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Jonas Raab

PhD thesis

First Philosophy First & Metametaphysical Realism


Research interests

(Meta)Metaphysics, (Philosophical) Logic, Philosophy of Science, Ancient Philosophy

Current research

In my project, I want examine various approaches to metametaphysics and argue that realism is the correct view. In particular, the purpose of the thesis is not just to argue in favour of realism about metametaphysics, i.e., the view that metaphysical disputes are substantial and answerable, but also to argue that metaphysics should come first, i.e., I want to defend the view that metaphysics (aka. first philosophy) does not and should not depend on other philosophical disciplines, for example, philosophy of language.

Note that the clustering into 'Realism' and 'Anti-Realism' is itself not an easy business (cf. Tahko (2015), pp. 65ff.). We can understand the above characterization as first approach but leave the possibility open that realism means slightly weaker position that not all debates are substantial, but most (or at least some) of them are. Ideally, my research will lead to a more precise characterization of realism. The argument in favour of the thesis will be twofold. On the one hand, I want to argue that putting metaphysics second only leads to arguments that implicitly depend on metaphysical views after all. Thus, we cannot get rid of metaphysical assumptions; and putting metaphysics second leads to confusion.

On the other hand, we have to address anti-realistic positions. Again, metametaphysical realism is (as a first attempt) the position that metaphysical disputes are meaningful and solvable. Characterizing it in this way gives rise to at least two anti-realistic positions, viz., the position that such disputes are not meaningful (as held to some extent by Hirsch (2009)), and the position that, even though the disputes are meaningful, we cannot solve them (Bennett (2009), Thomasson (2009)). Here, again, a clustering is not straight-forward. For example, Thomasson argues (2009; 2015) that such disputes can either be solved easily by "conceptual analysis" (Thomasson (2009), p. 452) or are "simply unanswerable questions" (p. 452); Hirsch (2002; 2009) thinks that some disputes are "merely verbal" (Hirsch (2009), p. 231), but some of them he "may not count as verbal" (p. 253). However, as a first approach they may count as anti-realists. (For a discussion of what might count as realism, see Jenkins (2010) and Tahko (2015), pp. 65-71.)

Given the goal to argue in favour of two claims that first philosophy should come first and that realism about metaphysics is the correct view, the connection between the two has to be clarified as well. My strategy will be to first examine the antirealistic positions and show their inadequacies. This is negative evidence for realism. However, the claim that metaphysics should come first is not implied by it. It is rather the way in which the anti-realistic positions and arguments are examined that will suggest this position. Thus, the main concern will be to study and evaluate these anti-realistic positions and in clarifying the confusion about the role of, for example, the use of language that leads us towards the claim that metaphysics should not depend on, e.g., philosophy of language (see Dyke (2007), pp. 1-8) or blindly follow science (cf. Daly & Liggins (2014)). (Note that the same confusion arises within realistic frameworks which has also to be discussed.)