Ontic Generation: Getting Everything from the Basics, Alexander Hieke and Hannes Leitgeb, Reduction Abstraction Analysis. Proceedings of the 31st International Wittgenstein Symposium, Frankfurt am Main, Ontos, 2009, 137 - 152, Peter Simons
Properly executed, metaphysics consists in part of painstaking ontological detail and in part
of grand systematic speculation. The distinction between these two aspects is not new: it is
inspired by Wolff’s distinction between metaphysica generalis sive ontologia and
metaphysica specialis, Husserl’s distinction between formal and regional ontology, and
finally D. C. Williams’s distinction between analytic ontology and speculative cosmology.1
The detail concerns the basic kinds of entity and the ways in which they are discerned,
analysed, fitted together and wielded in explanation. In this, analytic philosophy excels, but it
cannot take place in a speculative vacuum. The speculation concerns hypotheses for which
evidence is partial and inadequate to ground them without demur or risk. The classic
metaphysical positions of Platonism, Aristotelianism, Cartesian dualism, Leibnizian monism,
and Hegelian idealism all unabashedly adopt such metaphysical speculations. Analytic
philosophers have tried generally to steer away from grand speculation because it got a bad
name with Hegel and because it tends to undermine their self-sought credentials as
“scientific”. The upshot has been that their cosmological positions have been largely tacit or
shamefaced: commonsense ordinary-language Moorean realism, Carnapian disavowal,
Wittgensteinian quietism. But several significant twentieth century philosophers have been
unafraid to speculate: Alexander, Whitehead, Quine and Lewis being examples. In my view it
is part of a metaphysician’s—nay any philosopher’s—responsibility, to articulate the
speculative hypothetical framework with which his or her detailed work takes its place.
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