Preface (Full Text)
- The problems of metaphysics are many. Some arise upon the least reflection about the world and our place in it. Others are less obvious, appearing as problems only to those willing to think very hard about highly abstract questions. The reader of this anthology will find philosophers grappling with metaphysical problems of both sorts - although we have deliberately decided to favor the less abstract, more immediately accessible problems, since this anthology is intended as an introduction to the subject. The essays and excerpts are largely free of unexplicated technical terminology and symbolism. And the topics covered complement those of a number of popular single-author introductions to metaphysics.
- With the exception of the final group of essays, all the readings are made to fall under a series of questions about "the world." We assume that the world includes everything that there is - that is, all that exists.
- The first and largest part, "What are the most general features of the world?," includes readings on
- the problem of universals1,
- the nature of particular things and the manner of their persistence through time,
- rival theories of the passage of time,
- absolute space and incongruent counterparts,
- causation2, and
- a budget of paradoxes: McTaggart's paradox, paradoxes of motion, of the infinite, of time travel3, and of intrinsic change.
- The second, and second largest, part asks, "What is our place in the world?" Here are questions about
- the relation between the way things appear to us and the way they are (sense data, secondary qualities),
- personal identity (two forms of materialism, a version of Cartesian dualism, and Derek Parfit4's "Buddhism"),
- the nature of phenomenal experience, and
- free will.
- Part Three raises the question of "anti-realism": Is there just one world, one complete inventory of what there is? Or does what there is vary from community to community or person to person?
- Part Four begins with reflection on whether there could be an answer to the question, "Why is there a world?" - that is, why is there something, rather than nothing? The part ends with two attempts to answer the question by appeal to a necessary being (the Deity of the cosmological and ontological arguments).
- The final part includes challenges to the very possibility of metaphysics from both positivist and postmodern perspectives.
- Although most of the readings have appeared elsewhere, a few have been written especially for this volume:
- "O'Connor (Timothy) - The Agent As Cause",
- "Sosa (Ernest) - Addendum to 'Nonabsolute Existence and Conceptual Relativity': Objections and Replies",
- "Swinburne (Richard) - Response to Derek Parfit",
- "Van Cleve (James) - Incongruent Counterparts and Higher Dimensions",
- "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Mystery of Metaphysical Freedom", and
- "Zimmerman (Dean) - Temporary Intrinsics and Presentism".
- "Benardete (Jose A.) - Grasping the Infinite" includes a parable taken from his book Infinity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), but is otherwise new. And
- "Zimmerman (Dean) - Distinct Indiscernibles and the Bundle Theory" is a considerably expanded version of a dialogue which originally appeared in Mind5.
- The general introduction, "Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - What Is Metaphysics?", is a substantive essay based largely on "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Nature of Metaphysics" in "Laurence (Stephen) & Macdonald (Cynthia), Eds. - Contemporary Readings in the Foundations of Metaphysics" (1998).
- The introductions to the sections serve three purposes:
- (i) to indicate how the readings in the section are related to one another;
- (ii) to point out connections between these selections and readings in other parts of the anthology; and
- (iii) to suggest supplementary readings.
- An undergraduate course in metaphysics could profitably use this text alongside a wide variety of books, including classics6 such as Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy, Berkeley's Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, and Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy. Here are some more recent introductory books that take up many of the questions addressed in this anthology and are, in general, appropriate for an undergraduate audience:
- "Carter (William) - The Elements of Metaphysics" (1990).
- "Gardner (Martin) - The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener" (1983) - Although not strictly an introduction to philosophy or metaphysics, Gardner's "confessional" can be a useful text in introductory philosophy courses.
- "Hamlyn (D.W.) - Metaphysics" (1984),
- "Hasker (William) - Metaphysics: Constructing a World View" (19837).
- John F. Post, Metaphysics: a Contemporary Introduction (New York: Paragon House, 1991),
- "Smith (Quentin) & Oaklander (L. Nathan) - Time, Change and Freedom: An Introduction to Metaphysics" (1995),
- Richard Taylor, Metaphysics, 4th edn (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1992).
- "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Metaphysics" (1993).
- The following anthologies and single-author texts may serve as companions to the volume for more advanced students (e.g., upper-level philosophy majors, or beginning graduate students):
- D. M. Armstrong, Universals8: an Opinionated Introduction (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 19899),
- "Aune (Bruce) - Metaphysics: The Elements" (1985),
- "Benardete (Jose A.) - Metaphysics: The Logical Approach" (1989).
- "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings" (1998),
- "Jubien (Michael) - Contemporary Metaphysics" (1997),
- "Laurence (Stephen) & Macdonald (Cynthia), Eds. - Contemporary Readings in the Foundations of Metaphysics" (1998),
- "Loux (Michael) - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction" (1997).
- Our lists of supplementary readings include suggestions for matching up chapters from all of these books with our selections. They also include many other books, articles, and (in a few cases) stories we think could be used to teach metaphysics to beginners.
- The dedication is offered in gratitude from two philosophers happy to have been on the “Chisholm Trail”.
Footnote 5: See "Zimmerman (Dean) - Distinct Indiscernibles and the Bundle Theory".
Footnote 6: See, eg, Footnote 7: This shows Van Inwagen + Zimmerman’s Christian Bias.
Footnote 9: See, maybe,
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