on June 8, 2010
Maudlin's Metaphysics within Physics sweeps away some of the philosophical cobwebs that entangle anyone trying to develop a coherent metaphysical position. A few threads in that web are Kant, Hume, Carnap, Lewis, empiricism, logical positivism, etc.
The book pulls together five essays of the author on causation, time and laws of nature. It is argued that traditional philosophical ontologies must yield to scientific descriptions of nature, whenever these descriptions do not translate well into the traditional framework. The Humean picture of a vast mosaic of local matters of fact -- instantiated at points -- should be replaced by a global structure with non-local connections. In Maudlin's picture, scientific laws and the direction of time are fundamental and are not suitable for philosophical analysis.
My favorite essays were "Suggestions for Deep Metaphysics" which describes the metaphysical implications of gauge theories, and "Causation, Counterfactuals, and the Third Factor", which demolishes the counterfactual analysis of causation due to David Lewis. The counterfactual treatment has always seemed like rubbish to me, and I never understood its popularity among philosophers.
The best quote followed a critique of Occam's Razor (p 4). "Let others subsist on the thin gruel of minimalist metaphysics: I'll take my ontology mit Schlag." -- a good motto for those who are not attracted to weird deflationary and minimalist philosophies.
on August 16, 2011
One star for my naivete, thinking I could comprehend this burdensome academic prose. Every paragraph left me scratching my head. I still read the entire book, hoping to glean something worth quoting, but comprehended less than 10% of its content. Never heard of supervenience or counterfactuals before. One star for my intelligence. This review says more about my philosophical naivete than about the depth of Maudlin's argument. I don't think I could ever be an academic in any field, much less philosophy. It was the most boring book I have ever read--even worse than John Bowlby's "Attachment." More up my alley, and perhaps yours if you are not a professional philosopher, was Victor Stenger's "The Unconsious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology."