The Nature of Metaphysics

The Nature of Metaphysics

The Nature of Metaphysics

The Nature of Metaphysics

Excerpt

We are to enquire what metaphysics is, what distinguishes metaphysics from the rest of philosophy. It seems likely that the question is one which it is particularly difficult to answer neutrally, dispassionately. Many people think that the essential task of philosophers is to provide metaphysical doctrines; some even say that this is the only justification for the existence of philosophers. But many people, including many philosophers, think that all metaphysical doctrines are spurious; some have even called them meaningless. Metaphysics has a unique power to attract or repel, to encourage an uncritical enthusiasm on the one hand, an impatient condemnation on the other. All the more reason for giving, if possible, a neutral and dispassionate account.

The name of the subject is the name given to a treatise by Aristotle. And Aristotle described the subject of his treatise as the science of Being as such, a supremely general study of existence or reality, distinct from any of the special sciences and more fundamental than they. He argued that there must be such a science; since each of the special sciences, besides having its own peculiar subject matter, made use in common with all the others of certain quite general notions, such as those of identity and difference, . . .

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