Science, Metaphysics and Language

The extent to which science and metaphysics are intertwined (one could almost say bound up) with each other is, at times, astounding – and I think this intertwine-ness comes from language. The conceptual grammar which makes science possibly comes almost entirely from metaphysics – cause, purpose, etc – but are often confused with the science itself. Causality is an example of this – causality is a metaphysical category, yet it’s nearly impossible to say anything having to do with science without using some kind of causal-language. The conceptual grammar becomes inextricably part of the actual science.

Consider a similar, but negative, situation: the elimination of formal/final causes in modern science (initiated, by, say the early moderns). This shows, to me, a remarkable conceptual confusion by eliminating metaphysical categories from empirical study. Formal and final causality, being metaphysical categories, cannot be studied under a microscope – (though biology will often use the language of purpose and form, it’s a decidedly different kind of thing than formal and final causality).

I say all this not to offer a solution to this problem but to simply note the striking manner in which science and metaphysics are conceptually confused – though a solution, to paraphrase L.W., may involve the release of the fly from the fly-bottle. Matters of method (say, the elimination of formal/final causality) are fine kept strictly as a matter of method – to confuse a matter of method with reality, though, is nothing but a conceptual confusion.


4 thoughts on “Science, Metaphysics and Language

  1. guymax March 30, 2014 / 10:59 am

    Nice. I’m with you all the way on this one. The idea that one can get to the bottom of physics or metaphysics by isolating them from the other, or by imaging that they can be so isolated, is just plain daft, and the evidence supports this view. .

    (Btw. there’s a confusing typo in the final sentence.)


    • whitefrozen March 30, 2014 / 1:35 pm

      Thanks, typo fixed.

      Yeah, to isolate one from the other is just silly – though they are distinct. You can’t study metaphysics under a microscope, for example, but you can’t do any kind of anything without some kind of conceptual grammar/framework, which is, of course, metaphysics. By contrast, metaphysics is pretty meaningless without an empirical world, which you can, in fact, study under a microscope.


  2. guymax March 30, 2014 / 4:35 pm

    Very well put.


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