The Metaphysical Realities of the Unphysical Sciences: Or Why Vertical Integration Seems Unrealistic to Ontological Pluralists<sup>1</sup>

Richard A. Shweder

in Creating Consilience

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794393
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919338 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science

The Metaphysical Realities of the Unphysical Sciences: Or Why Vertical Integration Seems Unrealistic to Ontological Pluralists1

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Reality testing is unavoidably grounded on metaphysical assumptions. Among reflective reality testers, a rather unconciliatory clash of metaphysical traditions has been going on for a very long time; perhaps for 2,500 years. So it is not at all surprising that the contemporary state of the art in the human sciences is in fact not all that different from what it was in 1913 when Emile Durkheim presented his paper on “The Religious Problem and the Duality of Nature” to the Societe de Philosophie in Paris, summarizing his famous book The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. As noted by Durkheim's intellectual biographer Stephen Lukes, alluding to the apparent dualisms and unconciliatory oppositions that were up for discussion at Durkheim's lecture: “Philosophers had no genuine solution: empiricists, materialists, and utilitarians, on the one hand, and absolute idealists on the other, simply denied these antinomies without accounting for them; ontological dualists simply reaffirmed them without explaining them.” One suspects that is pretty much the way it has always been and still is today, despite the ecumenical “good news” from those in the academy who advocate unity of knowledge, who fancy theory-of-everything notions, or who believe that ultimately it all comes down to this or that. This chapter tries to explain why ontological dualists, including Descartes and Karl Popper, care to affirm such oppositions; and why ontological pluralists in general worry that vertical integration is a form of destructive integrity in which several orders of reality (the everyday experience of mental causation, the feeling of respect for transcendental moral obligation, concerns about the existence of evil) will be portrayed as reified illusions or fetishized figments of a collective imagination, and hence as somewhat less than really real.

Keywords: death pollution; humanistic anthropology; mind-body dualism; morality; non-natural properties; Popper's Three Worlds; unphysical reality; voluntary action

Chapter.  10823 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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