An Outline of Metaphysical Positivism
The motivation.
In this introduction is given a first sketch of the system which will be expanded in the subsequent sections.
In this introduction is given a first sketch of the system which will be expanded in the subsequent sections.
Metaphysical positivism is concerned primarily with the articulation of a conception of rationality. At the core of this conception is deductive inference, which may be used in the establishment of logical truths. Around this central core rationality consists first in the appropriate application of deductive reasoning using abstract models. The description of appropriate methods, languages and tools for this kind of deductive modelling provides a base from which we may approach an understaning of ways in which one may rationally go beyond the scope of deduction.
Metaphysical positivism is a system of analytic philosophy in which the analysis in question is logical in the sense of modern symbolic logic. All hangs around an articulation of method which is to be undertaken, as far as possible, according to that method. This articulation of method is foundational in character, and hence ultimately circular.
The Method of Abstract Logical Analysis

The method is:

  • in a suitable context, construct an abstract conceptual model of the problem domain,
  • then reason about the problem domain deductively using the abstract model as a proxy.
This method is proposed for analysis (or synthesis) in any domain in which deductive reasoning may be possible. Deductive reasoning will be possible whenever a relevant model can be obtained by the methods proposed.

Metaphysical positivism is then concerned with philosophically profound and problematic applications of the method, e.g. to metaphysics.

Articulation of the method involved addressing some of the most fundamental problems of philosophy. At the core of this is a general account of semantics, and an approach to dealing with the problem of semantic regress (the idea that a definition of semantics must be done in a metalanguage stronger than the object language, which in turn could only have its semantics defined in a yet stronger meta-meta-language and so on ad infinitum).
The first non-philosophical application is to science and engineering in which case it is a realisation of the "nomologico-deductive method" in which the laws of physics are formulated using the abstract model and conclusions about the world (presuming the truth of the relevant laws) are obtained by deductive reasoning using that model.
Metaphysics and Positivism

Possibly the most characteristic doctrine of positivist thought is its outright rejection of "Metaphysics". Nevertheless, a broad conception of positivism may embrace varieties of pragmatism, some of which have been more conciliatory toward metaphysics.

Metaphysical positivism respects Aristotle's conception of metaphysics (first philosophy) as locating the high ground of philosophical thought, at the same time as recognising the great difficulty in making metaphysical problems sufficiently definite to have answers. The core doctrines of metaphysical positivism are not themselves metaphysical, but philosophically it is perhaps their ultimate purpose to pave the way, to provide an appropriate conceptual and methodological framework, for an approach to metaphysics.

In metaphysical positivism the positivistic desire to avoid nonesense and incoherence, which is typically focussed by positivists, remains important. Metaphysics is however not always considered pathological, and is no longer considered the primary source of pathology in recent philosophical thought.

Instead of talking of the demarcation between science and metaphysics, taking this to be that between empirically meaningful and meaningless metaphysical positivism proposes a linguistic and methodological framework for nomologico-deductive science considered as construction of abstract models of aspects of concrete reality. These methods provide ways of making the construction and deductive application of abstract models ultimately precise. The emphasis is on enabling coherent and precise discourse rather than on condemning vagueness and incoherence,

A Priori Method

Before it is possible to reason soundly (or deductively, which is the same thing) it is first necessary to establish a language with a well-defined semantics, "Soundness" is of course a semantic concept, in default of a semantics the notion of soundness is without meaning. In order to make the concepts in some domain precise, it is first necessary to establish what these concepts are about. Making language precise therefore consists in constructing an abstract model of the intended subject matter and then defining the relevant concepts in terms of that abstract model.

Once a language has been established it becomes possible to explore the subject domain, developing an intuitive understanding which is progressively confirmed by deductive demonstration of its conjectures.

Applications of the theory developed in this way involve connecting the abstract model with some concrete application domain.


Metaphysical positivism is concerned with a priori methods both in philosophy and in other domains where these methods are applicable, i.e. in all domains in which deductive reasoning may be beneficial.

Here is a first sketch of terminology and method.

The aim is to contribute to our understanding of various problems by a priori analysis. Furthermore, we aim always to achieve high standards of rigour, and therefore seek to establish results deductively.
Deductive Reasoning
We define deductive reasoning as reasoning conducted exclusively using sound inference rules, for this purpose treating axioms as rules with no premises.
Logical Truth
Results which are obtainable by deduction from the empty set of premises are called logical truths.
An inference rule is sound if it when applied to true premises always yields true conclusions. Truth, which is a semantic notion, is therefore crucial.
For the purpose of judging whether or ensuring that our rules of inference are sound it is desirable that the languages in use have well-defined semantics. A truth conditional semantics suffices for this purpose.
It follows from our definition of logical truth that the logical truth is the same thing as analyticity.

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