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The end-product of the logical positivist revolution was the metaphysical views of W. Wittgenstein was a different case. But, as you say, metaphysics came back. How did you get into metaphysics yourself?

Leibniz, Gottfried: Metaphysics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Lowe or Jonathan Lowe at Durham University. Long after he taught me, he wrote a wonderful book called A Survey of Metaphysics , which is very lucid and detailed. He divides the book into six sections: The first is about identity and change, the question I mentioned. The second section is about necessity and the essence of things. The third is about causation. The fourth is about agency and human agency. The fifth is about space and time, and the sixth is about the universal and the particular.

All very abstract as well, these concepts — the most abstract you could get, presumably, whilst still making any sense at all…. I suppose that is one thing about metaphysics, it is very abstract. When you say one thing causes something else, so one thing makes something else happen, what is that? What is causation? Is there such a thing, what does it involve? This has been a central question of metaphysics since Aristotle really, and you have to consider these things in an incredibly abstract way. In the first meditation, he raises the question of which of any of his beliefs about the world will survive scrutiny.

He challenges them all.


Which of my beliefs would survive scrutiny under the supposition that I was dreaming? Many philosophers have thought that this book is a book about epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, and that Descartes is trying to refute scepticism, scepticism being the view that we know nothing. This is a book of metaphysics, in my view.

Modality, Metaphysics, and Method

But the rest of the book is about how that criterion is put to use, not in distinguishing different types of knowledge, or relationships between knowledge and perception. He gives up the idea that perception is the main source of knowledge. This is one of the ways he criticises his predecessors.

He gets onto the metaphysics by building up, first of all, what he thinks his essence is. His essence is to think, he says, in a particular sense of the word think. Then he asks himself how that thinking thing that he is is related to his body. He says although our mind and body are intimately connected, they are things that can be separated, and therefore they are separate things. Why would we want to read a seventeenth century metaphysician?

Meditations on First Philosophy

What is it about this book that makes it an interesting book to read? The philosophical tradition is a contingent historical connection between individuals, texts and the way that texts have been read. The questions that we confront now are very different from the questions that were confronted years ago, or even years ago.

They are very different from the questions that are confronted by mainstream philosophers in France, let alone questions confronted by philosophers in China, or in India, in their traditions. There are many questions, and the questions that we have have been formed by our traditions.

Are you saying that Descartes is important because his work forms part of our tradition, or are you saying he is interesting from a kind of anthropological point of view? Both of those are very good descriptions of our predicament, yes. Not just any random thinker from the seventeenth century is worth reading. Understanding very different realities from our own is a very illuminating thing too, it gives us the opportunity to question why we believe the things we do, as well as to understand how we ended up where we are.

So many Cartesian ideas have dominated discussion. This is a great book. Real Time 2 is the second version of the book, which he published in ? It presents a vision of the world in metaphysical categories. It tells you about the nature of time, the nature of space, things, objects, events, in a way that is connected, but not the same as the physics of time and space.

But there are physicists who talk about the nature of time and space. Hugh Mellor is someone who is very informed by those views, and knows the physics of space and time very well. He uses his knowledge of those, and his philosophical arguments, to defend a view of time, where time is rather like space.

Tarski and truth conditions

Block universe in the sense that time is just one of the dimensions of space time. If you imagine things occurring within space time are just regions of that block, four dimensional regions of it, or what sometimes people call space time worms. He changed the terminology back to the very boring terminology of the Cambridge philosopher McTaggart, where the way of thinking in terms of past, present, and future is called the A-series, and the way of thinking of time in terms of events being earlier than, later than, and simultaneous with is called the B-series.

This is a typically dreary, boring philosophical label. Hugh changed to that label just because that was the way everyone else in the time community was talking. Get the weekly Five Books newsletter. What I like about this book is its painting of a metaphysical picture. Past and present and future are not features of reality, any more than here and there are features, here-ness and there-ness are features of reality. So, they are features of our relation to reality, rather than things independently of the particular subjective viewpoint on the world?

The history of philosophy tells us that at some times philosophers have stressed that categories are forms or essences that are inherent in the world, while at other times, it has been claimed that the categories are imposed by the mind on the worldly phenomena. In the light of the scientific developments in physics and the cognitive sciences in the 20th century, 26 one should avoid conflating the two endeavors and disambiguate cognitive metaphysics from the metaphysics of physics.

With regard to the specific examples discussed above, one must conclude that it is misguided to relate the middle-sized middle-distanced objects we experience in our daily environment to the elementary particles in our physical theories and that it is misguided to try to relate the vagueness in our categorization to vagueness at the level of elementary particles e. Whereas cognitive metaphysics can be clearly distinguished from the metaphysics of physics, the relation between cognitive metaphysics and metaphysical theories that relate the metaphysical categories to a logical framework is more intricate, because of the intimate relation between theories of cognition and logic.

Historically, logic has sprung from an epistemic motivation. Leibniz proposed to develop a system of signs, a characteristica universalis , perfectly representing concepts, so that by means of a method of mechanical manipulations of the signs, a calculus ratiocinator , reasoning processes can be carried out. These developments again influenced psychologists who started using computer metaphors in their models of human cognition, and in philosophy of mind functionalism became fashionable.

This brief sketch suffices to illustrate the intimate relation between logic and the cognitive sciences.

In recent years we have witnessed important shortcomings of the logical paradigm in the cognitive sciences. Psychological experiments in which it is tested to what extent human beings abide by the logical rules when reasoning yield disconcerting results.

Metaphysics Essay

A recent line of psychological research studies the quick and dirty heuristic rules people really use in reasoning see, e. Increased knowledge of brain processes has led to a wave of connectionism since the s. Since the s, based on work in robotics, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, the idea that cognition is embodied, situated, enactive, and social, has become ever more prominent. We may safely conclude that contemporary cognitive science and logic have grown apart, at least in important respects.

This gap is important from a metametaphysical point of view.

Work package G1: Issues in metaphysics - Publications

If we choose for the neat and precise logical apparatus to address ontological questions, we soon end up with logical tools such as existential quantification, set theory, and model theory. If we want to address modal questions, i. The method is clear and appropriate for a wide range of metaphysical issues.

In particular for metaphysical questions in mathematics the logical approach is the most natural methodology. The precision and bivalence imposed by the logical apparatus are less suited for objects such as chairs and tables.

Are chairs and persons really the values of the variables bound by the existential quantifier in our best theories of the world? Some authors have raised the question whether ordinary objects actually exist. One should concede that ordinary objects indeed belong in our ontology, but at the metametaphysical level a cognitive metaphysics will provide a better methodology to address metaphysical questions regarding everyday objects.

Some worries will remain. Whereas few philosophers and even less cognitive scientists would dispute the feasibility of experimental work in the cognitive sciences on topics, such as object perception, object persistence, or vagueness, many traditional philosophers will downplay the relevance of experimental result within metaphysics. In this last section I will address some objections that can be raised.

I will not be able to refute all the objections, as some are related to deeply controversial tenets over which no consensus is to be expected soon, but at least the basic assumptions in my replies are generally accepted within mainstream philosophical traditions. First, it may be objected that science and philosophy are distinct disciplines with different aims and topics, so that science cannot be relevant for metaphysics.