This past Summer I started a reading group with the eminent philosopher of physics, Fred Muller, and Dutch wunderkind, Victor Gijsbers, on Ladyman & Ross (et all) *Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalists*. Recall my earlier postings:
Now that I have read about a third of the book, I can make one general positive comment: Ladyman & Ross are very generous toward young scholars; they often cite unpublished papers. They also make a genuine effort to connect their views to figures (historical and present) that share aspects of their views.
Okay, so much for making nice, I will continue with Chapter one by page-number and numbered points (where I left off).
11. (p37) They introduce two important principles (summarized by Fred as follows): i) Principle of Naturalistic Closure (PNC). If with the aid of a metaphysical claim (H) two currently accepted scientific propositions (of which at least one is taken from current physics) explain more than they do separately and without H, then H should be taken seriously. (p. 37) ii) The Principle of the Primacy of Physics (PPC). If a hypothesis from some special science conflicts with currently accepted fundamental physics, then reject it (see also p. 44). Both end up doing non-trivial work in the argument (in what follows it allows them to rule out Davidson's token identity theory, emergentism [which has solid Carnapian credentials!], non-Nagelian reductionisms, supervenience, mereological atomism.
11A: PPC has interesting consequences: a) it makes (fundamental, etc) physics immune from other sciences. Should we want/promote this, and does this make for good metaphysics? At Michael Weisberg's EPSA talk it occurred to me that the practice of Chemistry is massively pressupposing and successfully tacitly testing a theory that has some resemblance to quantum mechanics, but that might be interestingly different, too. (Here's the analogy: 19th century planetary astronomy was creating extremely subtle evidence for lots of differences that make a differences two 'theories' Newton's and Einstein's'.) Why shouldn't we permit future chemistry help us reform physics? b) it rules out a priori competing sciences as fundamental, e.g., Darwinism, information theory, or what we may label, 'Santa Fe' science.
11B: PNC seems to suggest that metaphysics without fundamental physics is not worthy of the name metaphysics. It seems to suggest that asking, what is a "Person?" or "what are rights?" are bogus questions.
12. (p.42): PPC gets argued for based on the history of success in extending and unifying physics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. But institutionally (recall it's preferred epistemic proxy), science has really only exploded since the Cold War. So, who knows what science is morphing into now? (Lots of simulations, raw data crunching, and applying physics-alien formal methods to fancy new areas.)
13. (p. 48-52): Nagelian reductions (the deductive explanation of a theory by another theory) are the heroes of L&R's account. This is used to attack functionalism and multiple realization theories in the philosophy of mind. (L&R bite bullets along the way: no natural kinds, p. 51.) This is fun stuff to read; it won't convince anybody working in philosophy of mind (who is not already predisposed to disliking functionalism). I am surprised, for example, that they don't take on the Turingian source for the idea that minds and computers are basically same thing.
14. (p. 51 &53): they make a tantalizing remark about ontology being scale-relative, preventing barriers to identifying referents of different theories. It looks like that their unification project also has some disunity consequences; no special science tokens will have fundamental-physical descriptions (but they promise to address this in chapter 4).
15. (section 1.6): I really liked this section. It argues against all kinds of micro/macro (and mereological) distinctions and the thought that the world comes in 'levels'. (Bill Wimsatt's work springs to mind here.)
Next time, 1.7 and their admission "to being materialist Hegelians" (the synethsis between empiricist and materialist stances).