Rethinking Metaphysics - Misdirections in Metaphysics 1: The Explanatory Conception of Metaphysics
Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth College)

May 2, 2022, 6:15pm - 8:15pm
Institute for Philosophy, University of Bern

Room 120
Hochschulstrasse 4
Bern 3012


  • Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences


University of Bern

Topic areas


This is part 1 of a series of three lectures


Two approaches have dominated work in metaphysics since its post-positivist revival: an explanatory approach and a truthmaker approach. I will argue that both approaches rely on the unargued assumption that all discourse serves the same function. This assumption has taken metaphysics in misdirections, leading to pseudo-problems and epistemological mysteries that have left metaphysics in a crisis.

The ‘Explanatory’ conception of metaphysics, often traced to Quine, presents metaphysics as (part of) an explanatory enterprise, concerned with offering (part of) a best total explanatory theory. On this view, the work of metaphysics is likened to the work of natural science. In this lecture, I aim to diagnose where this approach has gone wrong: by relying on the assumption that all the noun terms we are concerned with in metaphysics serve an explanatory function.

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