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Beyond Matter

Why Science Needs Metaphysics

Roger Trigg

Does science have all the answers? Can it even deal with abstract reasoning which reaches beyond the world experienced by us? How can we be so sure that the physical world is sufficiently ordered to be intelligible to humans? How is it that mathematics, a product of human minds, can unlock the secrets of the physical universe? Are all such questions to be ruled out as inadmissible if science cannot settle them?

Metaphysics has traditionally been understood as reasoning beyond the reach of science, sometimes even claiming realities that are beyond its grasp. Because of this, metaphysics has often been contemptuously dismissed by scientists and philosophers who wish to remain within the bounds of what can be scientifically proven. Yet scientists at the frontiers of physics unwittingly engage in metaphysics, as they are now happy to contemplate whole universes that are, in principle, beyond human reach.

Roger Trigg challenges those who deny that science needs philosophical assumptions. In fact, Trigg claims that the foundations of science themselves have to lie beyond science. It takes reasoning apart from what can be experienced to discover what is not yet known, and this metaphysical reasoning to imagine realities beyond what can be accessed.

“In Beyond Matter, Roger Trigg advances a powerful, persuasive, fair-minded argument that the sciences require a philosophical, metaphysical foundation. This is a brilliant book for new-comers to philosophy of science and experts alike.” —Charles Taliaferro, professor of philosophy, St. Olaf College

Preface / ix

Chapter 1: Is Science the Sole Authority? / 3

Chapter 2: Science and Reality / 25

Chapter 3: World and Mind / 49

Chapter 4: Is the World Intelligible? / 73

Chapter 5: The Unity of Science / 101

Chapter 6: The Success of Science / 127

Notes / 149

Index / 159

In Beyond Matter, Roger Trigg advances a powerful, persuasive, fair-minded argument that the sciences require a philosophical, metaphysical foundation. This is a brilliant book for new-comers to philosophy of science and experts alike.

Charles Taliaferro, PhD, professor of philosophy, St. Olaf College

A highly engaging and lucid exploration of the complex relation of science and philosophy. Warmly recommended.

Alister McGrath, PhD, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford

The relation between philosophy and reality has been the subject of debate for thousands of years. This debate changed character firstly with the scientific revolution, secondly with subsequent philosophical discussions such as those centred on the Vienna circle, and thirdly more recently in the light of debates on the one hand on the sociology of science and postmodernism, and on the other of new understandings on the biological basis of the brain and its evolutionary origins. These debates have been characterised by the rise of the supremacy of science, with claims of the irrelevance of philosophy, even while some scientists have been making ever more philosophical claims in the name of science. Roger Trigg’s book, Beyond Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics, gives a thoughtful and up-to-date view of these debates that will be valuable to all who wish to be well informed on them. It is a welcome counter to more superficial discussions.

George Ellis, PhD, emeritus distinguished professor, University of Cape Town

The Quarterly Review of Biology–March 2017, Volume 92

“Elegantly composed … thought-provoking.” 

David J. Depew, Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa