Got problems?

What is a good philosophical problem? This question is very different from the question what a philosophical problem is. A philosophical problem is a problem of philosophy, i.e. the sort of problem professional philosophers investigate. Unfortunately, it is not the case that all of these problems are good philosophical problems.

This complaint is of course not just a recent one. Carnap is famous for his polemic against metaphysical pseudo-problems. Carnap’s complaint is primarily that metaphysical propositions are meaningless. For decades metaphysics became a dirty word amongst those philosophers who liked to call themselves ‘analytic’.

At some point they must have gotten bored. For recently metaphysics seems to have become acceptable again even for the analytic tradition. And indeed, the problem is no longer Heidegger-speak. On the face of it, the problems and arguments in the new metaphysics can be stated in perfectly clear terms, and you can even add quantifiers as desired. So it seems that the original Carnapian attack has lost much of its bite. Add to this that verificationism has long since fallen out of favor, and the cause for the anti-metaphysician seems hopeless. Or does it?

For it still seems that there is something wrong with metaphysics. While the statements of metaphysicians might not be meaningless, they still seem somewhat pointless. Even to the neutral observer (and maybe especially to the neutral observer) analytic metaphysics looks very much like verbal chess. You have to be clever to play, but it’s a mere game, with no effect on anything else, inside or outside philosophy.

One Response to “Got problems?”

  1. horus kemwer Says:

    boo, metaphysics! boo!

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