- Philosophers have disagreed about the nature of metaphysics. Aristotle and the medievals give us two different accounts of the discipline. Sometimes, they characterize it as the attempt to identify the first causes, in particular, God or the Unmoved Mover; sometimes, as the very general science of being qua being. They believed, however, that these two characterizations identify one and the same discipline. The rationalists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, by contrast, expanded the scope of metaphysics. They took it to be concerned not merely with the existence and nature of God, but also with the distinction between mind and body, the immortality of the soul, and freedom of the will.
- The empiricists and Kant were critical of both Aristotelian and rationalist conceptions of metaphysics, arguing that they seek to transcend the limits of human knowledge; but even Kant thought that there can be a legitimate kind of metaphysical knowledge. Its aim is to delineate the most general structures at work in our thought about the world. This Kantian conception of metaphysics continues to enjoy popularity among contemporary philosophers, who insist that metaphysics has as its aim the characterization of our conceptual scheme or conceptual framework. These philosophers typically agree with Kant that the structure of the world as it is in itself is inaccessible to us and that metaphysicians must be content to describe the structure of our thinking about that world.
- The case for this Kantian conception of metaphysics is not, however, particularly impressive; for if there are problems with characterizing the world as it is, there ought to be similar problems with characterizing our thought about the world. But if we agree that Aristotelian or rationalist metaphysics is not doomed from the start, we must concede that the two conceptions suggest very different topics for a text in metaphysics. In this book, we will follow the Aristotelian characterization of metaphysics as a discipline concerned with being qua being. That characterization gives rise to the attempt to identify the most general kinds or categories under which things fall and to delineate the relations that hold among those categories.
- The nature of metaphysics - some historical reflections
- Metaphysics as category theory
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