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Modality in Physics and Metaphysics

The project is part of the research unit "Inductive Metaphyiscs".

This project is based on the thesis that modality has a place in science, and in particular, in physics: Inductive inferences to modal conclusions do not exclusively appear in metaphysics, but are also part of the practices of physics. There are at least four types of modal inductive inferences within physics: From experimental outcomes it is inferred that theories of a certain kind cannot possibly be true, whereas alternative theories with respect to a given standard theory are judged to be equally physically possible and their laws to be contingent. Two further types of modal inferences concern the fundamentality or non-fundamentality of particular structures as following from their presence in each or only some models of a theory, and as a result of theory unification.

We conceive of the existence and significance of modal inductive inferences within physics as constituting (minimal) constraints for modal inferences acceptable within inductive metaphysics: First, the base premises from which metaphysical inferences proceed, must be compatible with empirical facts and lower level theories. Second, the conclusions of such inferences must not contradict conclusions established by inferences within physics.

The case study of the project shall, by elaborating the connection between modal inferences in physics and in metaphysics, provide examples of applied inductive metaphysics. The subject is Weinberg’s Spin 2-approach to Quantum Gravity that challenges the ontological status of a formerly supposed fundamental structure, Riemannian space-time. The aim of the study is to find out how inductive metaphysics can accommodate that challenge.

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