Scientific Ontology

ISBN : 9780197510254

Anjan Chakravartty
296 ページ
140 x 210 mm

Both science and philosophy are interested in questions of ontology - questions about what exists and what these things are like. Science and philosophy, however, seem like very different ways of investigating the world, so how should one proceed? Some defer to the sciences, conceived as something apart from philosophy, and others to metaphysics, conceived as something apart from science, for certain kinds of answers. This book contends that these sorts of deference are misconceived. A compelling account of ontology must appreciate the ways in which the sciences incorporate metaphysical assumptions and arguments. At the same time, it must pay careful attention to how observation, experience, and the empirical dimensions of science are related to what may be viewed as defensible philosophical theorizing about ontology. The promise of an effectively naturalized metaphysics is to encourage beliefs that are formed in ways that do justice to scientific theorizing, modeling, and experimentation. But even armed with such a view, there is no one, uniquely rational way to draw lines between domains of ontology that are suitable for belief, and ones in which it would be better to suspend belief instead. In crucial respects, ontology is in the eye of the beholder: it is informed by underlying commitments with implications for the limits of inquiry, which inevitably vary across rational inquirers. As result, the proper scope of ontology is subject to a striking form of voluntary choice, yielding a new and transformative conception of scientific ontology.


Part I: Naturalized Metaphysics
Chapter 1: Ontology: scientific and meta-scientific
1.1 Scientific and philosophical conceptions of ontology
1.2 Deflationary ontology: historicism
1.3 Ontological limits: empiricism
scientific realism
1.4 Do case studies of science settle ontological disputes?
1.5 Examples of the robustness of ontology under cases
Chapter 2: Science and metaphysics, then and now
2.1 Ontology and the nature of metaphysical inference
2.2 Is modern science inherently metaphysical?
2.3 Epistemic stances regarding scientific ontology
2.4 Metaphysical inferences: lowercase 'm' versus capital 'M'
2.5 The (possible) autonomy of (some) metaphysics from science
Chapter 3: Naturalism and the grounding metaphor
3.1 In hopes of a demarcation of scientific ontology
3.2 On conflating the a priori with that which is prior
3.3 How not to naturalize metaphysical inferences
3.4 Unpacking the metaphors: grounding and distance
3.5 On the distinction between theorizing and speculating
Part II: Illustrations and Morals
Chapter 4: Dispositions: science as a basis for scientific ontology
4.1 How dispositions manifest in the philosophy of science
4.2 Explanatory power I: unifying aspects of scientific realism
4.3 Explanatory power II: giving scientific explanations
4.4 Explanatory power III: consolidating scientific knowledge
4.5 Property identity and the actual power of explanatory power
Chapter 5: Structures: science as a constraint on scientific ontology
5.1 Thinking about ontology in the domain of fundamental physics
5.2 Situating an ontological inquiry into subatomic particles
5.3 Structuralist interpretations of the metaphysics of particles
5.4 Reasoning about ontological bedrock: an unavoidable dilemma
5.5 Dissolving the dilemma: the variability of belief and suspension
Part III: Voluntarist Epistemology
Chapter 6: Knowledge under ontological uncertainty
6.1 Inconsistent ontologies and incompatible beliefs
6.2 Belief and ontological pluralism: perspectival knowledge?
6.3 A trilemma for perspectivism: irrelevant
6.4 Two kinds of context-transcendent pluralism about ontology
6.5 Ontological explanation and contrastive what-questions
Chapter 7: The nature and provenance of epistemic stances
7.1 An indefeasible persistence of ontological disagreement
7.2 Stances revisited: deflationary
7.3 A voluntarist primer on choosing stances and beliefs
7.4 Epistemic stances in conflict: rationality and robustness
7.5 In defense of permissive norms of rationality for stances
Chapter 8: Coda: voluntarism with lessons from Pyrrho and Sextus
8.1 Getting to the bottom of it all, while awake
8.2 Skeptical arguments: some Modes of Agrippa
8.3 A Pyrrhonian analogy: isostheneia and aphasia
8.4 Extending analogy a bit further: ataraxia
8.5 A transformative epistemology of scientific ontology


Anjan Chakravartty is the Appignani Foundation Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami, where he works on topics in the philosophy of science, metaphysics, and epistemology. He has taught previously at the Universities of Cambridge, Toronto, and Notre Dame.