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Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized [Paperback]

James Ladyman , Don Ross , Don Spurrett
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

25 Oct 2009
Every Thing Must Go argues that the only kind of metaphysics that can contribute to objective knowledge is one based specifically on contemporary science as it really is, and not on philosophers' a priori intuitions, common sense, or simplifications of science. In addition to showing how recent metaphysics has drifted away from connection with all other serious scholarly inquiry as a result of not heeding this restriction, they demonstrate how to build a metaphysics compatible with current fundamental physics ('ontic structural realism'), which, when combined with their metaphysics of the special sciences ('rainforest realism'), can be used to unify physics with the other sciences without reducing these sciences to physics itself. Taking science metaphysically seriously, Ladyman and Ross argue, means that metaphysicians must abandon the picture of the world as composed of self-subsistent individual objects, and the paradigm of causation as the collision of such objects.

Every Thing Must Go also assesses the role of information theory and complex systems theory in attempts to explain the relationship between the special sciences and physics, treading a middle road between the grand synthesis of thermodynamics and information, and eliminativism about information. The consequences of the author's metaphysical theory for central issues in the philosophy of science are explored, including the implications for the realism vs. empiricism debate, the role of causation in scientific explanations, the nature of causation and laws, the status of abstract and virtual objects, and the objective reality of natural kinds.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199573093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199573097
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 15.3 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 364,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

This material is dense, challenging and creative...a provovative book...the authors are to be commended for taking on the challenge to develop a systematic, scientifically informed metaphysics for the twenty-first century. (Paul W. Humphreys Metascience)

About the Author

James Ladyman is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bristol.

Don Ross is Professor of Philosophy and Professor of economics at the University of Alabama at Birrmingham, and Professor of Economics at the University of Cape Town.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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0 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Structural Realism 17 Dec 2010
A Kid's Review
Format:Paperback
This book is a fundamental book for the structural realism in the philisophy of science, being an detailed presentation of it.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Thing Must Go 27 May 2008
By D. Glick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Everything Must Go is bold attempt to replace our standard metaphysical picture of the world with a radically different view. The motivation for this change comes from taking science, and especially fundamental physics, seriously. The basic structure of the book is as follows. The authors begin by calling into question the methodology of current "armchair" metaphysics. A new naturalistic methodology is proposed according to which the goal of metaphysics is to unify the various sciences. Using this methodology, Ladyman et al proceed to argue for a version of ontic structural realism about fundamental physics. According to this view, our best physical theories tell us only about structure - not entities - because there are no entities. In other words, at the fundamental level, there are no things (hence the title). Finally, the authors attempt to explain how the successful deploying of objects and causation in the special sciences can be justified when neither is found in fundamental physics nor is reducible to it. The key to reconciling the special sciences with fundamental physics is an understanding of objects of the former in terms of Dennett's real patterns. Essentially, objects (and causation) in the special sciences are real patterns that track important features of the structure of reality at a non-fundamental level of resolution.

Given the broad scope of the book, many issues are not treated in the detail they deserve, but rest assured, there are plenty of references to follow if something piques your interest. Whether or not the authors succeed in overthrowing the reigning atomistic metaphysical picture in favor of their particular structuralist view, this work constitutes an important contribution to naturalistic metaphysics simply by calling the former into question at all. Perhaps the most important role for philosophy of any sort is questioning the fundamental assumptions that underlie our thinking. This book exemplifies this virtue by asking, "Is the world really made up of smaller and smaller things? Or is this merely a prejudice carried over from our experience with the world of everyday experience?"
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ontic Structural Realism 8 Mar 2010
By Mohamed M. Elsamahi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ladyman and Ross provide an account of ontic structural realism (OSR) with some new concepts and arguments that Ladyman and Franch have not included in their previous articles. OSR challenges the traditional ontology of "things" or "stuff" and adds freshness to the metaphysical debates. The book is an essential reading for those interested in the philosophy of science and philosophy of mathematics. OSR is still very controversial but it exposes some problems with traditional metaphysics.

Among the difficulties of OSR is its view that only the mathematical structure can be known and that it is all what exist, i.e., nothing exists in the real world other than the structure. Even particles like electrons or photons do not exist as real relata but are devices meant to attain knowledge of the structure. The idea that the relational structure has no relata (entities between which there can be relations) is counterintuitive, and has been ruthlessly criticized. So far the proponents of OSR could not clarify their contention that the mathematical structure is also physical. In spite of the inadequacy of arguments for OSR, the position remains interesting and bold.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it will change the way you look at the world 27 Aug 2012
By Massimo Pigliucci - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
[What follows is an extract from two essays published at Rationally Speaking dot org; check also a forthcoming episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast featuring an interview with James Ladyman.] I must admit that the title of the first chapter -- "In defense of scientism" -- did not dispose me well toward the book. I think the term scientism ought to be reserved for what it has traditionally indicated, an unwarranted over reliance on science (yes, there is such a thing), or the thoughtless application of science where it doesn't belong (ditto), and it pisses me off to no end when philosophers actually use it as a positive term (as, most egregiously, in Alex Rosenberg's so-called Atheist's Guide to Reality). However, I got past the initial annoyance, and started to appreciate the (complex) arguments made by Ladyman, Ross and their occasional co-writers. Indeed, by the end of the book it turns out that Every Thing Must Go is, among other things, a pretty good argument against the sort of scientism that worries me, and in particular against the nowadays very popular physical reductionism espoused by the likes of Rosenberg, Harris & co. ... The surprising upshot of all of this is that physicalist reductionism -- the idea that all the special sciences and their objects of study will eventually reduce to physics and its objects of study -- is out of the question. And it is out of the question because of a metaphysics (ontic structural realism) that is based on the best physics available! If you are not blown away by this you may not have caught the thing in its entirety and may want to go back and re-read this post (or, if your philosophical and physical chops are adequate, ETMG). This has all sorts of implication for those increasingly popular (and, I think, annoying) statements about determinism and reductionism that we keep hearing. Turns out that they are based on bad physics and worse metaphysics. There is no fundamental determinism for the simple reason that there is no fundamental causality, and that "cause" is a conceptual tool deployed by the special sciences that has no counterpart in fundamental physics, and so it cannot be reduced to or eliminated by the latter. In other words, read the book, it's definitely worth your time!
4.0 out of 5 stars like most metaphysical discussions 23 July 2014
By James I. Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anybody interested in the foundational importance of physics for doing metaphysics should read this book. My only complaint is that, like most metaphysical discussions, the presentation is a bit tedious at times. Nevertheless, Ladyman et.al. manage to make a strong case that all metaphysics must be anchored in fundamental physics if it is to have any probative value.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why There Aren't Some Things, Yet There's Not Nothing? 7 July 2014
By Jeffrey Rubard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
James Ladyman and Don Ross have written an ambitious yet confusing book which attempts to clarify the importance of modern scientific research for philosophical ontology. One would think that the authors, proprietors of the popular "structural realism" position in the philosophy of science, would be well placed to take the enterprise of analytic metaphysics up a notch, or alternatively down a peg; but their ultimate recommendations about the proper understanding of the processual character of physical events as they are construed today, and its importance for denying the "thing schema" which supposed 'physicalists' still countenance, fail to meet those demands of the "interests of reason" which have made most metaphysicians throughout the ages make peace with middle-sized dry goods. This book is "Russellian" not in intention but in accomplishment: in a desire to be most contemporary, Ladyman and Ross repeat early 20th-century discussions about whether tables are "really solid".

Structural realism holds, simply put, that scientific research discovers structural invariants of physical events -- we don't know exactly what incarnates the laws of physics and special sciences in 'ultimate reality', only that they are empirically blemish-free. Conclusions can be quickly drawn from adopting this standpoint; all the supposed strangeness of quantum mechanics with its probabilistic particles and lack of firm ontological commitments must serve as a guidepost, rather than a rebuke, to ontology viewed as a handmaiden of the sciences, rather than a Philistine rebuttal from an armchair. However, in this book these conclusions are too quickly drawn -- Ladyman and Ross guffaw about the "Solar System" view of particles, atoms and molecules, which they claim has been taken over from high-school chemistry into supposedly scientific metaphysics, but not so long ago their colleague Arthur Fine had to remind people that the "Natural Ontological Attitude" really did mean, in some very basic way, that there were chairs and tables and, yes, books no matter what some era of physical science might say was more basic.

Contemporary metaphysics, not yet out from under the shadow of David Lewis and his particular viewpoints, is ready for a systematic critique: and yes, physicalists perhaps ought to be taught what physics in the era of massively multiple dimensions does say "on what there is". But the philosophical Eros of Ladyman and Ross is not strong enough: if they attempt to leave the discussion of "worldview" to social phenomenologists teaching in sociology departments, it is because they have not read their Lewis (or Strawson or Quine) seriously enough. A one-sided contribution to a one-sided debate.
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