Fundamental Topics is Metaphysics
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Ottawa Press
Preface to the Second Edition
I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity of a second edition of this book, and that pleasure is augmented by the volume’s appearing in paperback. Although the basic structure of the book has been retained, changes have occurred in every chapter. in some cases I have, I think, succeeded in making an argument or a claim clearer, or better justified—at any rate, the grounds offered for it are more clearly displayed. in a number of places ...
Acknowledgments for the Second Edition
I am very grateful to several people for the input they have given me either on chapters of this book or on earlier stages in the revision of chapters for this edition. their comments have been extremely valuable, and made a signal difference as the themes of the book were thought through anew. thanks, ...
Chapter I: What Is Metaphysics?
“Metaphysics,” F. H. Bradley (1846–1924) remarked in a famous passage, “is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct.”1 Bradley was, of course, being aphoristic. His quip is meant to express an insight of substance, even if not literally to be taken as true. in any case, it may very reasonably be doubted whether, in any literal or at least biological sense, there is much of anything we believe on instinct; ...
Chapter II: Metaphysics and its Critics: Realism, Antirealism, and the Possibility of Metaphysics
The aim of this book is to discuss and advocate views—on the topics which will be explored, those that seem most plausible—in metaphysics. With anticipation in antiquity, some philosophical thinkers since the eighteenth century have claimed to regard metaphysics as impossible, meaningless, primitive, pre-scientific, or anti-scientific, naive and pre-critical, or anthropocentric (sometimes, in recent years, androcentric). These ...
Chapter III: Metaphysical Systems
Of the many individual metaphysical systems—organized structures of views about reality—that philosophers have developed over the course of the history of western philosophy, from thales to the present day, some deserve highlighted attention for setting out on the metaphysical odyssey the present book invites its reader to undertake. My aims are not chiefly historical, but certain of the systems were and remain sufficiently ...
Chapter IV: Categories and First Principles
An orderly way to proceed with the project of investigating reality in the most basic and general terms (and with candid acknowledgment of a selective leaning toward topics of special interest to humans) is to try to set out at the start fundamental concepts and principles, and matters of method. this is somewhat how Aristotle proceeded. At any rate, alongside his major metaphysical treatises—the Metaphysics itself, the Physics, and ...
Chapter V: Existence
In this chapter I want primarily to explore three themes focused on existence. It is the peg they will all be hung on, but in fact they are largely independent topics. the first of the topics is the question (or apparent question): Why is there something rather than nothing, i.e., why does anything exist?1 Some have regarded this as one of the deepest and profoundest—some, in fact, as the very most important—problem ...
Chapter VI: Essence and Possible Worlds
The concept of essence has figured in metaphysics since Aristotle. However, it is unclear whether any ancient Greek thinker attached to the notion of ousia (the Aristotelian term translated as “essence”), or whether any Roman philosopher attached to the subsequent term essentia, an idea that is more than a distant relative of what Western philosophers ...
Chapter VII: Substance
Accounts of pre-Socratic philosophy only sometimes seem to comment on a curious and metaphysically significant fact about the systems of the earliest philosophers. these early thinkers were concerned with what the world is made of but not with that of which the world is made up. the world is made of elements, substances of one or more sorts; it is made up of particular individual things, also substances of one or more sorts—but ...
Chapter VIII: Universals
It has scarcely been possible to avoid indicating, certainly intimating, the view this book advocates on abstract entities in the chapters that precede this one. In the present chapter I want to make that view fully explicit, provide something of a case for it, and make ancillary remarks on ontology and the abstract. ...
Chapter IX: Space
My aim in this chapter will be to come to conclusions about the metaphysics of space. One can hardly discuss space at all without in some manner engaging the physics of space. if certain kinds of results were reached, namely, results incompatible with what modern physics says about space, the character of the engagement would be critical, and, as I would see it, the metaphysical account would need to be very much on ...
Chapter X: Time
The drift of naturalist and empiricist philosophy, as well as twentieth-century physics generally, has been in the direction of confuting many common-sense intuitions and allegedly a priori rationalist philosophical convictions. While this is a tendency I generally share, in the case of fundamental views about time I find myself to a significant degree of contrary mind. ...
Chapter XI: Causality
That causality, in some sense, exists in the world is not open to serious dispute. Having your head chopped off, for example, leads causally to your death (and, most likely, to your non-being, though that need not be insisted on here). What has been in dispute is just what causality is and what its extent is—including what may be called its modal extent. ...
Chapter XII: Purpose
That people and other conscious beings have purposes when they do things is not seriously contestable. This is one of the distinctive features of mental life as we know it. We act often with an end or goal in view; we conceive of (or imagine) something we desire or strive to bring it about, and succeed or not depending on the case (our abilities, the realizability of the goal, interfering circumstances). ...
Chapter XIII: Persons, Personal Identity, and Metaphysical Luck
In this chapter I want to come to some conclusions about persons— ourselves and beings like us, if there are any that are in this respect like us. A good deal has already been said in earlier chapters about persons, and some views argued for in discussing essence and substance will now be set out more fully and defended. Let us, initially at least, begin afresh, ...
Chapter XIV: Mind
Of all categories of the real, the mental has undoubtedly received the most philosophical attention. This is doubtless due in the first instance to the fact that philosophers are human beings with particularly cerebral leanings and orientations, and what has characteristically seemed most distinctive and impressive about ourselves, particularly when the selves are philosophical ones, is that we are thinking things (in Descartes’s ...
Chapter XV: God
I now consider the first of Kant’s three central metaphysical topics—God. there are things that it is appropriate, and important, to note before turning to the substance of the topic, and they are different in kind from preliminaries to other metaphysical themes. As on most if not all subjects they explore, philosophers differ considerably with respect to whether there is a God. What is distinctive in this case is that for many philosophers ...
Chapter XVI: Freedom and Determinism
The term “libertarianism” has two primary meanings in philosophy. in political philosophy libertarianism, a view associated with Locke, and with people like Ayn Rand (1905–82) and Robert Nozick in the twentieth century, is the theory that there ought to be only minimal states, whose functions would be limited to protecting property rights (conceiving one’s life and body, as Locke does, as part of one’s property). in the philosophy...
Chapter XVII: Immortality
As I indicated at the beginning of this book, my aim has been to investigate and reach at least tentative conclusions about each of the fundamental topics of metaphysics identified by Kant in the historical rationalist tradition. For him, what the inquirer qua metaphysician would like to know about most, if he or she could—Kant, of course, thinks that s/he cannot—are God, freedom, and immortality. We will consider the last ...