Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction

Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction

Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction

Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction

Synopsis

Metaphysics is aimed at students who have already done an introductory course in the subject. It introduces all the main topics of metaphysics, avoiding jargon and technicalities.

Excerpt

Metaphysics is a discipline with a long history; and over the course of that history, the discipline has been conceived in different ways. These different conceptions associate different methodologies and even different subject matters with the discipline; and anyone seeking to write an introductory text on metaphysics must choose from among these different conceptions. For reasons I try to make clear in the introduction, I have chosen to follow a very old tradition (one that can be traced back to Aristotle) that interprets metaphysics as the attempt to provide an account of being qua being. On this conception, metaphysics is the most general of all the disciplines; its aim is to identify the nature and structure of all that there is. Central to this project is the delineation of the categories of being. Categories are the most general or highest kinds under which anything that exists falls. On this conception of metaphysics, what the metaphysician is supposed to do is to identify the relevant kinds, to specify the characteristics or categorial features peculiar to each, and to indicate the ways those very general kinds are related to each other. It turns out, however, that metaphysicians have disagreed about the categorial structure of reality. They have disagreed about the categories the metaphysician ought to recognize; and even where they have agreed about the categories to be included in our metaphysical theory, they have disagreed about the characteristics associated with those categories and about the relations of priority that tie the various categories together. These disagreements have given rise to debates that lie at the very core of the philosophical enterprise; those debates are the focus of this book.

In the first two chapters, we examine one of the oldest and most fundamental of the debates over categories, the debate over the existence and nature of universals. Here, the central question is whether our metaphysical theory must include among its basic categories things which can be common to or shared by numerically different objects. In Chapter One, we examine the views of those (called "metaphysical realists") who answer the question

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