Prospect for Metaphysics: Essays of Metaphysical Exploration

Prospect for Metaphysics: Essays of Metaphysical Exploration

Prospect for Metaphysics: Essays of Metaphysical Exploration

Prospect for Metaphysics: Essays of Metaphysical Exploration

Excerpt

The papers which make up this volume were read at a gathering of philosophers in Easter Week 1959 at Downside Abbey. How they came to meet is not without its interest and significance. In a review of The Springs of Morality1 I had expressed the hope that on some occasion opportunity might be given for discussion, between Roman Catholics and others, of stubborn problems of common interest and acknowledged importance. Now what problem could be tougher than that of the possibility of metaphysics? Of what problem, too, could there be a more timely discussion? Twenty-five years ago metaphysics was no more than a topic for abuse and ridicule. But in more recent days there has been evidence of a broader empiricism willing to leave room for the possibility of significant metaphysical discourse. Is the time now ripe to take measure of what for some twenty-five years has been a challenge to metaphysics? Are we able to face squarely this critical and empirical challenge and yet to say something positive and constructive in support of metaphysics?

These were the questions which formed the background of the Conference and brought us together. It was to discuss the present prospects for metaphysics that Dom Illtyd Trethowan took up the suggestion I made in the review, and invited me to collaborate with him in bringing together the philosophers whose papers make up this book. Coming together with diverse backgrounds, and approaching the topic from various directions, we were all nevertheless sympathetic to some of the insights of contemporary empiricism.

Common to us all, for instance, is the position that we can no longer view natural theology as a tight, rigorous, deductive system, taking us to God by a process of unmistakable inference. Professor Armstrong condemns, and in the name of Plato, any over-intellectualized concept of metaphysics, any cut-and-dried scheme which claims universal validity. Dr Hawkins shows how metaphysicians could wrongly translate logic into ontology and misconceive their task.

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