Preface (Full Text)
- These Essays proceed upon the conviction that wonder about feeing cannot be satisfied without understanding why this wonder is important. One must [understand] why and how mind's wonder about being concerns the being of mind itself. Because of the self-presence of mind's intellectuality it is impossible for it not to pursue the understanding of being as an act vital to its own being or well-being. In short, mind pursues its own being in all that it does, but it does this especially in its effort to understand what it means to be.
- Mind, however, does not simply want to be. Mind is conscious that it exists with dignity. That is to say, in virtue of its self-presence, it exists with the authority to be. It is impossible for the existence of mind to be a mere fact. Its interest, therefore, in the question of being possesses the compelling authority of being to be. Mind's interest in what it means to be is a feature of its very act of existing. This interest, however, is important not only because it is vital, but also because it is authoritative, i.e., it is an instance, through mind's self-presence, of being as most authentically itself. Only as self-presence is being fully itself because only so does it fully do its existing as distinguished from merely having it happen. Only as interested in its own being precisely as being at its most authentic can it be serious and authoritative in its attitude toward the question of being.
- These Essays proceed also upon the further conviction expressed by Aristotle in the Metaphysics (993a30-993b4):
The investigation of the truth is in one way hard, in another easy. An indication of this is found in the fact that no one is able to attain the truth adequately, while, on the other hand, we do not collectively fail, but everyone says something true about the nature of things, and while individually we contribute little or nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is amassed.
- This is pre-eminently the case in regard to the truth about mind's interest in both its own being and in being as such. Consequently, these Essays reflect the influence of my own meditations upon the texts of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Kant. Nevertheless, they are not primarily reflections on these writings much less are they an attempt at commentary or synthesis. Although these reflections have been certainly enlightened by these texts, they may not be and certainly do not claim to be at all points congruent with them. Congruence and synthesis were not my purpose. My purpose has been to state for the reader the results of my own reflections on the interpersonal relationship and thereby possibly cast the light a bit beyond where he may stand in his own reflections.
- I have selected the genre of the essay because it seems to adapt itself more flexibly to the peculiar structure of this material. That is to say, through the device of a series of Essays one can talk around a subject and thereby produce a gradual progressive clarification of a topic whose natural structure, at least in my opinion, simply cannot be made to yield to the form of a treatise. In any case, I ask the reader's patience with this apparently unsystematic method on the ground that in the course of the exposition it should become clear why this subject resists a more structured literary format.
Introduction (Full Text)
- Since the reflections contained in these Essays claim to be metaphysical, it may be useful to provide the reader in advance with both a specification of what I understand by the word "metaphysical" and a sketch of the metaphysics that does, as a matter of fact, serve as their own particular perspective. On the other hand, since these Essays are not a treatise on metaphysics itself, but rather reflections on the interpersonal relation from a particular metaphysical point of view, I feel it would be out of place and distracting to offer a defense of the contents of this sketch other than to call the reader's attention to their unusual congruence with our intuitions in regard to the matters under consideration. I take those investigations to be metaphysical which aim at throwing some light on the ultimate conditions required for being precisely as being to make sense. I would also call those investigations metaphysical which attempt to determine the ultimate source of mind's vital interests and the ultimate grounds for their satisfaction.
- I take these to be complementary ways of approaching the question of the ultimate ground of intelligibility because in such investigations the intelligibility of being is neither clear nor complete until its relation to mind as such has been understood. I accept the view that the mind, precisely because it is intellectual, wants to know upon what its well-being ultimately rests and that as such it is in full possession of the capacity for satisfying this vital curiosity. I also accept the view that being, looked at in the proper perspective, is clear and that its clarity reveals its intelligibility.
- The fundamental metaphysical view in these Essays is that of existing as act and perfection. To be is to do that which we call "being." This is perfection because it is actuality. It is perfection precisely in its serious and interesting sense of authenticity. It is something being what it is supposed to be. And on the most fundamental level, it is being doing what being does, i.e., exist.
- Being in this sense of a doing, an acting, has a shape or a form that provides its unity1 or is its unity2. This or that thing does its act in a certain way according to a certain form. In every case, however, the act itself is the same: to exist. That is what is being done or going on. But the way this is done differs from being to being or, at least, from kind of being to kind of being. Now within this variety of forms some are clearly more congenial to this act simply because they permit the act greater scope to be itself. The form according to which a bird does its act of existing is obviously more connatural to the act of existing than is the form of a blade of grass because more of what existing is capable of is realized through the former.
- Now I take the view in these Essays that the act of existing must, at least in one instance, be structured by a form that is perfectly suited to it in the sense that this form in no way limits or restricts the scope of its perfection. In other words, there must be an instance of the act of existing that is absolutely authentic, i.e., completely itself. There must be an instance of this act in which its form is in such perfect harmony with what it is doing that it is this form. In brief, there must exist a being whose form is simply to be. If this were not so, to exist would not make ultimate sense since it clearly cannot be intelligible in terms of that which hems it in with limitations and it certainly cannot be intelligible through itself as less than itself. Nothing makes sense in terms of its negation.
- What I am trying to do through the reflections in these Essays is bring the reader to see that there are very special characteristics that show up in the substantial existence of people who act according to the form of personality, i.e., are personal in their relations with others, that warrant the philosophical suspicion that this form bears some peculiar affinity to the act of existing. It is the interest and objective of these reflections to enquire into this affinity from the metaphysical perspective described above. I try to explicate the connection between mind being this way and the act of existence as such.
- The route that is followed in this explication begins with a consideration of being precisely as mind being present to itself. This whole business, however, becomes immediately complicated because two things must be talked about together. We must talk about mind as looking for something and we must talk about mind as being something. These issues are obviously inseparable precisely (because) what mind is decisively determines what it is looking for. Mind is a way of existing that is both a presence to itself and a looking for something in itself through its relation to other subjects. In this regard I try to show that the ultimate unity3 of mind precisely as mind requires the actuality of an interpersonal relation. In other words, the actuality of personality is the actuality of the ultimate unity4 mind precisely as mind requires the actuality of an interpersonal relation. In other words, the actuality of personality is the actuality of the ultimate unity5 of mind.
- I accept the view that substantiality is the most authentic status of being and that the form of personality, because of the special unity6 of the self-presence of its intellectuality, provides the most perfect actualization of the unity7 of substance. I therefore take the form of personality as that which, given the convertability of unity8 and being, is the most congenial and connatural to the act of existing. As a consequence, it must be found to be in some transcendent way actualized in that act of existence whose essence is "to be." This would be a self-sufficiently interpersonal reality whose entire actuality is to be the interpersonal relations that constitute its identities.
- Finally, the peculiar ontological characteristics that show up in otherwise historically contingent relationships could then be explained on the ground of their similarity to that being whose essence is to exist and whose act of existing is its act of being personal. Finite subjects in their relating produce contingent likenesses of this reality and, consequently, similitudes of its own distinctive existential character show up in these portraits. In other words, through the actualization of the form of personality, the substantial existence of finite contingent subjects enjoys a limited participation by similitude in the mode of existence of the being that is the full actuality of to exist.
- The ultimate question, then, to which metaphysics leads is: can a finite subject have a personal relationship with such a being. An attempt to give the gist of my response to this question would require a detail that goes beyond the proper limits of an introduction. It is, nevertheless, well within those limits and indeed essential to the business of this introduction to state that I take the question to be the end of metaphysics in the sense that its answer is that to which the seriousness of mind inevitably moves and beyond which, at least on its own resources, metaphysics cannot go. So, with these thoughts in place, we may now proceed to the first Essay.
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