Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction
Loux (Michael)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Back Cover Blurb

  1. Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction is for students of metaphysics who have already done an Introductory philosophy course. Michael J. Loux provides a fresh look at the central topics in metaphysics, rendering this essential reading for any student of the subject. This fully revised and updated version of the highly successful first edition Includes a brand new chapter on the Realism / antl-Realism debate.
  2. Topics addressed Include:
    • The problem of universals1
    • The nature of abstract entitles
    • The problem of Individuation2
    • The nature of modality3
    • Identity through time
    • The nature of time
    • The Realism / antl-RealIsm debate (new chapter).
  3. Wherever possible, Michael J. Loux relates contemporary views to their classical sources in the history of philosophy. As an experienced teacher of philosophy and an important contributor to recent debates, Loux has proved himself to be uniquely qualified to write a book of this kind.
  4. This second edition of Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction includes:
    • A brand new user-friendly text design
    • Chapter overviews summarizing the main topics of study
    • Examples to clarify difficult concepts
    • Annotated further reading at the end of each chapter
    • Endnotes and a full bibliography.
  5. Michael J. Loux is the George Schuster Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame University, Indiana. He is the editor of "Loux (Michael), Ed. - Metaphysics - Contemporary Readings", designed to accompany this textbook and also published by Routledge. His book Substance and Attribute (1978) Is one of the major metaphysics books of recent years.
  6. "This is clearly a very good book. It examines the major topics in metaphysics very precisely and with substantive intellectual depth."
    … Quentin Smith, University of Western Michigan
  7. "Michael Loux's introduction is excellent: it goes into a lot of detail while always keeping the reader's eye on the main issues. The chapters are well-structured and well-written. The market is crying out for a good introductory textbook on metaphysics and Loux's book helps satisfy that need."
    … Tim Crane, University College London

Amazon Customer Review
  1. One reviewer has given this book only 3 stars, describing the author's style as "irritating", but I disagree. I've read many introductory philosophical texts, ranging from tedious to excellent, but this is the best. The structure is very user-friendly (for example, the overviews at the beginning of each chapter are extremely helpful) and the prose style is a clear as it gets, and is certainly not tediously long-winded, as that reviewer implies; perhaps he thinks this because Loux does indeed go to great pains in assisting the reader to follow the argument at every stage - he often repeats an important point several times, for example, offering different formulations of the same thought. But this is basically just the technique of recapping frequently to make sure that the student's got it - something any good teacher should do.
  2. The text is consistently pitched at the optimum level for undergraduates, at whom it is - I assume - primarily aimed. The back cover says that the book is "for students who have already done an introductory philosophy course", so if you are a complete philosophical novice this book is probably not for you - though everything is explained clearly, step-by-step. As a whole, it gives just the kind of accessible, straightforward guidance students need in order to do well in examinations, whilst providing enough detail and depth to create a solid foundation for further studies at a higher level.
  3. One thing I particularly like is that, even at this level, the author manages to convey a sense of the importance and centrality of the subject matter. After all, investigating the fundamental nature of reality is surely, by any standards, a project of some intellectual urgency. The ideas which this book explores are among the most esoteric conceptions of the world ever to arise from the human brain, and Loux's extremely careful approach is far preferable to that of taking the reader's understanding somewhat for granted. Some philosophers - including, it's sad to say, some rather distinguished ones - seem to write, even at an introductory level, as if they are thinking "this all makes perfect sense to me; if anyone doesn't understand it then that's her problem".
  4. To sum up, this is as near perfect a philosophical textbook as you're ever likely to read. Highly recommended (though that doesn't mean that the material isn't difficult - this is still philosophy!). Don't be tempted to skip the introduction, by the way, since it provides a superb summary of one of the most central and persisting disputes in metaphysics and philosophical logic, i.e. the realism/anti-realism debate, to which Loux also devotes an entire chapter at the end of the book.

BOOK COMMENT:

Routledge, London, Second Edition, 2002



"Loux (Michael) - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction: Prefaces & Introduction"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction


Author’s Overview
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Sections
  1. The nature of metaphysics - some historical reflections
  2. Metaphysics as category theory



"Loux (Michael) - The Problem of Universals I: Metaphysical Realism"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, 2002, Chapter 1


Author’s Overview
  1. The phenomenon of similarity or attribute agreement gives rise to the debate between realists and nominalists. Realists claim that where objects are similar or agree in attribute, there is some one thing that they share or have in common; nominalists deny this. Realists call these shared entities universals1: they say that universals2 are entities that can be simultaneously exemplified by several different objects; and they claim that universals3 encompass the properties things possess, the relations into which they enter, and the kinds to which they belong.
  2. Toward showing us that we must endorse the reality of universals4, realists point to the phenomena of subject predicate discourse and abstract reference. They claim that unless we posit universals5 as the referents of predicate expressions, we cannot explain how subject predicate sentences can be true, and they argue that we can explain the truth of sentences incorporating abstract referring terms only if we take universals6 to be the things identified by the use of those terms.
  3. Realists, however, frequently disagree about the generality of their accounts of predication and abstract reference. Some realists, for example, deny that their account of predication holds for sentences incorporating the term 'exemplifies.' Other realists insist that their account holds only for primitive or undefined predicates or abstract terms. Furthermore, some realists hold that there are universals7 corresponding only to predicates that are actually true of existing objects; whereas other realists believe that there are both exemplified and unexemplifled properties, kinds, and relations.

Sections
  1. Realism and nominalism
  2. The ontology of metaphysical realism
  3. Realism and predication
  4. Realism and abstract reference
  5. Restrictions on realism — exemplification
  6. Further restrictions — defined and undefined predicates
  7. Are there any unexemplified attributes?



"Loux (Michael) - The Problem of Universals II: Nominalism"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, 2002, Chapter 2


Author’s Overview
  1. Nominalists deny that there are universals1: and the central motivation for their view is the belief that our metaphysics should exhibit simplicity of theory. They believe that given two theories with the same explanatory power, the theory that posits fewer irreducibly distinct kinds of things is preferable. And they believe that it is possible to provide fully satisfactory accounts of attribute agreement, subject-predicate discourse, and abstract reference that posit only particulars or individuals.
  2. There are, however, different forms of nominalism. The most extreme version endorses an ontology incorporating only concrete particulars and holds that all claims apparently about universals2 are just disguised ways of making claims about concrete particulars. There are serious difficulties with this extreme form of nominalism; and those difficulties have led some philosophers to endorse a metalinguistic form of nominalism. This view agrees that the only things that exist are concrete particulars, but holds that claims apparently about universals3 are really disguised ways of talking about linguistic expressions. Finally, there is the form of nominalism that has been called trope theory. On this view, there are such things as properties or qualities, but they are one and all particular: each can be found in just one object: and the claim is that talk apparently about universals4 is really just talk about these particular qualities or properties (called tropes; hence the name 'trope theory').

Sections
  1. The motivation for nominalism
  2. Austere nominalism
  3. Metalinguistic nominalism
  4. Trope theory



"Loux (Michael) - Concrete Particulars I: Substrata, Bundles, and Substances"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, 2002, Chapter 3


Author’s Overview
  1. When philosophers have tried to give an ontological analysis of familiar concrete particulars, they have frequently assumed that they are wholes made up of metaphysically more fundamental constituents and have endorsed either of two opposed positions - the substratum theory or the bundle theory.
    • On the former view, a concrete particular is a whole made up of the various properties we associate with the particular together with an underlying subject or substratum that has an identity independent of the properties with which it found - a bare particular; and the claim is that the bare particular or substratum is the literal exemplifier of those properties.
    • On the latter view, there are no underlying substrata: ordinary particulars are constituted exclusively by the properties associated with them; they are just "bundles" or "clusters" of those properties.
  2. Empiricists have typically found the idea of an underlying substratum objectionable and have been bundle theorists: but substratum theorists have argued, first, that bundle theorists cannot account for the fact that there are true, yet informative subject-predicate claims and, second, that the bundle theorist is committed to the truth of a false principle known as the Identity of Indiscernibles1, the claim that it is impossible for numerically different concrete particulars to have exactly the same properties. To overcome these difficulties, they claim, we must posit bare particulars or substrata as constituents of concrete particulars.
  3. The difficulty is that the notion of a bare particular is, as bundle theorists claim, incoherent; and the attempt to revise the notion of an underlying substratum in such a way as to remove the incoherence has the result that substrata are incapable of resolving the philosophical problems their introduction was meant to resolve.
  4. The difficulties associated with the bundle and substratum theories have led some metaphysicians to reject the assumption that familiar particulars are wholes made up of metaphysically more basic constituents. One influential form this denial takes is an Aristotelian substance theory, where familiar concrete particulars or some among them are ontologically fundamental entities. On this view, it is the concrete particular itself that is the literal exemplifier of the universals2 associated with it. Some of those universals3 are external to the essence of the particular and are only contingently exemplified by it; whereas others - the substance kinds under which the particular falls - mark the particular out as the thing it is and are essentially exemplified by it.

Sections
  1. Substratum and bundle theories
  2. An objection to the bundle theory — subject-predicate discourse
  3. Another objection to the bundle theory — the Identity of Indiscernibles4
  4. An argument for the substratum theory
  5. Problems for the substratum theory
  6. Aristotelian substances



"Loux (Michael) - Propositions and Their Neighbours"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, 2002, Chapter 4


Author’s Overview
  1. Philosophers of a realist bent have frequently denied that properties, kinds, and relations exhaust the abstract entities to which we are committed. They have claimed that there are also propositions. As these philosophers describe them, propositions are language-independent and mind-independent abstract entities that function as the objects of acts of assertion/denial and acts of thinking: they are also the referents of that-clauses; and they are the primary bearers of the truth values and, hence, the things that, in the first instance, enter into logical relations.
  2. Philosophers skeptical of the notion of a proposition have typically wanted to claim that we can accommodate all the phenomena of interest to the realist without introducing propositions into our ontology. One popular strategy here is metalinguistic - to claim that we can handle the propositional attitudes, that-clauses, and the truth values by reference to sentences. Another is that outlined by Arthur Prior, who invokes the redundancy theory of truth and a unique account of verbs of propositional attitude to give the result that talk apparently about propositions is really talk about familiar concrete objects. Still another is Russell's multiple relation theory. More recently, however, philosophers have challenged the traditional doctrine of propositions by calling into question the phenomena that underlie the doctrine.
  3. Other entities postulated by realists include facts, states of affairs, and events.
    • Facts are those things in the world correspondence to which makes a proposition true.
    • States of affairs are situations that have essentially the property of obtaining or failing to obtain; and states of affairs that obtain are said to be facts.
    • Finally, events are things that take place or happen.
    They have been the focus of much recent discussion in metaphysics, and a number of different accounts of their nature and structure are currently being debated.

Sections
  1. The traditional theory of propositions
  2. Nominalism about propositions
  3. Facts, states of affairs, and events



"Loux (Michael) - The Necessary and the Possible"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, 2002, Chapter 5


Author’s Overview
  1. Although the notions of necessity and possibility (the so-called "modal1 notions") seem indispensable in metaphysics, empiricists have traditionally challenged the appeal to these notions. Developments in the semantics of modal logic2 have, however, given philosophers reason to believe that the empiricist challenge can be met. At the core of modal3 semantics is the idea of a plurality of possible worlds. Metaphysicians have argued that this idea is perfectly respectable, indeed, that it is implicit in our pre-philosophical thinking about modal4 matters; and they have claimed that it provides the tools for clarifying not only the concept of de dicto modality5 (the notion of necessity or possibility as ascribed to a proposition), but also the notion of de re modality6 (the notion of a thing's exemplifying a property necessarily or contingently).
  2. There have, however, been two different ways of invoking the concept of a possible world. Some philosophers have thought the concept of a possible world provides the materials for a reductive nominalism. David Lewis's theory of modality7 represents the best example of this approach. Lewis takes the notion of a possible world as primitive and uses it to provide reductive accounts of the notions of a property, a proposition, de dicto modality8, and de re modality9. His is a technically elegant theory, but it requires us to construe all possible worlds as equally real and fully concrete entities, and most philosophers find that too high a price to pay for the elegance of the theory.
  3. Accordingly, many philosophers impressed with the power of the notion of a possible world endorse an alternative approach, one most fully developed in the work of Alvin Plantinga. On this view, the notion of a possible world is taken to be one element in a network of interrelated concepts including the notions of a property, a proposition, de dicto modality10, and de re modality11: and the claim is that while we cannot reduce any of these concepts to concepts outside the network, we can clarify the concepts in the network by showing their relationships to each other. Plantinga construes possible worlds in Platonistic fashion as maximally possible states of affairs and identifies the actual world as that maximally possible state of affairs that actually obtains, thereby endorsing the whole framework of possible worlds while holding onto a thoroughgoing actualism that insists that only what actually exists is real.

Sections
  1. Problems about modality12
  2. Possible worlds
  3. Possible worlds nominalism
  4. The metaphysics of possible worlds nominalism – David Lewis
  5. Actualism and possible worlds - Alvin Plantinga



"Loux (Michael) - Concrete Particulars II: Persistence Through Time"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, 2002, Chapter 6


Author’s Overview
  1. There are two accounts of what it is for a concrete particular to persist through time: endurantism1 and perdurantism. The endurantist2 claims that for a concrete particular to persist through time is for it to exist wholly and completely at different times. The perdurantist, by contrast, denies that it is possible for numerically one and the same concrete particular to exist at different times. On this view, a concrete particular is an aggregate or whole made up of different temporal parts, each existing at its own time; and for a particular to persist from one time to another is for it to have different temporal parts existing at those different times.
  2. Endurantist3 accounts of persistence are typically associated with a presentist account of time, where only what exists in the present is real; whereas perdurantism is typically associated with an eternalist conception of time. On this view, time is just another dimension on a par with the three spatial dimensions; and all times and their contents are equally real.
  3. Since perdurantism appears to involve a rejection of our common-sense picture of the world, perdurantists have felt the need to argue for their view. Their arguments typically focus on the concept of change. One important argument here is that a perdurantist, but not an endurantist4 account enables us to provide a consistent characterization of a particular's change in its properties. Another is that perdurantism, but not endurantism5 can give a satisfactory account of one kind of change - change in parts. Endurantists6 challenge these arguments; and the interchange between endurantists7 and perdurantists on these issues represents one of the central debates in current metaphysics.

Sections
  1. Two theories of persistence - endurantism8 and perdurantism
  2. Two theories of time - presentism and eternalism
  3. The ontology of perdurantism
  4. An argument for perdurantism - change in properties
  5. A second argument for perdurantism - change in parts


COMMENT: Endurantism9, Perdurantism, Presentism and Eternalism



"Loux (Michael) - The Challenge Of Anti-Realism"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, 2002, Chapter 7


Author’s Overview
  1. According to a traditional view, there is a mind-independent world about which we form beliefs and make statements; those beliefs/statements are true just in case they correspond to the world they are about; and the correspondence that is truth is a property that can transcend our ability to determine whether or not it obtains. The traditional view can be called Realism (with a capital ‘R’).
  2. Opposed to Realism is the view that what we call "the world," what we called "reality," is constituted in part by our conceptual activities or the conceptual tools we employ in our inquiry. Nowadays this view is called anti-Realism. Anti-Realism is originally the product of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century critiques of Realism. In the context of recent Anglo-American philosophy, anti-Realist critiques of Realism focus on semantical issues.
  3. Thus, Michael Dummett argues that the semantical theory underlying Realism fails to provide an adequate account of the meaning of undecidable statements (statements whose truth value is in principle impossible for us to determine), and Dummett takes this failure to suggest the need for anti-Realist theories of meaning and truth.
  4. In a similar fashion, Hilary Putnam extends Quine's arguments for the inscrutability of reference to show that the word-world relations presupposed by a Realist theory of truth do not obtain; and Putnam, like Dummett, goes on to give an account of truth that is anti-Realist.
  5. The central question for these anti-Realists is whether their own accounts of meaning and truth are any more successful than the Realist's account at avoiding the problems they claim to uncover.

Sections
  1. Two views about the nature of reality
  2. Dummett's anti-Realist
  3. The inscrutability of reference
  4. Putnam's anti-Realism
  5. Realism or anti-Realism?



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