Epistemic structuralism entered the philosophy of science in the late 1980s as an antidote to the problem of theory change. Its central contention was that if we quarantine our beliefs to the structures posited in our best theories then we might hope that our current scientific beliefs will be significantly continuous with the beliefs we will have in the future. By the 2000s, however, structuralist philosophy of science had expanded to encompass a metaphysical thesis, a thesis concerning the fundamental category of the world known as ontic structuralism. But the two forms of structuralism seem to sit awkwardly with one another, given that we await a truly fundamental theory of physics and hence expect our metaphysics of the fundamental to undergo change at some point in the future. The question then arises as to whether our metaphysics of the fundamental is open to notions of progress and continuity in any way analogous to those that apply to scientific theories.
In this talk, McKenzie will argue that there are no such prospects. At the heart of that pessimism is the fact that metaphysical concepts, as least as canonically understood, seem in principle resistant to the notion of ‘approximation’, making it difficult to regard successive metaphysical theories as successive improvements of one another. While a seemingly obvious point, it is one that has gone unmentioned in the structuralist literature, and also one that invites us to reconsider what a structuralist metaphysics ought to look like. That is, it invites us envisage the possibility of a metaphysics with more tolerance for the fact that we routinely get things wrong: that is, to envisage a metaphysics that is more like science.