Naturalistic metaphysics at sea
Keywords:naturalism, meta-ontology, ontological commitment, W.V.O. Quine, Huw Price,
AbstractIn this paper I return to the mid-20th-century debate between Quine and Carnap on the status of metaphysical questions with an eye toward advancing contemporary debates about whether naturalists can coherently undertake substantive metaphysical inquiry. Following Huw Price, I take the debate between Quine and Carnap to hinge, in part, on whether human inquiry is functionally unified. However, unlike Price, I suggest that this question is not best understood as a question about the function(s) of descriptive discourse. This goes along with rejecting a “linguistic conception” of the starting point of metaphysical inquiry, which, although shared by Quine and Carnap, Price gives us no good reason to think is mandatory for naturalists. I sketch two reasons naturalists have to reject a particular manifestation of this linguistic conception in Quine’s work – his criterion of ontological commitment. Finally, I show how these reasons can help us identify the grains of truth in some recent critiques of “mainstream metaphysics of mind”
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