Empirical science and metaphysical realism coexist and relate in one way or another. This has been, for a very long time, since the days of philosophers like Aristotle, under the realm of discussions, reviews, criticisms and adoptions. This essay discussed comparison and relationship between empirical science and metaphysics. It covered the comparisons and contrasts that make empiricists feel that metaphysical realism is extraneous to empirical science. The claims by empiricists like Van Fraasen that metaphysics concerns and aspects are not of relevance to the entail of empirical science, are some of the subjects covered in this essay. This essay also covers significance of the distinction between the observable and the unobservable for constructive empiricism as explained by van Fraasen. The essay ends with discussions on the possibility of dissociating science and metaphysics, and the empiricist anti-realism coherence. The essay uncovered the aspects in science that relates it to metaphysics as importance in understanding of the philosophy unit in my academic course.
Science and metaphysics exist together, and their separation denies both of them the meaning. History traces the foundation of the two from Aristotle and Plato, who were both philosophers. Metaphysics deals with inquiry into the existence of nature, while science is an art of putting an effort in increasing the understanding of how matter works. Therefore, science is a life inquiry. For instance, an inquiry into understanding the universe, we use both metaphysics and science. Science plays a fundamental role in human exploration of the earth, research, medicine, technology, among others. However, science can not explain other fundamentals like free will, and other beliefs of man. Such unanswered questions in science are answered in metaphysics in exploration of the mind, soul and spiritual existence.
Empiricist, Van Fraasen explains scientific realism as a situation where science uses theories, which are under true beliefs to try and give reality about the world and nature. He formulates science to have pragmatic and epistemic features. It must base on true facts about the world and be in acceptance of the theory under true beliefs. If science gives a finding that has no true story and lacks theory truths, then it is anti-realism. Therefore, everyone believes that there exists a real world, on which theories may or may not base on (whether true or false), and which remains independent of the beliefs of everyone.
Empirical science refers to empiricism. Empiricism deals with theories of knowledge that recognizes sensory experience as the only primary source of knowledge. Empirical science, therefore, has emphasis on idea formation forms experience and evidence, instead of beliefs and traditions. However, empiricists also argue that traditions have their root cause form past experiences. In empirical science, all findings must be experimental discoveries where the experiment tests hypotheses and theories against observations in the real world. Empiricism does not; whatsoever, rest its discoveries in intuition, mere reasoning or revelations. On the other hand, metaphysical realism is concerned with the belief about the physical world. It maintains that either nothing exists outside the human mind, or human beings have no access to a reality of an independent mind, even if it exists. The option for human beings having no independent mind denies us the idea that we can have non-scientific experiences. Conversely, most realists hold that objects in independent mind cause perceptions.
Empiricists like Van Fraasen consider metaphysical realism to be extraneous to empirical science. In spite the fact that empirical science and metaphysical realism are inseparable, the later has no relevance in connectivity to empirical evidence. Their closest link that raises arguments has been reality perception. Metaphysics describes the existing space and time frame as a state of the mind, putting the space existence dependent on the existence of physical nature. This is contrary to empiricists’ explanations that time has dimensions in future, present and the past, and the physical reality, and that the time dimensions exist only one at a time. These differences can not influence the scientific methods and approaches in empirical science. Thus, empiricists regard the metaphysical approaches to be extraneous, as empirical science can exist independently.
Empiricists are on an argument that metaphysical realism is not factual about the physical world. Metaphysical realism is idealistic by ascertaining that either nothing exists outside the mind, or human beings lack access to a mind-independent reality. It lacks a stand on determinants on what we perceive because of the possibility that multiple causes can make same effect in reality. For instance, a scenario of brain in a vat, change in cause of a person’s sensory input is possible. A consideration of anti-realism in philosophy of science where human senses can not detect non-reality claims of “unobservable” entities, is extraneous to empirical science. Ian Hacking in his 1999, The Social Construction of What, and Samir Okasha’s 2002, Philosophy of Science, used the same approach in their definitions of metaphysical realism. Empiricists refute this approach of using unobservable variable X as an instrument to help in investigation and success of theory Y.
Another reason for the empiricists overlooking metaphysical realism as extraneous is that metaphysics basically intends to answer “what is there?” and “what is it like?” questions. It attempts to make people understand of the existence in space at a time, the cause of existence, the effect and possibilities. This is unlike empiricism that emphasizes evidence as a result of scientific experiments and methods to test hypotheses and theories against observations in the world. Empiricism separates itself form any form of articulating into results through use of intuition, prior reasoning or revelations. Initially, people approached scientific questions in the same way they approached metaphysics. At this point, empirical activity referred to natural philosophy. After inception of empirical methods that uses experiments for results, it referred to science, distinguishing from philosophy. This left metaphysics with the non-empirical character in inquiry over the existence of nature. This makes empiricists feel it is of less relevance to their concerns.
Van Fraasen had an important role in the constructive empiricist. Constructive empiricist asserts that science deals with truth about observable objects of the world. This is in contrast with metaphysical realism that considers both observable and unobservable objects in nature. Despite his failure to show account of literalness about the observable objects in his The Scientific Image, van Fraasen clearly gave the conditions for a theory to fulfill. He states the conditions as the theory claims to bear genuine statement of truths or falsity possibility, and that the logical relationships among the entities claiming the theory, are independent of the literal construal of the theory. Thus, he points out that the scientific theories are literally true only upon having scientific realist. This put off the conventionalists and instrumentalists in the metaphysical realism.
Empiricism differs with metaphysical realisms where constructive empiricism uses tradition of the logical positivists with no dependency on the position of the positivists. The constructive empiricist rejects metaphysical commitments in science through follow up of the logical positivists. However, empiricism recognizes the acceptance of the metaphysical realism that science should be the source of theory endorsement.
In characterization of “observability”, constructive empiricist counts only on observable objects in the world, unlike metaphysical realism that counts on both “observabilty” and “unobservabilty.” The characterization, however, does not imply the definition of objects.” …… not meant as definition, but rather, an illustrated guide to help the readers to avoid misinterpretation as fallacies” (van Fraasen, 1980). He insists that in “observability”, one only make an observation without use of any aid material. For metaphysical realism, the use of a microscope to observe tiny objects is no objection. Fraasen goes ahead to explain that result that “observable” objects in empiricist must include the ones that apply to scientific theory, do not have evaluation capability prior to investigation, and yet this applies in metaphysical realism.
In constructive empiricism approach, there exists difference in the objects in nature. The difference categorizes the objects into observable and unobservable. Their distinction has significance in the philosophy of science discipline. The first difference in the two categories is that, one can observe distant macroscopic objects using lights. The fact of ability to observe the macroscopic objects depends on distance of observation, size of objects and the light intensity. Moving close to macroscopic objects enables one to easily observe compared to one, who is at a distance. The same for the light, one easily observes using lights unlike in lights absence. This becomes an issue of concern in the use of empiricist approach. According to Paul Church land (1985), the constructive empiricist attached the characterization of observable and unobservable objects to size, the same as to spatiotemporal proximity. As a matter of fact, humans control their spatiotemporal location in regard to the objects, but they do not naturally have control over their sizes. The distinction is significant in application of the constructive empiricist approach. The scientific application of the approach is biased, and seems to lack adequacy.
Another significance of the distinction of observable and unobservable objects in the constructive empiricist approach is that it brings out the criticisms form other writers, who get to let the review of the work of Van Fraasen.
Church land critically examines the distinction between the unobserved but observable things, and things that are unobservable. He says that the idea is only a feeble principle and too inadequate to bear the implication that van Fraasen wanted to bring out. (Church land, 1985).He emphasizes that scientific realists baffle on the idea, and that the opinion should put limitations to the perception in order to play a role in using the methodology approach towards science. The constructive empiricist does not contribute to any metaphysical approach difference on objects in the world. In distinction of observable/unobservable basis is not different from the metaphysical realism. Church land continues with criticisms that assuming that we have humans permanently with microscopes in their eyes, then the smallest organisms like viruses will also be part of ontology in the constructive empiricist. Van Fraasen tries to defend the idea that the constructive empiricist principle came with assured assumption that humanoids can not be categorized into the human. (Van Fraasen, 1985). He insists that the scope of the idea can not be limited by some creations that do not fit the human community.
Ian Hacking (1985) presents an argument on the significance of the observable/unobservable distinction. Hacking talks of considering a machine making chops of the same shape but various sizes, one can observe the large chops without difficulty or with unaided eye. Looking at the chops using a microscope the microscopic chops have same shape as the ‘observable’ ones. This example points the constructive empiricist down and still shows inadequacy in the idea. He concludes with a suggestion to challenge van Fraasen that we should include unobservable in the idea – science deals with both observables and the unobservable. Van Fraasen gave the reply to Hacking, refuting the suggestion to remove the distinction. Van Fraasen argues about what the intention of the machine was, and if it produced chops, then they would be observed in that manner.
Science and metaphysics coexist and each depends on one another. Their separation will leave out some natures of the world that can not be explained. Science and metaphysics have been together since the early days of their discoveries. In fact, at the start, they existed as one discipline. During the time of history of science, researchers addressed scientific questions under metaphysics as natural philosophy. The term ‘science’ came from the word ‘knowledge’. The scientific procedures transformed natural philosophy through empirical approaches. The empirical approaches came from experimental findings on objects in nature. This automatically denoted the philosophical enquiry as a non-empirical character into the nature of existence. Despite the division of the two disciplines, they can not be separated in the realm natural realm of the world. Both science and metaphysics have their roots on the earth as a natural home for man.
Metaphysics seeks to bear inquiry into the natural being of matter in the world, while science seeks to increase the understanding of how matter work in reality. The work in reality is the changes in the objects on earth in natural system as per the definitions of the metaphysics. This implies an integration of metaphysics and sciences, and one can not single out either of the two subjects independently. For instance, a move to explore the universe must employ both science and metaphysics. Science drives the desire to explore and fill gap in knowledge over the universe while metaphysics ensures that the exploration runs in the natural aspect of the universe. Explanations of phenomena and gaps bridging in knowledge in matter revolve around science studies. The coverage of technological growths, research and inventions are the fundamental fruits of science.
The science concerns, however, do not recognize explanations on intuition, beliefs and man’s divine power in the exploration over the world. Such gaps in knowledge come into our lives in metaphysics. Truths on free will, the nature of the mind, soul and spiritual matters in the world are the aspects of metaphysics that science employs to ensure filling of all mind curiosity in the world. Therefore, the relationship that exists between science and metaphysics can not be dissociated. The link of importance between the two is the perception of reality. Metaphysics describes the space and timeframe, with space existence depending on natural objects in the world. Science on the other hand, describes time in future, past and present-dimensions, and the reality of life. The time dimensions exist one at a time. The differences create harmony between the two disciplines, and solely dependent on one another.
The concerns of philosophy of science include assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. Philosophy of science involves science and metaphysics to find the truths of scientific results. Philosophy of science, therefore, integrates science and metaphysics, thus making them inseparable. For contemporary philosophical realism, belief in reality and independency of our life concepts, practices, among others, is the entailment. Realism is in respect to our minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities, and thoughts, among others. Realism philosophers consider mind truth in correspondence to reality. They associate reality with our believes and daily observations. It is notable that most of the variables like time, assumptions, and mathematical entities are the same concern aspects in scientific methods. This is evident that science and metaphysics can not dissociate.
Empiricists have no coherency with anti-realism. Anti-realism involves claims about the non-reality of “unobservable” objects. Unlike empiricist where reality depends on the observables, realism assumes the existence of unobservable entities that creates reality in life, for instance, objects like electrons, which are not observable by a naked eye. Instrumentalism is one of the areas in philosophy of science that uses non-realist position. In non-realism the existence of unobservable objects serve as instruments to help in find results’ truths of theory Y. For empiricists, the theory truths bases on observable entities that must be determined. In non-realism, we have no need to determine the existence or non-existence of the entities that cause success of a theory, but only the fact that it causes the success. However, there is argument that unobservable does not exist in whichever means.
Considerations of some arguments with reference to coherency of empiricist to Anti-Realism illustrate the relationship. For the case of a causal explanation argument, finding the cause of an occurrence explains the occurrence of a phenomenon. The entities used to explain the cause of result are unobservable, making it genuine only when the cause really exists. Empiricist, Van Fraasen, does not agree with the argument. He does not see the need to put the cause of unobservable entities for the causal explanations to make sense. Thus, the theories make it as ifthere are unobservable entities with causal powers. The no-miracles argument talks of predictive success of scientific theories. It is only a sensible explanation if the unobservable entities giving rise to the predicted phenomena is true. Empiricist view by Bas van Fraasen is that science being a biological phenomenon is responsible for an activity of an organism facilitating its interaction with the environment. This puts it to our mind that a living organism in the natural world behaves to influence the environment, and later reacts to the response by the environment. This leaves some inadequacy in the argument.
The best example that shows contrast between empiricism and anti-realism is the mouse that runs from a cat, its enemy. An intentional explanation by St. Augustine states that the mouse runs because it perceivesthatthe cat is its enemy. The postulation is that there is ‘adequacy’ of the thought of the mouse to the order of nature. The relation of enmity is naturally reflected in living organisms’ mind. The Darwinist argue that there is sense in asking why the mouse runs. It is obvious to all organisms that live to respond to the environment, enemy. They emphasize that species that do not respond to such, no longer exist, and thus, the living ones naturally respond. I suppose this is true, and does not sound like a miracle. In just the same way, I claim that the success of current scientific theories is no miracle … For any scientific theory is born into a life of fierce competition, a jungle red in tooth and claw. Only the successful theories survive – the ones, which in fact latched on to actual (observable) regularities in nature (BQ handout 3. (Van Fraasen, 1985)
In his Understanding of Philosophy of Science (2002), James Lady man recognizes of the significant differences between metaphysical realism and empirical science. This is in agreement of this essay that has discussed the extraneous part of the metaphysical realism to empirical science. The essay fulfilled its predication that, indeed, there are contrasts and comparisons of the metaphysical realism and empirical science. The significance in the distinction between observable and unobservable views for the constructive empiricism by van Fraasen created a platform for reviews, criticism and arguments among various philosophers and researchers. The essay covered the impossibilities to dissociate science form metaphysics.