What is the opposite of 'fundamental'?

Tue 12 Mar 2013 09:32 AM

Short version:

I think that I might start calling my approach meso metaphysics.

The long version:

Although there is a sense in which I am interested in metaphysics, I am not interested in fundamental metaphysics. For example, in SENK I argue that the planet category marks a real rather than merely a nominal distinction among things in the solar system. I distinguish this realism from a deep realism which would attempt to identify whether the kind is a universal, a fundamental similarity among particulars, a cloud of tropes, or what-the-hell else.

I worry that trying to answer the latter question would violate what Matt Brown calls the 'no shortcuts' rule: Philosophy should not pretend to be able to solve questions in a way that runs far ahead of science, without doing the hard work of covering the ground in between.

Typically, scientists are not concerned to distinguish natural kinds from the categories which are merely expedient. Finding categories that work is often enough. So the work of distinguishing natural kinds is a level deeper than typical scientific enquiry. And we can then ask what it is in the world that holds specific natural kinds together. Many natural kinds turn out to be HPCs (homeostatic property clusters), and the account of HPCs is a level deeper than the initial account of natural kinds. All of this going deeper proceeds one step at a time. If could conceivably reach bottom eventually, but then we would need to show that the metaphysical account we had just given is really the ultimate one.

For a long time, I have tried to come up with a concise label for this approach to metaphysics. It is opposed to fundamental metaphysics, so what's the opposite of "fundamental metaphysics"?

"Superficial metaphysics" seems wrong, because the approach allows for going deeper.

"Firmamental metaphysics", although it makes etymological sense, is an unpronouncable non-word.

"Middle range metaphysics" is closer to the mark. It echoes Robert Merton's conception of sociological theories of the middle range, but I don't think that's something that is familiar to most philosophers. So unwitting readers might skip over the words, because "middle" and "range" neither sound like jargon nor have an established technical meaning.

"Meso metaphysics" occurred to me just today. It gets the meaning of 'middle range' and the contrast with fundamental. The prefix 'meso' is clear enough, but not so common as to be read as an incidental adjective.


from: jay odenbaugh

Mon 01 Apr 2013 08:02 PM


I think you should drop 'meta' in "meso metaphysics" and call it 'mesophysics'. I like that; it is kinda catchy. And, I am sympathetic to Matt's rule and your own aversion to trying to determine what kinds are metaphysically. It seems that apart from intuitions and reflective equilibrium we can't provide strong arguments either way. Even with intuitions and reflective equilibrium we are are left we several options; "whereof we cannot speak we must be silent" or something like that.