The Essence of Metaphysical Positivism
Overview
In essence Metaphysical Positivism is a positivisitic philosophy with negative dogmas excised, with a positive attitude towards metaphysics, based around a method of logical analysis together with appropriate philosophical (including metaphysical) underpinnings.
What is the point of Metaphysical Positivism?
A broadly applicable method for modelling and analysis method exploiting symbolic logic.
Positivism is traditionally both anti-dogmatic and dogmatic, in this similar to scepticism. In "liberal" positivism, we seek to capture the positive elements of positivism while discarding the negative dogmas.
An attempt to identify certain kinds of problem which might, even for a positivist, be thought both metaphysical and worthwhile. Primarily meta-philosophical, even meta-metaphysical.
Introducing Metaphysical Positivism
What is the point of Metaphysical Positivism?
Rationality and Social Progress
Comte's Conception of Progress in Civilisation

August Comte, who coined the term "positivism" built systematic philosophy starting from the idea that civilisation progresses through certain stages.

In his rather simplistic and idealistic conception there had been three such stages, the first a theological stage in which the world was understood as controlled by supernatural beings, the second a metaphysical phase in which the world was "explained" by speculative theories whose evidential basis and practical utility were at best tenuous.

The third phase was that inaugurated by the ideas of men like Bacon and Gallileo, that of modern science.

One of things which Comte sought to do was to articulate more fully the principles on which scientific knowledge is based, and to draw out the contrast between these methods and those of the theological and metaphysical stages as he saw them.

Metaphysical Positivism is so called partly because it buys in to the idea that there is progress in civilisation, and that a significant element of that progress does concern what we might call "epistemic standards", how we decide what ideas about the nature of the world around should be taken seriously.

Hume's Scepticism

David Hume preceded Comte's coining of the term "positivism" but is by some regarded as having been the first "true" positivist.

His importance for Metaphysical Positivism lies in his having adopted a kind of mitigated scepticism which hangs around the distinction between logical and empirical truths (this is sometimes known as "Hume's fork"). Hume affirmed the importance of this distinction, and asserted that only logical truths (those concerning "relations between ideas") could be known with certainty.

Hume lived at the same time as Rousseau, a central figure in the romantic challenge to the rationalistic exesses of the enlightenment, and though Hume could not be called a romantic, his precise delimitation of the very narrow scope of deductive argument, and scepticism about the merits of other kinds of argument (which included both inductive arguments and arguments about values), did provide ammunition for opponents of enlightenment rationalism, which saw no bounds on scope of its deliberations.

Metaphysical positivism, attaches great importance to the delimitation of the scope of deductive arguments, to their full exploitation wherever they have something to offer, and to the exposure of all other arguments as varieties of rhetoric.

Formal Analysis as an Element of Rationality
Following Comte

Alongside Comte's conception of progress in civilisation, I place another (equally simplistic). It is primitive to settle disputes by physical contestation, somewhat better to do it verbally (let us say, rhetorically), but better still by some method more honest and reasonable than rhetoric.

We might cautiously use the term "rational" for our best ideas about how this might be done, hoping to evolve an idea of the rational which recognises the limits of sound argument and delivers open and honest ways of resolving problems which fall outside its scope (to a first approximation that would be any which are not just about logic or mathematics!).

Following Hume

With Hume, we attach great importance to the distinction between logical and empirical truths, and consider the further exposure of that distinction to be worthwhile progress.

It is progress to have better ways of knowing when arguments are deductive, it is progress to have ways of exploiting deductive arguments to the very limits of their scope, which will go no further, which will conspicuously fail to endorse arguments having the superficial appearance but not the substance of deductive soundness.

Metaphysical positivism is a purely analytic philosophy, the analytic core of a broader conception of philosophy which I call simply "Positive Philosophy". As such it centres around a method for formal analysis and the philosophical ideas which underpin it and its applications.

Liberal Positivism
Positivism is traditionally both anti-dogmatic and dogmatic, in this similar to scepticism. In "liberal" positivism, we seek to capture the positive elements of positivism while discarding the negative dogmas.
Comte on Progress
We retrieve some aspects of Comte conception of historical progress.
Kolakowski's Conception of Positivism
Kolakowski identifies four key features of Positivism, we present them and point out the negative dogmatism.
Open scepticism is a kind of theoretical scepticism, an anti-dogmatic philosophy in respect of knowledge, which enjoins suspension of judgement in all matters, accepting only that things appear to be as they do.
Positivism Liberalised
We recast the key features of Positivism eliminating the negative dogmatism.
Positive Metaphysics
An attempt to identify certain kinds of problem which might, even for a positivist, be thought both metaphysical and worthwhile. Primarily meta-philosophical, even meta-metaphysical.
Retrospective
I begin with a historical sketch, describing first the dogmatic opposition to metaphysics of the most extreme positivists, and then the evolution of Carnap's thought from his phenomenalistic beginings to his liberal conclusion.
Prospective
The I take one step forward beyond the liberal Carnap, and give an analysis of positivistically acceptable varieties of metaphysics, and touch more generally on aspects of Aristotle's "first philosophy" which might not now be called metaphysics.
Retrospective
Positivist Critiques of Metaphysics
Hume's fork supports a rejection of metaphysics, and reappears with similar effect in the philosophy of Rudolf Carnap. A critique of the resulting conventionalist position makes a space for a kind of metaphysics.
The Evolution of Carnap's Positivism
Carnap's logical positivism matured into a position a hairs breath from embracing metaphysics.
Prospective
Moderating Conventionalism
Why choices about language should not be completely arbitrary.
Metaphysics in Metaphysical Positivism
Some notes on the idea that Hume's fork as represented in the philosophy of Rudolf Carnap is a pragmatic choice of language, underlying which is a fundamental and objective distinction between two kinds of judgement or proposition. As such this central doctrine qualifies as a kind of positivistically sanitised metaphysics.
The Method of Formal Logical Analysis
A broadly applicable method for modelling and analysis method exploiting symbolic logic.
Ideas
Introduction
Key features of the method are its applicability to deductive reasoning in any domain through the use of abstract models defined using formal notations supported by appropriate computern software.
Deduction
When deduction is possible, conditions for soundness.
Abstract Models
The universality of abstract models. Their advantages.
Concepts
The advantages of abstract modelling in conceptual clarification.
Software
The use of formal notations is made feasible by the availability of software support.
Some Details
Philosophical Underpinnings
This method of analysis is a central feature of the philosophy of Metaphysical Positivism, which provides a conceptual framework and rationale for the method and its applications.
This work in progress is intended to provide a history of the developments over a period of 2500 years which lead to the establishment of this method, and applies the method to historical exegesis.


up quick index © RBJ

privacy policy

Created:2007/07/10

$Id

V