Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized

Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized


What are the philosophical books that really changed you?
Every Thing Must Go aruges 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 fu… more about book…

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Top rated philosophy books on Reddit rank no. 26

What are the philosophical books that really changed you?(r/askphilosophy)

Aside from the recommendations by /u/Alwayswrite64 and /u/jhd3nm, both of which I endorse whole-heartedly, here are a few other things that are worth your time and which are fairly general in their subject matter. These are probably best read after you’ve gotten some exposure to the basics, which those two texts should more than suffice to achieve. In no particular order:

  • Philip Kitcher’s Science in a Democratic Society and/or Science, Truth, and Democracy both directly address (2), as well as how to reconcile the value of science with other things that we might also value. Kitcher’s a naturalist through and through, but he’s also quite pluralistic in his thinking. Both those books tackle the question of what science is good for, what it isn’t good for, and how we might go about integrating scientific expertise into an egalitarian society.

  • Nancy Cartwright’s A Dappled World. This is a very, very widely-cited classic, and a must-read at some point. I don’t agree with her thesis, but it’s an excellent book and is very well presented. It bears directly on (1).

  • Bas van Fraassen’s The Scientific Image. Another classic that’s been very influential. Again, I disagree with a lot of what he says, but he writes clearly and makes many great points.

  • Stathis Psillos’ Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth. A clear, cogent defense of scientific realism.

  • James Ladyman and Don Ross’ Every Thing Must Go. A spirited and unflinching defense of what philosophy as a whole should look like if it wants to take science seriously. It’s not an easy book if you’re not well-versed on physics, but it’s one of my favorites.

  • Eric Winsberg’s Science in the Age of Computer Simulation. A great look at how advances in computation are changing what science looks like. This is a personal interest, but I still think it’s a great book.

  • Tim Maudlin’s The Metaphysics Within Physics. A look at laws, explanation, and metaphysics from the perspective of physical theory.

  • Michael Strevens’ Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation. One of the best books on scientific explanation (and what makes it distinctive) around. Long, but worth it.

  • Oppenheim & Putnam’s article “The Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis”. Flawed, but on the right track. A good discussion of how the different sciences fit together.

  • Jerry Fodor’s article “Special Sciences (or: The Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis)” a counterpoint to Oppenhein & Putnam, and another very influential article. I don’t like Fodor very much, but it’s a good piece.

I could go on indefinitely with this, but that’s probably more than enough to keep you going for a few years. As an aside, I also recommend that anyone interested in the philosophy of science take a look at Cliff Hooker’s anthology The Philosophy of Complex Systems Theory, which is (somehow) currently hanging out online for free. I paid something like $200 for the book, and while I think it was worth it, the fact that the PDF is right there is amazing. It’s an incredibly wide-ranging look at some of the ways in which both philosophy and science are being shaped by complexity theory these days. It’s really great.


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James Ladyman

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Oxford University Press

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Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized

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