Like coastal cities in the third millennium, important areas of human discourse seem threatened by the rise of modem science. The problem isn’t new, of course, or wholly unwelcome. The tide of naturalism has been rising since the seventeenth century, and the rise owes more to clarity than to pollution in the intellectual atmosphere. All the same, the regions under threat are some of the most central in human life–the four Ms, for example: Morality, Modality, Meaning and the Mental. Some of the key issues in contemporary metaphysics concern the place and fate of such concepts in a naturalistic world view.
Huw Price, ‘Naturalism and the Fate of the M-Worlds’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 71 (1997), p. 247
Attaching epistemic significance to metaphysical intuitions is anti-naturalist for two reasons. First, it requires ignoring the fact that science, especially physics, has shown us that the universe is very strange to out inherited conception of what it is like. Second, it requires ignoring central implications of evolutionary theory, and of the cognitive and behavioural sciences, concerning the nature of our minds.
Of all the main historical positions in philosophy, the logical positivists and logical empiricists came closest to the insights we have urged. Over-reactions to their errors have led metaphysicians over the past few decades into widespread unscientific and even anti-scientific intellectual waters. We urge them to come back and rejoin the great epistemic enterprise of modern civilization.
The physical sciences—physics, chemistry, biology—tell us a great deal about what our world is like. In addition, they tell us a great deal about what we are like. They tell us what our bodies are made of, the chemical reactions necessary for life, how our ears extract location information from sound waves, the evolutionary account of how various bits of us are as they are, what causes our bodies to move through the physical environment as they do, and so on. We can think of the true, complete physical account of us as an aggregation of all there is to say about us that can be constructed from the materials to be found in the various physical sciences. This account tells the story of us as revealed by the physical sciences.