Jut The Fragmentation of Being. Cambridge introductions to philosophy. Some features of WorldCat will not be available. A special order item has limited availability and the seller introducyion source this title from another supplier.
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Click to share on Pocket Opens in new window The following is a transcript of this video. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy whose roots stretch back to the time of the ancient Greeks approximately years ago. Along with ethics, epistemology, and logic, metaphysics is considered one of the main branches of philosophy.
While there is no agreed-upon definition of metaphysics, it is often described as the discipline which is concerned with the ultimate nature of reality. However, to those not familiar with metaphysics, such a definition will prove rather vague. So in order to better grasp its subject matter it will be helpful to examine the history of the discipline. This title was not meant to reflect the content of the treatise, as Aristotle had referred to the subject matter of it as first philosophy or theology.
The first of these themes is the study of first causes, or in other words, that which does not change and from which emanates the things in this world we experience.
The interest in first causes is why God has been a prominent topic of metaphysics throughout history. The second theme is the study of being or existence, in which an attempt is made to identify and delineate the fundamental categories of being. The study of being is simply the study of that which is, or that which exists.
Special metaphysics, on the other hand was divided into three disciplines; cosmology, rational psychology, and natural theology. While general metaphysics was concerned with being at a broad, fundamental level, special metaphysics addressed more specific questions concerning existence. Topics addressed within special metaphysics included such things as immortality, freedom of the will, and the mind body problem. The interest with these more specific issues continues to the present day.
However, the problems of general metaphysics, or what is more commonly called ontology these days, remains the most prominent area of metaphysics. Present-day ontologists, it should be noted, are not generally concerned with what the concept of existence means.
Rather, like Aristotle, they try to provide accounts or inventories of the things that do exist and in the process identifying the fundamental categories of being.
Thus ontologists will try to determine whether such things as properties, numbers, events, relations, souls, material objects, or universals exist; and if they do what the characteristics of such things are.
The question of whether universals exist is one of the oldest questions of ontology and has been debated since the time of the ancient Greeks. Universals are things which can be instantiated or shared by different individual objects. Examples of universals include redness, squareness, and beauty. Obviously there are many different things can be red, square, or beautiful, but the question is whether the universals themselves have any sort of existence apart from the particular things they occupy.
Along with these questions of ontology, metaphysicians today, like the continental rationalists also examine more specific questions. Topics addressed by contemporary metaphysicians include the nature of time and space, the mind-body problem, causality, what it means to be a person, and the problem of free will, amongst others.
The philosopher Peter van Inwagen in his book titled Metaphysics has put forth three questions which he believes encapsulates the subject matter of contemporary metaphysics: What are the most general features of the World, and what sorts of things does it contain?
What is the World like? Why does a World exist — and, more specifically, why is there a World having the features and the content described in the answer to question 1? What is our place in the World? How do we human beings fit into it? As should now be evident metaphysics deals with some very abstract questions, questions which many philosophers, metaphysicians amongst them, believe may not even be answerable.
Consequently, we cannot give any answer to questions of this kind, but can only establish that they are nonsensical. They belong to the same class as the question whether the good is more or less identical than the beautiful.
The attempt to say something in the sense of stating propositions about what transcends the world the inexpressible results in nonsense. They show themselves. However, it should be noted that even though Wittgenstein did not believe that most of the problems of metaphysics could be answered, he was not completely against the discipline. In fact, he was heavily influenced by the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who put forth one of the most elaborate and extensive metaphysical systems in the history of philosophy.
On the contrary, I regard the great metaphysical writings of the past as among the noblest productions of the human mind.
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