Why the Canberra plan won't help you do serious metaphysics

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Jackson (From metaphysics to ethics, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998) argues that conceptual analysis plays a modest, albeit crucial, role in ‘serious metaphysics’: roughly, the project of demystifying phenomena we take to be mysterious by locating them in the natural world. This defence of conceptual analysis is associated with ‘the Canberra Plan’, a philosophical methodology that has its roots in the works of both Lewis (J Philos 67(13):427–446, 1970, Australas J Philos 50:249–258, 1972) and Jackson (Monist 77:93–110, 1994, 1998). There is, however, a distinction to be drawn between conceptual analysis, as it is typically employed in the Canberra plan, and a version of it defended by Jackson himself. In this paper, I elucidate this distinction, and employ examples from the history of science to argue the use of the former, but not the latter, incurs certain problems of conceptual change. Moreover, I also argue neither can be used to undertake serious metaphysics—the former because of the aforementioned problems, and the latter due to the machinery it employs to solve them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4865-4882
Number of pages18
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2017


  • Best-deserver theories
  • Canberra plan
  • Conceptual analysis
  • Conceptual change
  • Conditional analysis
  • Meta-metaphysics


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