Metaphysics: Part One: The Way The World Is - Introduction
Van Inwagen (Peter)
Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) - Metaphysics
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsBooks / Papers Citing this PaperNotes Citing this Paper


  1. Western-style atheists aside, most people’s conception of the World is mainly governed by their religion, but the World can be discussed without reference to the practical or emotional side of religion.
  2. In the first instance, PvI compares theists (he takes Catholics and orthodox Jews as his paradigm cases, with Hindus as contrasting theists) with atheists.
    • The theists see the World as essentially personal, because all that is not God was created according to a plan by the Person that is God.
    • In contrast, the atheist says that the World existed before there were any persons in it, and persons originally arose as a by-product of purposeless processes.
  3. Yet the Western theists and atheists agree on lots of metaphysical principles – in contrast to the intellectual Hindu (if not the “Hindu in the street”) who – along with some 19th-century Western idealists – would deny then all.
  4. The standard Western metaphysic would include the following claims1:-
    • Concrete particulars – whether natural or artifactual – really exist, distinct from each other and each with its own set of properties (which are independent of any person knowing what they are).
    • Distances are real,
    • Our minds have to conform to an external reality and we can get the properties of, or relations between, objects wrong.
    • Time is real. Objects come into existence and pass away, and – at a time – have a certain age.
    • Things – the very same things – persist through time despite a change in properties – including relational ones like position – or material.
    • These things influence one another.
    • We perceive things because of their influence on our sense-organs and brain.
  5. In contrast, the educated Hindu will deny all this and accuse the Western consensus of confusing appearance with reality.
  6. The Common Western Metaphysic seems obviously right to us Westerners, but is it? This question of whether the CWM is reality or mere appearance – will help organize this Part of the book into the four Chapters on Individuality, Externalist, Temporality and Objectivity.


Part One: The Way The World Is

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: PvI gives lots of concrete examples, which I’ve abstracted from.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - May 2021. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page