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Can metaphysical structuralism solve the plurality problem?


Can metaphysical structuralism solve the plurality problem? Thumbnail



Metaphysics has a problem with plurality: in many areas of discourse, there are too many good theories, rather than just one. This embarrassment of riches is a particular problem for metaphysical realists who want metaphysics to tell us the way the world is and for whom one theory is the correct one. A recent suggestion is that we can treat the different theories as being functionally or explanatorily equivalent to each other, even though they differ in content. The aim of this paper is to explore whether the notion of functionally equivalent theories can be extended and utilized in the defence of metaphysical realism, drawing upon themes from structuralism in the philosophies of mathematics and science in which the specifics of theories do not matter as long as the relations in which they stand to other theories are maintained. I argue that despite its initial attractiveness, there are significant difficulties with this proposal. Discovering these obstacles (most probably) thwarts the realist structuralist project, but reveals interesting features of metaphysical systems.

Acceptance Date Oct 31, 2018
Publication Date Nov 20, 2018
Journal International Journal of Philosophical Studies
Print ISSN 0967-2559
Publisher Routledge
Pages 722-746
Keywords Metaphysics, realism, structuralism, plurality, metaphysical equivalence, primitive
Publisher URL


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