Home Psychology Metaphysics and the philosophy of science : new essays
Swoyer, a keen advocate of explanationism in metaphysics, engages in a contemporary debate on abstract objects with Dorr (Sider et al. 2008). The two debaters largely agree on the methodology of their domain of enquiry: metaphysical theories are to be evaluated on their explanatory merits, where those merits are judged like the explanatory merits of scientific theories. In general, Dorr grants,
There is something very attractive about the idea that we should try to make progress in philosophy by learning from the disciplines in which progress is most manifest, namely the sciences. More specifically, the proposal is that we should take as our starting point the large and impressive body of case-by-case epistemological judgments shared by all scientific realists. We then decide what we ought to believe about controversial philosophical questions in accordance with whichever epistemological theory does the best job of accounting for and systematizing these data. (2008, 43; my emphasis)
I agree. But as far as there are any judgments shared by all scientific realists, these judgments raise considerable challenges to explanationism in metaphysics. Inference to the best explanation in metaphysics is badly in need of justification that is properly grounded in our best understanding of the nature of scientific theorizing and explanation, and the role and limits of inference to the best explanation in science.
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