Scientific metaphysics is based on the idea that metaphysics — the study of what the world is ultimately like — should be informed by the remarkable success of science. Opponents argue that the continuous rejection of fundamental scientific claims through history undermines the assumption that science can provide a reliable basis for drawing metaphysical conclusions. Scientific metaphysicians have responded to this skepticism in powerful ways, often defending the idea that fundamental claims of today’s science, when interpreted correctly, provide a secure basis for informing metaphysics. This project advances a new approach for scientific metaphysics. Instead of interpreting the boldest and most general theories of today’s science, this project analyzes successful scientific practices that depend on modest theoretical claims but nevertheless undergird advances across sciences that deal with complexity, especially in biology. This approach probes the metaphysical implications of stable forms of successful practice in situations where local, partial theories of complex phenomena do not yield integrated, comprehensive outlooks across different levels of organization. The core team will lead three summer institutes devoted to metaphysical questions surrounding complexity, emergence, and levels of organization in biology that model this type of research to junior scholars. Project outputs include public lectures, conference symposia, peer-reviewed articles, and multi-authored books that disseminate research results. Our goal is to advance a new branch of scientific metaphysics based on the forms of practice that are responsible for success across the sciences. The beneficial long-term changes anticipated include: (a) increased collaboration among metaphysicians and philosophers of biology; (b) a novel perspective on the metaphysical implications of biology; and (c) encouraging junior researchers to pursue similar research in different areas of scientific inquiry.
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