Dilworth, Craig. Simplicity: A Meta-Metaphysics

By Swindler, J. K. | The Review of Metaphysics, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Dilworth, Craig. Simplicity: A Meta-Metaphysics


Swindler, J. K., The Review of Metaphysics


DILWORTH, Craig. Simplicity: A Meta-Metaphysics. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2012. x + 195 pp. Cloth, $80.00--Dilworth's book is an extraordinarily insightful reflection on one of the most comprehensive of philosophical subjects, metaphysical categories. Dilworth illuminates a great variety of philosophical ideas, often in binary pairs requiring subtle distinctions--for instance, perspective and worldview, knowledge and understanding, transcendent and transcendental, universal and property, a priori and analytic, a posteriori and synthetic, emergence and reduction, existence and being, being and nothingness, identity and difference, paradox and contradiction, and, at its core, simplicity and complexity. The book comprises nineteen chapters, with an "analytic" developing the basic theory, followed by a "dialectic" demonstrating how it unifies understanding and resolves many contested issues. Dilworth's analytic explains the "simplicity way of thinking," taking simplicity as the fundamental organizing feature of reality. His work in philosophy of science (Scientific Progress, The Metaphysics of Science, Too Smart for Our Own Good) led him to this approach, for no concept plays a deeper role in natural science than simplicity. But there is much confusion about what simplicity is in its common guise of Occam's razor. Here, simplicity is the metaphysical keystone, binding together into a stable structure rich and suggestive definitions and distinctions bearing on the problem of the unity of the world and experience.

Simplicity is not an easy book, as it requires constant shifting among perspectives and levels of thought. But Dilworth aids the reader with a set of novel conceptual tools. To better represent conceptual conflicts, he replaces the standard true/false dichotomy with the trichotomy: simplicity/complexity/nothingness. Simplicity, he says, is paradoxical, complexity unproblematic, and nothingness self-contradictory. The theory gains more power when the simple and complex are crossed with the analytic and synthetic to produce analytic and synthetic simplicity. In cases from both science and philosophy he demonstrates how to resolve conceptual conflicts by understanding that what is simple from one perspective is complex from another.

In order to understand, one shifts perspective between a chaotic manifold and the relatively simple unifying principle that comprehends it. Such shifts are usually from one category to another: from material body to immaterial self, from matter to energy, from art to beauty. Other approaches typically fail to allow such shifts. Case in point: the mind-body problem, which Dilworth views as the "paradigm" philosophical impasse of our age. Since the monistic materialism of modern science admits no category of the mental, it cannot make appropriate perspectival/categorial shifts and remains forever mired in the myriad failed materialist reductionisms that litter the philosophy of mind. …

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