Philosophic Thought in France and the United States: Essays Representing Major Trends in Contemporary French and American Philosophy

By Marvin Farber | Go to book overview

THE THREE STAGES OF METAPHYSICS

Louis Lavelle*

It is useless to try to define metaphysics and to inquire into its possibility before undertaking to make it. These preliminary investigations merely delay and confuse reflection: by questioning the legitimacy of an object to which we have not yet given existence, we necessarily conclude in the negative. Here as always, there is no other method than to push thought as far as it can go. It will soon appear what results it obtains, and whether the term "metaphysics" is suitable to cover them. Here as always it is by moving that we prove movement; we show its possibility by making it actual.

Now in the affirmation of being there seem to be three different stages for (1) being reveals itself to me at the outset by the very power I have to say I, which bears within it, from the moment that it begins to operate, the very act which causes me to be. But, (2) in this very experience which I have of it, my being is infinitely overwhelmed by a being which contains it and exceeds it, from which I derive my own power to be and hence to say I, in which I continually participate, which can never be considered as an object, which on the contrary should be defined as pure inwardness, that is, as an act free from all passivity and from which all particular acts derive the very possibility of being accomplished. (3) Between the act of participation which enables me to say I and the omnipresent and absolute subject which is its basis and continually supports it, there is an infinite interval which nothing other than the world comes to fill up: it can only present itself to me in the form of an outwardness which I always seek to penetrate and to reduce.


I. THE POWER I HAVE To SAY I

From Descartes to Husserl it can be said that the indivisibly onto-

____________________
*
Born in 1883. Professor at the Collège de France; Member of the Institute of France. Director, with René Le Senne, of the collection "Philosophic de l'Esprit." Author of La parole et l'écriture ( 1942), and of other works listed in the bibliographies.

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