The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time

The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time

The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time

The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time

Synopsis

Jonathan Lowe argues that metaphysics should be restored to a central position in philosophy, as the most fundamental form of rational inquiry, whose findings underpin those of all other disciplines. He portrays metaphysics as charting the possibilities of existence, by identifying the categories of being and the relations of ontological dependency between entities of different categories. He proceeds to set out a unified and original metaphysical system: he defends a substance ontology, according to which the existence of the world as one world in time depends upon the existence of persisting things which retain their identity over time and through processes of qualitative change. And he contends that even necessary beings, such as the abstract objects of mathematics, depend ultimately for their existence upon there being a concrete world of enduring substances. Within his system of metaphysics Lowe seeks to answer many of the deepest and most challenging questions in philosophy.

Excerpt

My overall objective in this book is to help to restore metaphysics to a central position in philosophy as the most fundamental form of rational inquiry, with its own distinctive methods and criteria of validation. In my view, all other forms of inquiry rest upon metaphysical presuppositions-- thus making metaphysics unavoidable--so that we should at least endeavour to do metaphysics with our eyes open, rather than allowing it to exercise its influence upon us at the level of uncritical assumption. I believe that this is beginning to be acknowledged more widely by philosophers as various research programmes--for instance, in the philosophy of mind and in the philosophy of quantum physics--are being seen to flounder through inadequacies in their metaphysical underpinnings. For that reason, I hope that a book like this will prove to be a timely one.

Because Chapters 1 and 2 partly serve to introduce themes explored in greater detail later in the book, I have not written an Introduction as such. Doing so would have involved unnecessary repetition. However, it may help the reader if I supply here a brief synopsis of the book's contents. In Chapter 1, I attempt to characterize the distinctive nature of metaphysics as an autonomous intellectual discipline and defend a positive answer to Kant's famous question, 'How is metaphysics possible?', distinguishing my own answer from that of various other schools of thought, including some latter-day heirs of Kantianism. A key ingredient in my defence of metaphysics is the articulation of a distinctive and, in my view, indispensable notion of metaphysical possibility--conceived of as a kind of possibility which is not to be identified with physical, logical, or epistemic possibility.

Chapter 2 is devoted to an examination of two of the most fundamental and all-pervasive notions in metaphysics--the notion of an object and the notion of identity--and explores their interrelationships. In the course of this exercise a central ontological distinction--that between concrete and abstract objects--is brought to the fore, my contention being that this is at bottom a distinction between those objects that do, and those that do not, exist in time. In Chapter 3 I extend my examination of the notion of an object by discussing its relationship with the notion of unity and in so doing argue for the recognition of various categories of entities which lack either the determinate identity or the determinate unity characteristic of objects. Such categories, I suggest, need to be recognized in order to make . . .

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