The myth of the metaphysical circle: An analysis of the contemporary crisis of the critique of metaphysics

Inquiry 51 (3):312 – 341 (2008)
Abstract
Examination of contemporary debates on metaphysics and its critique yields the conclusion that there is an overall tendency to defend an inextricable bond between them. According to the vast majority of participants in these debates, any reaction against metaphysics, however powerful or radical, is bound to remain trapped in the metaphysical tradition. The dominant view is that criticism either remains tied to or eventually returns to forms of metaphysics, if it does not in fact remain metaphysical in itself. This view confirms the persistence of a typical pattern, namely, that of a circular relationship between metaphysics and its critique. Conspicuous by its absence is the idea of a critique of metaphysics that is not caught up in this vicious metaphysical circle. Moreover, the alleged self-defeating and counterproductive character of critique has become so widely and uncritically accepted—even among opponents of metaphysics—that strong and well-founded objections to metaphysics have largely disappeared from philosophical discourse. Contrary to the conventional idea of a crisis of metaphysics, there appears to be a crisis of the critique of metaphysics. This paper attempts to turn the tide of this crisis. It demonstrates that the categorical assertion of a circular relationship between metaphysics and its critique cannot be logically justified. Furthermore, it presents three different forms of criticism that cannot be metaphysically recuperated. It therefore concludes that the wide acceptance of the idea of an inescapable metaphysical circle, instead of being inspired by sound and irrefutable arguments, is essentially based on a myth.
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