metaphysics in science

Much recent work has been devoted to analyzing the role of metaphysics in scientific theorizing.

Alexandre Koyré led this movement, declaring in his book Metaphysics and Measurement, “It is not by following experiment, but by outstripping experiment, that the scientific mind makes progress.”[25]

Imre Lakatos maintained that all scientific theories have a metaphysical “hard core” essential for the generation of hypotheses and theoretical assumptions.[26]

Thus, according to Lakatos, “scientific changes are connected with vast cataclysmic metaphysical revolutions.”[27]

An example from biology of Lakatos’ thesis: David Hull has argued that changes in the ontological status of the species concept have been central in the development of biological thought from Aristotle through Cuvier, Lamarck, and Darwin.

Darwin’s ignorance of metaphysics made it more difficult for him to respond to his critics because he could not readily grasp the ways in which their underlying metaphysical views differed from his own.[28]

In physics, new metaphysical ideas have arisen in connection with quantum mechanics, where subatomic particles arguably do not have the same sort of individuality as the particulars with which philosophy has traditionally been concerned.[29]

Also, adherence to a deterministic metaphysics in the face of the challenge posed by the quantum-mechanical uncertainty principle led physicists like Albert Einstein to propose alternative theories that retained determinism.[30]

In chemistry, Gilbert Newton Lewis addressed the nature of motion, arguing that an electron should not be said to move when it has none of the properties of motion.[31]

Katherine Hawley notes that the metaphysics even of a widely accepted scientific theory may be challenged if it can be argued that the metaphysical presuppositions of the theory make no contribution to its predictive success.[32]




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