Monday, June 4, 2012

Crazy metaphysics?

Eric Schwitzgebel thinks that metaphysical theories are doomed for weirdness (he calls this "crazyism." Also see here). He gives lots of examples. Much of his examples really are of famous weird metaphysics. Some of the most famous arguments in metaphysics are for really odd conclusions (modal realism, panpsychism, ontological nihilism, unrestricted mereology, etc).

But why pick on metaphysics? It's not clear to me that metaphysics is any weirder (at least when it comes to a comparison with "common sense" assumptions than many claims in ethics and epistemology. Many utilitarians such as Singer and Unger argued that we are just as obligated to donate every last penny of expendable ready cash in our possession to the needy as we are in saving a drowning child. They even go further and argue that we may be obligated to steal for those that don't donate as much we we do to give to the needy. Kant famously argued that the moral obligation against lying is so strong that we ought not lie even to save an innocent life. That's crazy.

Many skeptics have argued that we don't know many of the things we think we know. Ratnakirti argued for solipsism based on epistemological arguments, for example. There may be many other equally famous examples from these two branches of philosophy or other non metaphysics branches that are equally or more weird. All these examples show that weirdness is common to these other areas of philosophy as well. It may be that metaphysics is a little more likely to be weird than other branches of philosophy but I don't think there's a large difference in this regard.