Metaphysics Essay, Research Paper


?All men by nature desire to know?(p.51). So does Aristotle begin The

Metaphysics, a book, or rather a collection of lectures. It is the book of the

greatest importance for an understanding of the philosophy of Aristotle, and has

had a tremendous influence on the European thought. The word Metaphysics

derives from the Greek meta ta physika (?after the things of nature?). In medieval

and modern philosophy metaphysics has also been taken to mean the study of

things transcending nature. ?That is, existing separately from nature and having

more intrinsic reality and value than the things of nature- giving meta a

philosophical meaning that it did not posses during the period of Classical

Greece?(p.153). This simply means that in ancient times the word metaphysics

only meant ?after physics?, but as time went on it took on a philosophical

meaning– things that go beyond mere physical attributes. The term has had a

religious and a spiritual connotation and refers generally to the field of philosophy

dealing with various things and their state of being. Metaphysic is thus, according

to Aristotle ? Wisdom par excellence? and the philosopher or lover of wisdom is

he who desires knowledge about the cause and nature of Reality. Thusly wisdom

deals with the principles and causes of things, that means it is an abstract science,

not dealing with the senses. ? Sense perception is common to all and therefore

easy and no mark on Wisdom? (p.169). But, though it is the most abstracted of

sciences, it is according to Aristotle the most exact of the sciences. Therefore

metaphysics deals with knowledge at the highest level of abstraction. It is the

study of the most basic element of motion. It is willing to look at the existence of

ourselves with a questioning eye. To Aristotle metaphysics was the study of

Being and its principles and causes.

There were a few people in the classical period that contributed to the

development metaphysics, among them were Parmenides, Plato and of course the

father of metaphysics, Aristotle. The history of metaphysics goes far back to the

sixth century BC. It starts with the Ionic cosmologists wondering about the

physical universe, the matter and substance of its make up, and the laws present in

nature. We first must begin with Promenades, since most of the concepts seen in

Aristotle?s writing are plainly visible in his writings. Parmenides believed that

there are principles, for example, noncontradiction and a principle of sufficient

reason, also, ?what necessity impelled it, if it did spring from Nothing, to be

produced later or earlier? Thus it must be absolutely, or nothing at all? (p.169).

Philosophy, was therefore conceived as a deductive science like mathematics for

instance. It is also a contradictory contrast between apparent reality and true

reality. Like the natural scientist, the metaphysician gives an account of the

universe; unlike the scientist, he does not base his account on observations and

experiments. His account is based primarily on ?analysis of concept; if he does

appeal to the evidence of the senses, he appeals to something that is familiar, not

to new evidence that he is adding to knowledge? (160). Parmenides believed that

typical characteristics of metaphysics were distinct philosophical inquiry. It is the

conception of philosophy which attempts to understand the universe by means of

logical investigation, appealing to meanings of terms rather those not base his

account on observations and experiments. It is the conception of philosophy

which attempts to understand the universe by means of logical investigation,

things we see and touch; moreover they are considered to be the source of

existence we see and touch, like ? a man is the cause of his shadow or of his

reflection in a mirror or in a pool of water?(p32).

One can discern metaphysics as an independent method in the works of Plato,

but should keep in mind that in early Greek thought ?Wisdom? was an

observation of the true picture of cosmos. This is why philosophical method did

not differ from the scientific method. In a score of his dialogues, Plato gave a

description of the highest sort of knowledge, rising from empirical reality to the

nonmaterial ideas following the hierarchical latter of concepts, and descending

back to the world of the senses. Plato?s metaphysics means the theory of Ideas,

which are present on Pheado, and have had a lot of influence in history of thought.

Plato argues ?for the existence of mind or soul as a kind of entity distinct from,

and in some sense prior to, physical objects? (34). This is evident in Pheado,

where the theory of Ideas can be used to prove the immortality of the soul. Plato

believed that bodies cannot move themselves whereas the soul can. Thales and

early Greek philosophers busied themselves with material cause, trying to

discover ultimate meaning of things, but others believed that there was more to

thought and life than material cause. Empedocles and Anaxagoras saw that no

material element can be the reason why objects manifest beauty and goodness, and

so came to the conclusion of the activity of the Mind.

In history of philosophy the term metaphysics was used as a synonym of

philosophy, and was introduced in the first century BC. by a man (Adronic of

Rodos) who systematized the works of Aristotle. Aristotle is the direct source of

what metaphysics is. He constructed a classification of the sciences in which the

first in meaning and value place was occupied by the science of ?being? as such.

Unlike the ?second philosophy? or physics the ?first philosophy? ( called

consequently metaphysics) considers being independently from concrete unity of

matter and form. It is not connected with the subjectivity of man nor with human

activity. He raised questions, which in short were whether or not ?metaphysics is

a superscience proving the assumptions made by the special sciences, and also the

assumptions it itself uses ?whether, in short , it is logically self contained body of

knowledge contrasting with the logically incomplete special sciences? (p.155).

Aristotle thought that metaphysics is less the capstone of a hierarchy of

sciences, than a discussion of problems left over by the special sciences. He

believed metaphysics to be a science which explains things as they were already

known to be true, rather than as giving reasons for the assumptions we make in

sciences and everyday life, thereby supporting the meaning of science and

common sense. For Aristotle the most vital question of metaphysics was the

concepts of being and unity. Questions such as ?Are being and unity properties of

things, or are they entities or substances of some kind?? ?If being and unity are

things in their own right, what kind of things are they?? (152-153) These

questions are brought up in Plato?s Parmenides and Sophist. Metaphysics

according to Aristotle was the most valuable of sciences, existing no as a purpose

of human life and the source of enjoyment. Aristotle?s analysis of being is the

prime theme in metaphysics, it is his account of the universe

He believed that there are large, but calculable number of things that for the

most part belong to classes, for example, plant and animal species. In most cases

the individual members of these classes are born and die, but the classes

themselves do not change. The main questions ?What is being?? and ?What is an

individual?? became the prime focus of Aristotle. A horse, a man, a house are

classified as such, and an individual, is this the distinguishing feature of his/hers

classification. Aristotle himself believed that these classification or labels were

earned through experiences, and thought that the groups and classes of things are

there to be studied by the act of observation. From the point of his logic, ?to be ?

meant for him something that could be accurately defined, and that could

therefore become the subject of discourse. ?To be?, as Aristotle saw, always

meant to be something. Hence all existence is individual and has a determined

nature. ? All categories Aristotle dealt with in his logical works, categories such

as quality, relation, posture, place, etc….. presuppose some subject to which these

predicates can apply? (p.171). The subject to which all the categories apply

Aristotle called substances. To be, then, is to be a particular kind of substance.

Also ?to be? means ?to be the substance as the product of a dynamic process.? In

this way, metaphysics is concerned with Being and its causes. Aristotle also takes

up the questions in metaphysics beyond those of physical nature, but moves into

the mind and the spirit.

Another part of metaphysics that must be analyzed is Aristotle?s thought on

theology. Aristotle tells about three kinds of substances, those that are sensible

and perishable, those that are sensible but not perishable, and those that are

neither sensible nor perishable. The first class includes plants and animals, the

second class includes the ?heavenly bodies? the third includes the rational soul in

man and also God. The main argument for God is the First cause: there must be

something which originates motion, and this something must itself be unmoved,

and eternal, substance and actuality. The object of desire and the object of

thought, Aristotle states, cause movement in this way with out themselves being

in motion, so God produces motion by being loved. God is a pure thought; for

thought is what is best. ? Life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is

life, and God is that actuality; and God God?s self dependent actuality is life most

good and eternal.? (75).

The conception of an unmoved mover (God) is a difficult one, but to

understand what Aristotle really means, one must understand his thought on the

four causes?material, formal, efficient, and final. ? Let us take again the man

who is making a statue. The material cause of the statue is the marble, the formal

cause is the essence of the statue to be produced, the efficient cause the contact of

the chisel with the marble and the final cause the end that the sculptor has in

view? (p.155). The unmoved mover may be regarded as the final cause; it

supplies a purpose for change, which is an evolution towards the likeness with

God. God exists eternal, as a pure thought, happiness and complete

self-fulfillment. Thus God is the final cause of all activity.

The Neoplatonists in the late classical period continued to investigate the

concept of metaphysics, and were of great importance in medieval philosophy

since they formed a link between medieval and ancient philosophy. The main

figure was Plotinus (c. 204-270), who combined metaphysics with mysticism.

The mystical and religious side of metaphysics became even more popular when

Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus and Proclus came into the picture, and gave a

more religious connotation to its meaning. Plotinus? philosophy begins with the

assumptions that being and unity are properties that things have. The Plotinus?

assumption is that properties are entities , ?the theory of categories or types of

predictions is a theory of kinds of predicates: genus, species, difference, property,

and accident? (p.155). These kind of predicates are distinguished from

individuals, and ?this account of predication makes a distinction between thing

and property peripheral to metaphysics? (p.154). Soon one witnesses that

Neoplatonism takes on a religious interpretation as we move to the middle ages.

Classical metaphysics was the standard of metaphysics in general. However

during the history of West European philosophy the evaluation of metaphysical

knowledge, as well as the place of metaphysics in philosophical changed. The

medieval theologists (scholastics), believed tha metaphysics can cognise God, and

this can be done by analogy. Medieval metaphysics was a detailed interpretation

of problems such as freedom, necessity, the nature of general concepts etc.., and

essentially this concept enriched the conceptual and terminological meaning of


In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, new ways of thinking in metaphysics were

being prepared as the works by Aristotle were translated from Greek into Latin.

The man who took the concept of metaphysics to the next level was St.Thomas

Aquinas. He attempted to explain the destinations between essence and existence,

necessary and contingent existence. For Aquinas common sense things like a

horse and houses do exist in a literal and straight forward sense apart from human

observation, and also apart from God. He believed that ordinary things we

experience are outside of nature, they fall into the hands of God, who exists by his

own nature, and God is immaterial, and hence is one and unchanging. Aquinas

believed that human beings exist in their own right, by virtue of a delegated


Well as one comes to conclusion, one must recap on the concept and the

origin of metaphysics. Metaphysics is a intricate branch of philosophy that tries to

analyze the nature of rarity. It literally means ?after the physics?, and so rightly

named because Aristotle?s book on the subject followed his physics, dealing with

nature of the ordinary world, which in Classical Greek is physike. The actual

definition of metaphysics is ? a division of philosophy that concerned with

fundamental nature of reality and being and includes ontology– study of what is

outside objective experience, cosmology and often epistemology? (Webster?s 94).

Through the years metaphysical theories fell into two kinds: that view everything

in nature as the result of Mind and those that view the Mind as the result of

mechanisms of Nature. One can understand metaphysics as a philosophically of

the world distinct from a scientific understanding. Metaphysics is a method

which is opposite to that of dialectics, it is the science of supersensible principles

and foundations of Being


Bertrand, Russle. A History of Western Philosophy. Simon and Schuster; New

York: 1945.

Coplescton, Fredrick. A History of Philosophy. Image Books; New York:


Durant,Will. The Story of Philosophy. Simon and Schuster; New York: 1926.

Hutchins, Robert. Great Books of the Western World. William Benton;

Chicago: 1952.

Magill, Frank. Masterpiece?s of Wold?s Philosophy. Harpers and Row; New

York: 1961.

Додати в блог або на сайт

Цей текст може містити помилки.

A Free essays | Essay
23.1кб. | download | скачати

Related works:
Discourse On Metaphysics
Descartes On Metaphysics
Macbeth And Metaphysics
© Усі права захищені
написати до нас