Let me continue with some critical notes on Ladyman & Ross, Every Thing Must Go, chapter, 1. I will number where I left off.
6. (p. 28): I like that R&L (et al) argue from the specialization/division of labor within the sciences and demand for efficiency to a role for metaphysics as 'critically elucidating consilience networks accross the sciences'; shortly thereafter (30ff), they draw on Kitcher's work on unification to spell out what they mean with this phrase. But what I don't get is why they think this argument allows them to rule out competing tasks for metaphysics.
7. (p. 28): Given that R&L insist that metaphysics must in an important sense be constrained by science, they need a criterion to demarcate science from non-science. Amazingly, they opt for "solely institutional norms" (in terms of "institutional error filters"). But they don't consider that these may be a necessary condition for a body of practices and beliefs to be scientific, but by no means a sufficient condition. They are blind to the fact that, especially after success of Kuhn's Structure, a lot of disciplines dressed themselves up with a lot of scientific institutions and insisted on a sole paradigm (etc), stampinging out dissent. There is plenty of what one may call 'zombie' science to go around (they look like science, but produce junk). R&L et al forego any critical evaluation of the epistemic success of these institutions and show a remarkable lack of curiousity in the body of research that empirically investigates institutional error filters in practice. It is especially ironic that they claim "a naturalistic demarcation principle should be based on reference to criteria that are empirically observed to regulate the practices of science" (33)! Yet, they do not want to hear about these practices at all. Instead they use a proxy, "fundable research" (34). They certainly would not want to hear about funding practices.
8. (29): R&L offer a "non-positivist version of verificationism". It has two components: "First, no hypothesis that the approximately consensual current scientific picture declares to be beyond our capacity to investigate should be taken seriously. Second, any metaphysical hypothesis that is to be taken seriously should have some identifiable bearing on the relationship between at least two relatively specific hypothesis that are either regarded as confirmed by institutionally bona fide current science or are regarded as motivated and in principle confirmable by such science." I am not going to kvetch about wording of these two aspects. (R&L admit that there is plenty to complain about.) I wonder how this leaves enterprises that want to unify two distinct domains of science mathematically, but without offering new empirical content (or empirical content to be found in dimensions unavailable to us). It looks to me that this verificationism rules out much effort, say, to connect GR and QM. Also, why *two* hypotheses? Why not develop implications of one? Or why not demand, a minimum of three?
9. (36): R&L wish to exclude metaphysical projects "that are primarily motivated by anthropocentric (for example, purely engineering driven) ambition, as opposed to ambitions anchored around attempts to determine the objective structures in nature." It's nice to see pure/applied distinction so unabashedly affirmed. Yet, I wonder how they evaluate research in the bio-life sciences, where the *funding* agencies have their eyes firmly on the potential medical/technological spin-offs.
10 (36): according to R&L metaphysics should not be motivated by engineering practices. Tell that to three of the best analytic, naturalistic works in philosophy of science/metaphysics: *On the Origin of Objects* by Brian Cantwell Smith; *Re-Enginering Philosophy for Limited Beings* by Bill Wimsatt; John Haugeland's classic work on *Artificial Intelligence*. Only Haugeland is mentioned (as a reader of Dennett, 199), although R&L are blind to Haugeland's important criticism of Dennett's project. (Disclaimer, I was a student of both Haugeland and Dennett at one point or another.) This is to say, Ross & Ladyman are breathtakingly parochial.