A Brief Metaphysics for Today
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
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“Know yourself!” challenged the Oracle of Delphi, and philosophers engaged in metaphysics or “first philosophy” have struggled to meet that challenge ever since. No ordinary kind of knowing, metaphysics necessarily includes knowing our relation to the peopled world in which we live. Neither is it scientific knowing in the modern sense. It is such...
Chapter 1. The Beginning
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That is where we find ourselves and the world, so there is no other place from which to start a philosophic analysis. But I do not mean by “experiencing” what has been fashionable since Descartes’ disastrous experiment in mind-body dualism. I do not presuppose that experiencing is purely mental. I accept it for what it purports to be, an activity that relates me as a bodily subject...
Chapter 2. A Brief Description of Experiencing
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Trying to notice the character of your own act of perceiving is a little like trying to notice what your eyeglass lenses are like while you are wearing them. Sense experiencing is aimed at the things of the world around us, not at itself; its own character is not an object of our experience. So let us begin by asking what experiencing seems to reveal to us about those extramental objects themselves...
Chapter 3. Interlude on Method
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Every act of understanding, including this
attempted metaphysical analysis of immediate experience, is
inevitably perspectival. For all forms of knowledge are perspectival.
Here is what I mean.
I say “perspectival” by analogy with visual perception. Everything we see, we see from a...
Chapter 4. A Preliminary Metaphysical Interpretation of Experience
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Experiencing is an activity in existing that reveals itself as bipolar: as of a subject engaged with objects in a world. That this is so is a matter of immediate feeling (Whitehead’s perception in the mode of causal efficacy). But this sensible feeling of the causal impact of objects upon us is rendered intelligible in terms of the real existence of those objects as acting upon us through their effective...
Chapter 5. Aims and the Experiencing Subject
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I assume that as a human being I am a primary being in the sense described in the previous chapter. I am a focus of existing and a source of acting. I am also aware that although I remain the selfsame me over time, I nevertheless constantly change internally without losing that self-identity. In addition, I recognize that I...
Chapter 6. The Object-Structure of Immediate Experience: Space
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I assume that as a human being I am a primary being in the sense described in the previous chapter. I am a focus of existing and a source of acting. I am also aware that although I remain the selfsame me over time, I nevertheless constantly change internally without losing that self-identity. In addition, I recognize that I share...
Chapter 7. The Subject-Structure of Immediate Experience: Time
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I maintained earlier (section 4.3) that the very notion of experiencing requires the self-identity over time of a single experiencer. No human experience is instantaneous, and I am aware, within my every act of experiencing, that I am the same experiencing-me throughout...
Chapter 8. On the Interactions of Primary Beings
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We experience ourselves as part of a world of sensible objects, of bodies of all sorts, that are not merely present to us but acting upon us as we also act on them. We live in a sea of causal interactivity. Let us attempt at least a preliminary metaphysical analysis of the interactions of primary beings in general, with a view to rendering...
Chapter 9. Free Acts
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Specifically human acts—as distinguished from acts that merely happen to be done by a human being, such as sneezing—are deliberate, which is to say aware and free. They have their primal origin in the person as acting. The free act is ontologically subsequent to and transcendent of all the previous factors entering into the deciding, such as motives, proclivities, and conditioning. When...
Chapter 10. The Basic Structure of Primary Beings
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At this point I revert to Aristotle’s famous comment, already quoted in section 4.4: “The question that has always been asked and is still being asked today, the ever-puzzling question, ‘What is being?’ amounts to this: ‘What is primary being?’” Though with Aquinas (and Heidegger) I agree that there is a yet more profound question to be posed, the question of the very act of existing...
Chapter 11. Existing as Participated Act
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At the very beginning of his Introduction to Metaphysics Martin Heidegger pointedly asks, “Why is there any existing thing at all, and not rather nothing?”1 He is not asking why things are the way they are, but why are they at all. That, he claims, is the most fundamental of all questions, the Question of questions. And at the beginning...
Chapter 12. Participation and God
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Arguments for the existence of God that begin with the experienced universe (cosmos) and then conclude to the existence of a supreme being that is the necessary cause of the existence of that cosmos or of some aspect of it have traditionally been called “cosmological” arguments. But the above rough description requires to be exactly understood. It does not primarily ask, “Is there a God?” Rather, it asks questions about the universe, namely, “What...
Chapter 13. The Problem of the Origin of Essential Aims
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We are now in a position to confront the long postponed problem of how essential aims may be thought to arise. On closer examination it appears that this is no ordinary problem, one among many others, but rather the keystone problem of the whole possibility of constructing a structured, teleological metaphysics. Let us then...
Chapter 14. Three Options for a Solution
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I say “type” because the problem before us is not exactly a problem that faced Aquinas, and so his solution will not quite fit ours either. I have replaced Thomistic hylomorphism with another conceptuality that is partly adapted from Whitehead and in which the correlative concepts of what I have called essential aim and essential character in effect...
Chapter 15. Making a Choice
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William James advised that when certitude is not attainable—as it seldom is in philosophy—the most reasonable position to take is the one that is the most intellectually satisfying.1 I think he did not mean the most comfortable, an intellectual old shoe, but the most revealing, even perhaps the most exciting. And I note that the late Thomas Gold, astronomer and highly original...
Chapter 16. "Know Yourself!"
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In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Cassius says to Brutus: “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?” “No, Cassius,” replies Brutus, “for the eye sees not itself but by reflection, by some other things.”1 It might seem that this truism illustrates the difficulty of responding to the Delphic exhortation, “Know yourself!” But that wouldn’t be right, since what can be seen in us from the outside is not...
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Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2007