“Metaphysical Contention over the Ontological Status of Species” by Matthew Slater (Bucknell University)
Date: 3:30pm - 5:00pm PST February 26, 2014 Location: JRHH 202
When I close my hand into a fist, have I created a new object or merely rearranged some previously existing things? Is a sheet of paper with letters written on its two sides one object or two? Do holes exist? Such questions — seriously addressed by many philosophers — are often cited as examples of the excesses of speculative metaphysics. Philosophers of science have argued that the only way to make metaphysics an intellectually respectable enterprise is to “naturalize” it. But it is not at all straightforward to say what naturalized metaphysics amounts to. If it means only maintaining a sort of vague “science-friendliness”, then it will not rule out much; if it means (as Ladyman and Ross hold) limiting its scope to very specific unification projects in science, then it appears unduly restrictive. A popular (and initially plausible) happy medium suggests that metaphysics should defer to science on all matters — for after all, while the former is speculative and a priori, the latter is empirical and (as these things go) secure. I will use the case study of the attempt to provide a metaphysics of species — a paradigm topic for naturalized metaphysics — to argue that this proposal also fails. I will then make some suggestions for how to best approach the naturalistic project.