We are all metaphysicians…

Yesterday at the dinner table I had a conversation with the brothers about science and metaphysics. We were trying to answer the question whether a scientist can remain completely not engaged in any kind of metaphysical issues and questions. Can he do his job without asking the question why??? Why do the things and organisms he is researching exist and are what they are? Why all the laws of nature that he is trying to name and describe using mathematical language hold? Of course, he can – or even should – stay away from this kind of questions as a scientist, but can he ignore them as a human being? If he cannot, then is it appropriate and good for him to live his life in this kind of dualism? Ultimately, the question concerns science itself. Does it have merely a descriptive role, or maybe it is supposed to be explanatory as well?

Today, while continuing my study on the history of causation in scientific explanation I came across a nice quote from Norman Robert Campbell, a distinguished English physicist from the first half of the 20th century. He opposed phenomenalism of Mach, who claimed that science should be concerned with phenomena only, with no questions of causality and explanation – in order to attain “ecconomy of thought” (Mach was one of the founders of the logical positivism). Against him and Poincaré, who claimed that scientific theories are only conventions (conventionalism) and their value is just utility and furnishing an aesthetic picture of the universe – against both of them Campbell says:

“… we are all metaphysicians, physicists included. We are all interested in problems which the metaphysician attempts to solve… The world is not divided into those who do and those who do not hold metaphysical doctrines, but rather into those who hold them for some reason and those who hold them for none.” (Foundations of Science, 12)

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One thought on “We are all metaphysicians…

  1. Pingback: Metaphysics: everybody’s doing it | Science and Wisdom

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