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Volume 51 • Number 4

October 2014



Practical Realism as Metaphysics

by Lynne Rudder Baker

Mainstream analytic metaphysics is a priori metaphysics. It is hemmed in by basic assumptions that rest on no more than a priori intuitions. Jaegwon Kim's (1989) arguments about causation are a paradigm example of sophisticated arguments with little or no justification from the world as we know it. And Peter van Inwagen's (1990) arguments about material objects are motivated by a question that, I think, has no nontrivial answer: Under what conditions do some x's compose an object y? The trivial answers are "always" and "never." Any other answer, including van Inwagen's, seems to me to be arbitrary—and again based on a priori intuitions.

To cite two more examples that I find egregious: (1) The assumption that there is a metaphysically important distinction between what is mind-independent and what is not, and (2) the assumption that there is a metaphysically important distinction, among things that are real, between what is fundamental and what is not. A priori intuitions, especially when not shared by philosophers outside a small circle of specially trained people, seem a weak reed on which to hang metaphysical systems.

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ISSN: 2152-1123