About the Book
Metaphysics as a branch of philosophyMetaphysics is the Greek term which, in simple terms, it means, 'the things after the physics' (from Aristotle's works META TA PHYSICA = that branch of philosophy which studies the most general categories and concepts which are presupposed in descriptions of ourselves and the world. Examples are causality, substance, ontology, time, and reality. Metaphysical questions have a very broad scope. Whereas the physical scientist might ask 'How does x cause y?' the metaphysician asks 'What does it mean for anything to cause anything else?' Whereas the chemist might investigate particular substances, the metaphysician asks what it means to be a substance, and whether there is one basic substance, or many. Metaphysical questions can become the subject of more specialised philosophical inquiry. We can ask whether our actions are subject to causality, which gives rise to the problem of free will, and the question of whether our mental experiences involve a separate substance from body is a major issue in the philosophy of mind. Although metaphysics dates back to the ancient Greeks, there have been occasions on which its status as a legitimate inquiry have been questioned. The rise of science in the 17th century led to attempts by philosophers such as Hume and Locke to limit the claims of metaphysics, and earlier in the last century scientifically minded philosophers such as the logical positivists claimed that metaphysical assertions were meaningless. SECTION 2: RELATED SUBJECTSAl-Farabi (c.873-950), Islamic philosopherHe commented on the logical works of Aristotle and the political works of Plato, combining ideas from both in his principal work, The Ideal City. This hierarchical society would be headed by a philosopher-prophet, from whom lower ranks would derive their authority. The same structure is evident in his metaphysics, in which all levels of intelligence and life emanate necessarily from the One, or God, and in his ranking of kinds of knowledge. Philosophical knowledge, acquired through logic, is the highest exercise of reason, but religious knowledge, which dresses itself in symbols accessible to the imagination of lesser thinkers, also has its place.Analytic philosophy This is a broad movement in 20th-century philosophy, influential chiefly in Austria, the UK, and the USA, which regards central philosophical problems as primarily demanding clarification or analysis of such notions as meaning, truth, and necessity. Although analytical philosophy is a loosely unified tradition, rather than a specific doctrine, there has been broad agreement on some specific matters. First, philosophy is a distinctive kind of enquiry, which employs methods different from those of the natural or social sciences; additionally, unlike, for instance, biology or economics, it is not addressed to any distinctive realm of facts.Philosophy does not seek to construct theories which build upon or add to our knowledge of the world, but to clarify the knowledge and beliefs we already have. Secondly, this clarification is to be achieved by analysis of the language in which our non-philosophical, common-sense, or scientific knowledge is expressed. This framework leaves ample room for internal divisions. There is, for instance, disagreement between Russell's view that this kind of clarification will yield answers to the traditional questions of metaphysics and epistemology, and Wittgenstein's contention that such questions are the products of confusions which the careful analysis of language will enable us to avoid. A related dispute concerns whether philosophical analysis can itself be conducted in a systematic way, using the tools and techniques of mathematical logic, as the logical positivists held, or whether resolution of philosophical problems demands piecemeal attention to specific areas of ordinary language.