While there are many examples of metaphysical theorising being heuristically and intellectually important in the progress of scientific knowledge, many people wonder how metaphysics not closely informed and inspired by empirical science could lead to rival or even supplementary knowledge about the world. This paper assesses the merits of a popular defence of the a priori methodology of metaphysics that goes as follows. The first task of the metaphysician, like the scientist, is to construct a hypothesis that accounts for the phenomena in question. It is then argued that among the possible metaphysical theories, the empirical evidence underdetermines the right one, just as the empirical evidence underdetermines the right scientific theory. In the latter case it is widely agreed that we must break the underdetermination by appeal to theoretical virtues, and this is just what should be and largely is done in metaphysics. This is part of a more general line of argument that defends metaphysics on the basis of its alleged continuity with highly theoretical science. In what follows metaphysics and theoretical science are compared in order to see whether the above style of defence of a priori metaphysics is successful.
- Centre for Science and Philosophy
- scientific realism