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METAPHYSICS, or METAPHYSIC (from Gr. ...

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 225 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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METAPHYSICS, or METAPHYSIC (from Gr. /sera, after, d v med, things of nature, lots, i.e. the natural universe), the 4ccepted name of one of the four great departments of philosophy (q.v.). The term was first applied to one of the treatises of Aristotle on the basis of the arrangement of the Aristotelian canon made„ by Andronicus of Rhodes, in which it was placed " after the physical treatises" with the description' ra Agra ra Oat Ka. The term was used not in the modern sense of above or transcending nature (a sense which /sera cannot bear), but simply to convey the idea that the treatise so-called comes " after " the physical treatises.' It is therefore nothing more than a literary accident that the term has been applied to that department or discipline of philosophy which deals with first principles. Aristotle himself described the subject matter of the treatise as " First ' On the true order of the Aristotelian treatises see ARISTOTLE. After C. Claus, Schriften der Gesellsch. sus Beford. der gesammten Naturwissen. su Marburg. (i) first antenna; (2) compound eye; (3) simple eye; (4) biramous appendages. (After J. Muller.) Philosophy" or "Theology," which deals with being as being (Metaph. r. i., Eariv brwri n vs it Oewpei r8 ov ;3 Sv Kai rd roirrcq inreiPxovra KaB' afro). From this phrase is derived the later term " Ontology " (q.v.). The misapprehension of the significance of pert& led to various mistaken uses of the term " metaphysics," e.g. for that which is concerned with the supernatural, not only by the schoolmen but even as late as 17th-century English writers, and within narrower limits the term has been dangerously ambiguous even in the hands of modern philosophers (see below). In the widest sense it may include both the " first philosophy " of Aristotle, and the theory of knowledge (in what sense can there be true knowledge?), i.e. both ontology and epistemology (q.v.), and this is perhaps the most convenient use of the term; Kant, on the other hand, would represent metaphysics as being " nothing more than the inventory of all that is given us by pure reason, systematically arranged " (i.e. epistemology). The earliest "metaphysicians " concerned themselves with the nature of being (ontology), seeking for the unity which they postulated behind the multiplicity of phenomena (see IONIAN SCHOOL OF PHILOSOPHY and articles on the separate thinkers); later thinkers tended to inquire rather into the nature of knowledge as the necessary pre-requisite of ontological investigation. The extent to which these two attitudes have been combined or separated is discussed in the ensuing article which deals with the various schools of modern metaphysics in relation to the principles of the Aristotelian " first philosophy."' (X) I.—THE SCIENCE OF BEING Side by side with psychology, the science of mind, and with logic, the science of reasoning, metaphysics is tending gradually to reassert its ancient Aristotelian position as the science of being in general. Not long ago, in England at all events, metaphysics was merged in psychology. But with the decline of dogmatic belief and the spread of religious doubt—as the special sciences also grow more general, and the natural sciences become more speculative about matter and force, evolution and teleology—men begin to wonder again about the nature and origin of things; just as it was the decay of polytheism in Greek religion and his own discoveries in natural science which impelled Aristotle to metaphysical questions. There is, however, a certain difference in the way of approaching things. Aristotle emphasized being as being, without always sufficiently asking whether the things whose existence he asserted are really knowable. We, on the contrary, mainly through the influence of Descartes, rather ask what are the things we know, and there-fore, some more and some less, come to connect ontology with epistemology, and in consequence come to treat metaphysics in relation to psychology and logic, from which epistemology is an offshoot. To this pressing question then—What is the world as we know it?—three kinds of definite answers are returned: those of materialism, idealism and realism, according to the emphasis laid by metaphysicians on body, on mind, or on both. Meta-physical materialism is the view that everything known is body or matter; but while according to ancient materialists soul is only another body, according to modern materialists mind with-out soul is only an attribute or function of body. Metaphysical idealism is the view that everything known is mind, or some mental state or other, which some idealists suppose to require a substantial soul, others not; while all agree that 'body has no different being apart from mind. Metaphysical realism is the intermediate view that everything known is either body or soul, neither of which alone exhaust's the universe of being. Aristotle, the founder of metaphysics as a distinct science, was also the founder of metaphysical realism, and still remains its main authority. His view was that all things are substances, in the sense of distinct individuals, each of which has a being of its I The article is supplemented by e.g. IDEALISM; PRAGMATISM; RELATIVITY OF KNOWLEDGE, while separate discussions of ancient and medieval philosophers will be found in biographical articles and articles on the chief philosophical schools, e.g. SCHOLASTICISM;
End of Article: METAPHYSICS, or METAPHYSIC (from Gr. /sera, after, d v med, things of nature, lots, i.e. the natural universe)
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