David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Metaphysics is usually understood as the investigation of being qua being and of its ultimate categories. Given this characterization, it may be hard to grasp why anyone might wish to oppose metaphysics, why anyone might claim that metaphysics ”leads the philosopher into complete darkness” (Wittgenstein, 1958, p.18)? What could be so misleading about the investigation of the most abstract vestiges of being? One source of disparagement towards metaphysics, of course, stems from the relativist conviction that there is no absolute being, and hence nor are there any ultimate categories of being. Another ‘reason’ for some philosophers of this century (notably Carnap) to reject metaphysics appeared to consist in their reinterpretation of the word ”metaphysics”, in effect, simply as ”nonsensical philosophy”. However neither of these reasons seems to be the Wittgensteinian one. The way I propose to envisage this reason takes us back to Plato with his distinction between Being and Becoming (echoed, in one or another form, within the conceptions of so many subsequent philosophers). It is the distinction between the ‘higher’ realm of ideas with its crisp, eternal truths, and the ‘lower’ realm of appearances in which anything appears only as a fuzzy and transient reflection of something from the higher realm. The original message harbored in this Platonistic picture is clearly that the vast and hardly graspable flux of appearances shelters something firm and invariable, something potentially fully capturable by human reason which can then use it as a prism to comprehend and understand the everchanging phenomena. However, as I will claim, the picture of a ‘higher’ reality behind phenomena is dangerous in that it can delude a philosopher into feeling that he can solve empirical questions by a quasiempirical investigation of a non-empirical realm: a ‘metaphysical reality’.
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