20 de outubro de 2012

Metaphysical Knowledge


2012-13: Session 1

Metaphysical Knowledge

E.J. Lowe (Durham University)

26 October 2012, 15:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa
Sala Mattos Romão (departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: My topic in this paper is metaphysical knowledge, by which I
mean knowledge of metaphysical truths. And my principal questions are
whether, and if so how, such knowledge is attainable by creatures like
ourselves. I shall argue that we can and do possess metaphysical
knowledge. But, of course, how controversial this claim is deemed to
be will depend on what one takes to be distinctive of metaphysical
truths. Consequently, I must first offer some account of what I take
to be the nature of metaphysics as an intellectual discipline. It will
soon be seen that on my account of the nature of metaphysics, the
claim that we can and do possess metaphysical knowledge is indeed a
controversial one and consequently one whose defence may prove
interesting. But in offering this account and defending this claim, I
have a deeper motive. This is to promote a certain conception of the
methodology of metaphysics which is regrettably still very much in
abeyance, largely on account of the dominance of first epistemology
and then the philosophy of language in the western philosophical
tradition of the last three hundred years. The slogan for my preferred
conception of metaphysical method might well be this: metaphysics must
be done directly. What I am opposing is the view — so widespread that
it often goes unspoken — that metaphysics, to the extent that it can
be done at all, has to be done through the medium of some other branch
of philosophy, such as epistemology, logic, philosophical semantics or
the philosophy of mind. What is particularly absurd about this view is
that each of these branches of philosophy has, inevitably, certain
distinctively metaphysical commitments which cannot possibly be
warranted by doing metaphysics in the way that the view recommends.
All that sustains the view in the face of this absurdity, as far as I
can see, is the unspoken conviction of so many philosophers that
metaphysics cannot be done, as I put it, ‘directly’. I think we owe
this pernicious conviction in large measure to the ‘modernist’ legacy
of Descartes, Hume, and Kant — great philosophers all of them, but all
philosophers whose work contributed to the demotion of metaphysics
from its central role in philosophy. It has been encouraging to see
evidence of a revival in the fortunes of metaphysics in recent years,
but contemporary metaphysics is still a tender plant that needs much
nurturing and one that is constantly in danger of reverting to the
degenerate type propagated by the modernist legacy.

Free Attendance

Sponsored by: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Faculdade de
Letras da Universidade de Lisboa

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