Sep 18, 2010

The work of John Hughlings Jackson (1835-1911) has attracted considerable attention among historians and philosophers of science because it set a conceptual framework for scientific neurology. In this paper we examine the notion, espoused by some modern writers, that his scientific work was motivated by a deep interest in metaphysics. There are two elements in the story—a youthful crisis of intention, and an alleged mature interest in formal metaphysical speculation. We use the term metaphysics to describe the extrapolation of a scientific theory beyond the phenomena it is intended to explain1. For example, Herbert Spencer's extension of evolutionary principles beyond biology into all manner of social and political realms is a form of metaphysical speculation. On this view of metaphysics, we argue, Hughlings Jackson's personal intentions were not at all metaphysical. [entyre text]

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