Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics

By P. F. Strawson | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Metaphysics has been often revisionary, and less often descriptive. Descriptive metaphysics is content to describe the actual structure of our thought about the world, revisionary metaphysics is concerned to produce a better structure. The productions of revisionary metaphysics remain permanently interesting, and not only as key episodes in the history of thought. Because of their articulation, and the intensity of their partial vision, the best of them are both intrinsically admirable and of enduring philosophical utility. But this last merit can be ascribed to them only because there is another kind of metaphysics which needs no justification at all beyond that of inquiry in general. Revisionary metaphysics is at the service of descriptive metaphysics. Perhaps no actual metaphysician has ever been, both in intention and effect, wholly the one thing or the other. But we can distinguish broadly: Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley are revisionary, Aristotle and Kant descriptive. Hume, the ironist of philosophy, is more difficult to place. He appears now under one aspect, now under another.

The idea of descriptive metaphysics is liable to be met with scepticism. How should it differ from what is called philosophical, or logical, or conceptual analysis? It does not differ in kind of intention, but only in scope and generality. Aiming to lay bare the most general features of our conceptual structure, it can take far less for granted than a more limited and partial conceptual inquiry. Hence, also, a certain difference in method. Up to a point, the reliance upon a close examination of the actual use of words is the best, and indeed the only sure, way in philosophy. But the discriminations we can make, and the connexions we can establish,

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Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 9
  • Part One - Particulars 13
  • 1 - Bodies 15
  • 2 - Sounds 59
  • 3 - Persons 87
  • 4 - Monads 117
  • Part Two - Logical Subjects 135
  • 5 - Subject and Predicate (1): Two Criteria 137
  • 6 - Subject and Predicate (2): Logical Subjects and Particular Objects 180
  • 7 - Language Without Particulars 214
  • 8 - Logical Subjects and Existence 226
  • Conclusion 246
  • Index 251
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