Lowe-AdvancesMetaphysicsExcerpt - RECENT ADVANCES IN...

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RECENT ADVANCES IN METAPHYSICS E. J. Lowe 1. Philosophy, metaphysics and ontology There is a widespread assumption amongst non-philosophers, which is shared by a good many practising philosophers too, that 'progress' is never really made in philosophy, and above all in metaphysics. In this respect, philosophy is often compared, for the most part unfavourably, with the empirical sciences, and especially the natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry and biology. Sometimes, philosophy is defended on the grounds that to deplore the lack of 'progress' in it is to misconceive its central aim, which is challenge and criticise received ideas and assumptions rather than to advance positive theses. But this defence itself is liable to be attacked by the practitioners of other disciplines as unwarranted special pleading on the part of philosophers, whose comparative lack of expertise in other disciplines, it will be said, ill-equips them to play the role of all-purpose intellectual critic. It is sometimes even urged that philosophy is now 'dead', the relic of a pre-scientific age whose useful functions, such as they were, have been taken over at last by genuine sciences. What were once 'philosophical' questions have now been transmuted, allegedly, into questions for more specialised modes of scientific inquiry, with their own distinctive methodological principles and theoretical foundations. This dismissive view of philosophy is at once shallow and pernicious. It is true that philosophy is not, properly speaking, an empirical science, but there are other disciplines of a non- empirical character in which progress most certainly can be and has been made, such as mathematics and logic. So there is no reason, in principle, why progress should not be made in philosophy. However, it must be acknowledged that even
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professional philosophers are in much less agreement amongst themselves as to the nature of their discipline and the proper methods of practising it than are mathematicians and logicians. There is more disagreement about fundamentals in philosophy than
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This note was uploaded on 02/02/2012 for the course PHIL 110 taught by Professor Errinclark during the Spring '11 term at MO St. Louis.

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Lowe-AdvancesMetaphysicsExcerpt - RECENT ADVANCES IN...

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