(urth) Christian relativity - in which I mangle philosophy ofscience

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Fri Apr 14 15:07:04 PDT 2006

On 4/14/06, Chris <rasputin_ at hotmail.com> wrote:
> To say that metaphysics is "generally empirically underdetermined" bothers
> me a little bit, although it may - I am not sure - be perfectly true. It
> seems to imply that one arrives at metaphysical conclusions by means of
> empirical investigation, but the metaphysical premises are always there, as
> it were, ahead of time.

Well, I don't want to be speaking for anyone else but how _I_ read
"empirically underdetermined" is "there is not sufficient empirical
data available to determine the correctness of one set of metaphysics
as over against another;" or, more broadly, "many different metaphysical
systems can be said to fit the empirical evidence we have to date."

> ...[T]he empirical
> investigation itself gets started on the basis of some metaphysical
> standpoint or other.

Well, to the extent that epistemology is a branch of metaphysics,
certainly; empiricism is after all fundamentally an epistemological
approach to things.

At any rate: the whole sentence --

> The metaphysic that's generally taken to be implied by relativity
> at present isn't necessarily the one that should be taken to apply
> in the future (though one can't actually say what that would be),
> since metaphysics is generally empirically underdetermined.

unpacks in my brain (note again: Not speaking for Iorwerth, just
riffing out my own interpretation) something like:

Metaphysics has been significantly influenced by the advent of
modern physics, and especially relativity. (Most philosophers
don't seem to have really gotten their brains wrapped around
quantum theory yet; sadly, some philosophers seem to have
a vague idea that Heisenberg's principle boils down to "the
experimenter influences the outcome of the experiment," or
somesuch.) But because we haven't yet fully worked out the
empirical implications of relativity (and especially because we
haven't yet reconciled relativity with quantum theory), any
metaphysics based on relativity is _necessarily_ premature --
which isn't to say that it may not turn out to be correct for a
relativistic Universe; but if it is, we can't say yet that it is.

Something like that, anyway.

I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.
                        -- St Teresa of Avila

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