Metaphilosophy of Metaphysics

A world hypothesis is a metaphysics, constructed as a defence coming from Stephen C. Pepper and the Pragmatist Tradition. The metaphilosophy was a response to the rise of logical positivism.

* _Logical positivism_ is "a form of positivism, developed by members of the Vienna Circle, which considers that the only meaningful philosophical problems are those which can be solved by logical analysis", says the Oxford English Dictionary. * _Positivism_ is "a philosophical system that holds that every rationally justifiable assertion can be scientifically verified or is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and that therefore rejects metaphysics and theism", says the Oxford English Dictionary.

n 1982, [Andrew J. Reck]( described the history of philosophical movements leading up to the publication of _World Hypotheses_. > ... during the 1930's and 1940's, the logical positivists were ascendant, and toward them Pepper's immediate reaction was, in his own words "suspicious and hostile" (1948, p. viii.) He amplified: > > I felt from their attitude and the tone of their statements, even before studying them, that they were not meeting the problem that needed to be met. I doubted if many of them had ever fully felt the problem. This was a question of truth and of the justification of human values. To think that this question could be met in the manner of a puzzle and in terms of correlations, statistics, mathematics, and language struck me as fantastic. Here was a method running away with issue, evidence, and value itself. It was . . . methodolatry. (1948, pp. viii-ix) > In the 1930’s and 1940’s Pepper faced the epistemological strictures of the logical positivists who denied the possibility of metaphysics as a cognitively significant enterprise. In part, he proposed the metaphilosophy in _World Hypotheses_ as a defense of metaphysics against the positivists’ negations. At the same time he conceded a most crucial point in epistemology to the positivists, when he wrote "... the attack of the positivists on world theories [metaphysics] did bring out the fact that there was more in physics which stood on its own feet without support of theory than I had previously been willing to allow” (1948, p. ix). > The explicit context of Pepper’s metaphilosophy is, therefore, the state of metaphysics in mid-century when it was battered by the epistemological strictures of logical positivism. > * Thus _World Hypotheses_ presents a theory of metaphysics, not a metaphysics: it offers a metaphilosophy --that is to say, a theory of philosophy. > Now, according to Pepper’s metaphilosophy, metaphysics is a specific kind of belief that attempts to embrace all facts and to organize them within a coherent system. A metaphysics is, in Pepper’s phrase, “a world hypothesis.” > * A world hypothesis, moreover, is an unrestricted hypothesis, as distinct from the restricted hypotheses characteristic of the special sciences. > For Pepper there is no basic difference between an empirical scientific hypothesis and an empirical world hypothesis—only a difference in scope. _World Hypotheses_ is, according to its subtitle, “‘a study in evidence.” An essay on philosophical method, it examines the source, the nature, and the grounds of metaphysics. [p. 208, editorial paragraphing added]

## Reference Reck, Andrew J. 1982. “Pepper and Recent Metaphilosophy.” _The Journal of Mind and Behavior_ 3 (3/4): 207–16.