above its pragmatic ones.


Naturalized metaphysics Scientific metaphysics Metametaphysics Epistemology of metaphysics Theoretical constraint Simplicity Intuition Explanation 



I wish to thank Michael Devitt, Graham Priest, David Papineau, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Jesse Prinz, Barbara Montero, Stephen Neale, Yuval Abrams, Cosim Sayid, Derek Skillings, Jake Quilty-Dunn, Ross Colebrook, Kyle Blanchette, and Dustin Olson for invaluable feedback and helpful discussions of this work. I also thank my anonymous reviewers for their careful and insightful comments, from which this paper benefited greatly. Thanks to audiences at my presentations of this work at the Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Congress, May 31, 2015, in Ottawa and at New Trends in the Metaphysics of Science, December 16, 2015, in Paris. I would also like to thank the other presenters at New Trends in the Metaphysics of Science, whose illuminating and informative presentations shaped both this paper and my related work. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, award #752-2012-0363.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy ProgramThe Graduate Center, CUNYNew YorkUSA

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