Congratulations, Dr. Talhouk!
The Department wishes our most sincere congratulations to Omar Talhouk, who successfully defended his dissertation on August 10, 2023. His work is entitled: “The Functions of Metaphysics.” His abstract can be read below. Congrats, Dr. Talhouk!
Abstract of Talhouk’s “The Functions of Metaphysics”:
Historically, the status of metaphysical knowledge has been a recurring matter of dispute among philosophers. For some, metaphysics is just one of the many rigorous ways in which we can gain some important insights into the structure of the world. For others, it is a maze of dead-ends, pseudo-problems, and verbal disputes that have nothing to do with the world. More recently, this dispute has resurfaced and has split philosophers into familiar camps. The purpose of this dissertation is to show that this emphasis on the status of metaphysics knowledge has severely restricted the ways in which we think about metaphysics and its role in philosophy more generally. Rather than attempting to settle the dispute one way or the other, I will propose an alternative approach to metaphysics that puts the utility of metaphysical concepts for understanding (rather than knowing) front and center. As I will argue, metaphysical concepts have a wide variety of valuable functions that are independent of the overarching status of metaphysical knowledge. Generally, these functions capture the ways in which metaphysical concepts can be used by subjects to make sense of the wider contexts of their theoretical and moral commitments. I will propose that these functions can be classified into two basic types, each of which reflect how central metaphysical concepts are for a subject’s capacity to determine what is intelligible. In each of these cases, metaphysics can be seen to contribute to the ways we understand ourselves and our practices rather than to what we know about the world. Finally, I will show how this approach to metaphysics can be applied to resolve a contemporary dispute over the role of ‘physicalism’ in metaphysics.