Metaphysics (Greek – μετὰ τὰ φυσικά – what after physics) is the philosophical doctrine of the over-curious principles and laws of being in general or of some type of being. In the history
of philosophy, the word “metaphysics” was often used as a synonym for philosophy. Close to him the concept
of “ontology.” The term “metaphysics” was introduced by Andronicus of Rhodes, the systematizer of the works of Aristotle
(1st century BC), who named the group of his treatises on “being in itself”. The conditional name of the work later gives the name to the subject of his study, which Aristotle himself defined as the “first philosophy”, whose task is to study “first principles and causes” (Met 982 b 5-10), or as a science
of the divine, “theology” ( 1026 and 19). However, metaphysics as a method of philosophical thinking arises long before Aristotle, in fact coinciding with the first steps of philosophy.
For the early Greek thinkers, “philosophy” and “wisdom” were the syncretic contemplation of the true picture of the cosmos, and therefore the actual philosophical method of the investigation did not differ from the scientific method (from θεωρία – “theory”). At the same time, a distinction is made between the “Ionian” and “Italian” styles of philosophizing: between the approaches of “physiologists” -natural philosophers and “theologians” who have sought supernatural being. Reflection on the method, criticism of “physics” by the Sophists and Socrates lead to an awareness of the necessary delimitation of the natural philosophical and philosophical attitudes of knowledge proper. In Plato, metaphysics can already be found as a specially grounded method. Without taking formal formalization of “wisdom” into various sciences, Plato nevertheless gives a series of dialogues of a description of the higher type of knowledge, which goes back from empirical reality to incorporeal essences along the hierarchical “ladder” of concepts and descends back to the sensory world, while acquiring the ability to see true being and to find unity in every set, and in every unity – set (Plato called this method “dialectic”). Thus, Plato has already outlined the range of specific problems of metaphysics. Aristotle built a classification of sciences, in which the science of being as such, the first principles and causes of all that exists, the “first philosophy” occupies the first place in value and value. In contrast to the “second philosophy”, that is, “physics”, the “first philosophy”, considers existence, regardless of the concrete connection of matter and form, from the movement of the formed matter. Not connected with the subjectivity of man (as a science “poetic”), nor with human activity (as a science “practical”), metaphysics, according to Aristotle, is the most valuable of sciences, existing not as a means, but as the goal of human life and the source of higher enjoyment.
Ancient metaphysics was a model of metaphysics in general, but throughout the history of Western European philosophy, both the assessment of metaphysical knowledge and the position of metaphysics in the system of philosophical sciences and the horizon of the worldview of a particular epoch changed significantly. Medieval philosophy recognizes metaphysics as the highest form of rational knowledge of being but subordinated to the supramental knowledge given in Revelation. Scholasticism believed that metaphysics is accessible to the knowledge of God, carried out by analogy with the higher births of existence (good, truth, etc.). This narrowing of the range of permissible problems and possible results of metaphysics made it possible at the same time to give an in-depth treatment of certain questions touched on in ancient metaphysics only in general terms (e.g., the relation between freedom and necessity, the nature of general concepts, etc.). Medieval metaphysics, which reached its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries, significantly enriched the conceptual and terminological vocabulary of philosophy.
The metaphysics of modern times has come out of the boundaries delineated by theology, and, having passed through the stage of the pantheistic natural philosophy of the Renaissance, returns to itself “nature” as an object of autonomous research. But in place of the authority of theology comes science, no less powerfully subordinated to itself the method and direction of metaphysical knowledge. Metaphysics, having remained formally “the queen of sciences”, not only experiences the fusion of natural sciences, which reached outstanding successes in this period (especially in mechanics and mathematics) but also merges with them to some extent. The great philosophers of the 17th century – the heyday of the metaphysics of modern times – are, as a rule, great naturalists. The main feature of the new metaphysics is the focus on the issues of epistemology, which makes it primarily a metaphysics of cognition, and not a metaphysics of being (which it was in Antiquity and the Middle Ages). This is also true for the metaphysics of rationalism, which is closely connected with traditional ontology, and for the metaphysics of empiricism, which is sharply delimited with the deductive method of medieval scholasticism, leading, in the opinion of empiric critics, to hypostatization of concepts and dogmatic elevation to the status of being. The metaphysics of the 17th century, which was classically expressed in the systems of Descartes (the creator of a new type of substantiation of metaphysics through self-consciousness), Spinoza, Leibniz, is experiencing a crisis in the 18th century, due to the separation of positive sciences from it, the degeneration of metaphysics into dogmatic systematization (for example, in Wolff systems and Baumgarten), an active destructive criticism of metaphysics on the part of sensationalism, skepticism, mechanistic materialism and the Enlightenment. In this respect, the Berkeley system is most indicative, meeting the criteria of metaphysics to the greatest extent, but at the same time, with its teaching about the impossibility of being without perception, it undermined the foundations of traditional metaphysics, and Hume’s doctrine, which in fact carried out the self-destruction of metaphysics by criticizing the notions of self and causality. In German classical philosophy of the 18-19th centuries, a complex process of radical revision of the old metaphysics occurred, paradoxically connected with the restoration of metaphysics as a speculative picture of the world. A critical role in this process was played by Kant’s critical philosophy, which criticized not metaphysics as a science (its necessity and value he recognized, considering metaphysics the completion of the culture of the human mind), but the dogmatic metaphysics of the past. His task was to change the method of metaphysics and determine its sphere of application. Sharing reason and reason, Kant shows that the uncritical distribution of the activities of reason beyond the bounds of a possible experience generates errors of the old metaphysics. Kant offers a program for constructing metaphysics as a true system (that is, where each individual principle is either proven or as a hypothesis leads to the rest of the system’s principles as consequences). In his work “What real successes did metaphysics …” he points to “two strong points” around which metaphysics revolves: the doctrine of the ideality of space and time, pointing to the unknowable supersensible, and the doctrine of the reality of the concept of freedom, pointing to the cognizable supersensible. The foundation of both points, according to Kant, is “the concept of the mind of the unconditional in the totality of all conditions subordinate to each other.” The task of metaphysics is to free this concept from the illusions that have arisen from the confusion of phenomena and things in itself, and thus to avoid the antinomy of pure reason, to come out to the “supersensible.” True metaphysics, therefore, is possible only as a systematic knowledge, derived from pure and “purified” from the illusions of reason. However, Kant did not build such a system, confining himself to investigating contradictions in which the mind inevitably runs into, trying to synthesize a complete picture of the world. Kant introduced the division of metaphysics into the metaphysics of nature and the metaphysics of manners, interpreting the latter as a sphere where the contradictions of pure reason find practical solutions. He also clearly delineated metaphysics and natural science, pointing out that the subjects of these disciplines are completely different.
From Kantian ideas (in particular, his teachings on the creative role of the subject in cognition), Fichte and the early Schelling constructed a new version of metaphysics. Its most specific feature was the understanding of the absolute not as an unchanging super-reality (such as the setting of traditional metaphysics), but as a super-empirical story in which the process and result coincide. Having connected on the basis of the principle of historicism, thinking and being, metaphysics and science, reason and nature, they interpreted the dialectic of reason not as a theoretical impasse, but as a driving force for the development of knowledge: dialectics, which in Kant was only a signal of antinomy, becomes an inalienable property of true thinking and the mode of existence of reality itself.
Considering truth and being as a process, Hegel created a system in which truth appears as the progressive development of the mind and the contradiction as its necessary moment. He reinterpreted the Kantian distinction between reason and reason and made the latter the bearer of true knowledge, and dialectics the method of comprehending contradictions and developing concepts. The reason, according to Hegel, operating with finite single-valued definitions, is, although a necessary, but insufficient condition for cognition. The source of the errors of the metaphysical method he saw in the limitation of cognitive activity as the sphere of reason alone. Thus, Hegel first contrasted metaphysics and dialectics as two different methods. At the same time, he assessed his philosophy as a “true” metaphysics and traditionally understood it as a “science of sciences”. “Man,” writes Hegel in § 98 of “Minor Logic,” as a thinking being is an innate metaphysician.
What is important, therefore, is only whether the metaphysics that is being used is real, namely: do not the logical ideas of one-sided, reason-based definitions of thought adhere to… “Unlike” bad “metaphysics, true metaphysics, according to Hegel, there is a thinking that comprehends the unity of definitions in their opposites (Hegel denotes such thinking by a series of synonymous terms: “speculative”, “positively intelligent”, “mystical”), whereas reasoning comprehends definitions in “separateness and opposition “. A special position concerning metaphysics is occupied by the late Schelling, whose “positive” philosophy was dissociated from German transcendentalism as from the “negative” construction of ideal schemes. True metaphysics must, according to Schelling, turn to a positive reality, given, on the one hand, in Revelation, on the other hand, in existential experience.
Philosophy of the 19th century is characterized by a negative attitude towards metaphysics in general and its Hegelian version in particular: criticism of metaphysics is one of its dominant motives. Attempts to revive the pre-Kantian metaphysics do not go beyond professional experiments, although in some cases (Herbart, Lotze, Teichmuller, Brentano) are in demand in the 20th-century phenomenology and other currents. During this period the concept of “metaphysics” acquires a steadily negative coloration, like the concept of “scholasticism”. Already the first results of a critical reaction to Hegel’s philosophy showed the main directions of the antimetaphysics of the 19th century: such were the voluntarism of Schopenhauer (later developed by the “philosophy of life”), Kierkegaard’s religious irrationalism, Feuerbach’s anthropologism, positivism, Marxism. They join the formed in the second half of the 19th century Nietzsche’s vitalism, pragmatism and scientistic versions of Neo-Kantianism. Despite the difference in positions from which criticism was conducted, the general conclusion was that metaphysics was a barren design of the mind that did not go to the reality of nature and the individual. One can find a commonality in the positive programs of these currents; they oppose metaphysics to one or another type of empirical reality (psychological, social, pragmatic), or practical activity, to which traditional ontological and axiological universals are reduced. Often, not the new methods, but the vulgarization of the old (for example, “dialectic”, that is, the bad scholasticism of Marxism) are an alternative to metaphysics. This spectacular worldview revolt against metaphysics was, in fact, part of the general cultural crisis of classical rationalism and humanism.
In the philosophy of the early 20th century, complex processes (prepared by the last decades of the 19th century) take place, which leads to a partial rehabilitation of classical metaphysics, and to the search for new nonclassical forms of metaphysics. Neo-Hegelianism, Neo-Kantianism, Neo-Thomism, Neo-Romanticism, Neo-Realism, the most “neo” setting for a return to the roots, restored and adapted the fundamental schemes of metaphysical thinking that proved more adequate in a crisis for Europe than the optimistic positivism of the 19th century. But the need for metaphysics as support for thinking and moral choice led to new, nonclassical models. Often, however, the new metaphysics grew out of antimetaphysical currents to the extent that they – consciously or not – carried out their self-justification: such as, for example, the evolution of neo-positivism, Nietzscheanism, Freudianism. Similarly, the philosophy of life developed in the early 20th century, which, in the treatment of Bergson, went beyond the limits of vitalism, acquiring a dimension of spiritualism and even reproducing the neo-platonic intuitions; in the interpretation of Dilthey – discovered the crisis of psychology and the need for an ontology of understanding historical phenomena; in the treatment of Spengler – claimed the primary reality of the forms of culture. The various receptions of Nietzsche at this time also show the predisposition of minds to a new reading of classical metaphysics (for example, Nietzscheanism of philosophical symbolism), the same can be said about the Jungian revision of Freudianism.
The metaphysical justification becomes relevant for the philosophy of religion. The “second wind” of neo-Thomism, Bart’s “dialectical theology” of Protestantism, the search for the philosophical foundations of Orthodoxy by Russian intellectuals-in all these processes metaphysics helps to overcome anthropocentrism of the 19th century.
The philosophy of culture, finally formed in the twentieth century (Spengler, Simmel, Toynbee, Cassirer, Ortega-i-Gaset, Collingwood) tend to understand the “first principles” as overtly prototypes of historically unfolding cultural creativity and in In a number of versions it is possible that these paradigms are connected by a myth-like “through story”. Symptomatic is the apologia of metaphysics, undertaken by Collingwood, with his project of “metaphysics without ontology”, which must seek “absolute preconditions”, forming a cultural and cognitive experience.
Vitalist and religious trends by the middle of the 20th century give the mature fruit of a new metaphysics, most often at the intersections with the philosophies of language, science and culture. Such is religious existentialism (Jaspers, Marcel,), the philosophy of dialogue and intersubjectivity (Buber, Levinas, Apel), hermeneutics (Gadamer, Riker, Heidegger). These areas are characterized by the search for the beginnings of metaphysics, not in the sphere of objectivity of impersonal substances, but in the intersubjective measurement of interpersonal communications that do not lend themselves to universal information. The acute interest of the representatives of these currents to Kierkegaard, the pioneer of the theme of the metaphysical primacy of the “finite” being, is indicative.
The traditional reliance on Christian Platonism, interest in the systems of Hegel and Schelling, the urge for ultimate substantiation of ethics and politics – all this made it natural that the turn to metaphysics, which was hard for the West. The philosophy of science, stimulated by the scientific revolution of the 20th century, comes to metaphysics in two ways: in the course of interpreting scientific discoveries and through an analysis of the methodology and language of science. The natural scientists themselves took an active part in the first process (for example, Plato’s influence on Heisenberg, Spinoza on Einstein, and eastern dialectics on Bohr are indicative); in the second, philosophers predominate. The most significant types of revision of metaphysics, genetically related to the problem of substantiating mathematics, are given by analytical philosophy and phenomenology. Husserl himself postulating the problem of phenomenology as describing the essences given in subjective experience, but not dissolving in it, departs from the psychologically colored positivism of the 19th century and assumes the transubjective status of essences and the similar status of modes of perception (characteristic of Husserl’s desire to call his teaching “archeology”, where “Archa” has an Aristotelian meaning, the name of one of his main works: “The First Philosophy”). Husserl does not stop and before the need to restore ontology as a philosophical science in this case: his doctrine of “regional ontology”, studying pure irreducible entities that generate independent regions of being (for example, ethics, science, religion) is far from naive objectivism of “school” metaphysics, but close to the versions of Plato and Kant. In the later works of Husserl (The Crisis of European Sciences), the axiological motive of metaphysics also sounds the defense of true rationalism from dogmatism and skepticism.
From the phenomenology such metaphysically valent teachings as Sheler’s anthropology, Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, indirectly – N.Gartman’s “new ontology”, are branching; the French branch gives the versions of Merlot-Ponty and Sartre. N.Gartman, relying on the theory of intentionality, but abandoning the phenomenological primacy of transcendental subjectivity, builds a “metaphysics of cognition”, oriented to “real” being, which brings this construction closer to the position of neo-realism (Whitehead). Hartmann criticizes the classical metaphysics for the logisation of being and recognizes as being a reality only an “effective” (whose hierarchical layers must be studied by metaphysics) having necessity, rejecting the validity of the ideal-possible. Scheler and Heidegger, separating Husserl’s attitude to the substantiation of science, not through abstract universals, but through revealing his structure of phenomena in correlation with the structure of the ego, nevertheless, carry out a far-reaching rethinking of the status of the ego and make one more step towards metaphysics. In Scheler’s axiology, the ultimate reason for the meaning of being is the category of “spirit” that generates man as a supernatural (but preserving the structure of natural emotionality) being. In the ontology of Heidegger, the metaphysics ontology is also present in the early version (the correlation of the existential structures of the I with the “Being”, not identical to any separate entity), and in the later (the correlation of thinking that allows Being to speak through itself, with an unobjectified “Event” the self of a person). Heidegger specifically considers the status of metaphysics (“Kant and the problem of metaphysics”, “What is metaphysics”, “Introduction to metaphysics”). The old metaphysics, from his point of view, led to the oblivion of being, the power of technology and nihilism because it interpreted being through empirical existence and made subjective thinking the only mediator between man and being; so a return to genuine thinking is also the end of metaphysics. In the later examples of the “existential phenomenology” of Merleau-Ponty, the metaphysical problems turn into a structural analysis of the world of everyday sensual (primarily perceptual) experience that plays the role of the “ontology of the sensuous world” (especially in works of art). The existentialist version of phenomenological metaphysics is given by Sartre (“Being and Nothingness”). As the primary factuality, he considers the consciousness, “emptiness” and “chance” which brings to the world “nothing” and almost synonymous to him “freedom” and “responsibility.” Sartre’s position, despite social radicalism, is often (as Heidegger noted) only an inverted form of traditional metaphysics.
The philosophy of language generates a metaphysics of language, in which, in turn, it is possible to identify several fundamental solutions to the problem of metaphysics. At the intersection with the philosophy of science is an analytical philosophy, for which the problem of metaphysics arose in connection with the analysis of natural language and its metaphysical implication. If in the early stages this trend was characterized by the desire to “expose” metaphysics as a linguistic illusion or deliberate sophistry (for example, Carnap: Overcoming metaphysics by logical analysis of language, 1931), then in the future the problems of metaphysics become an ordinary topic for analysts of different directions; the antimetaphysical argumentation of positivism and pragmatism, which led to destructive relativistic conclusions, is gradually being supplanted by trust in “common sense” and “realistic” component inherent in analytic philosophy still by the logicism of Frege, J. Moor and Russell. The specific version of Wittgenstein is specific: in the “Logico-philosophical treatise” one can find consistent criticism of metaphysics and recognition of only the status of activity for the logical clarification of thoughts (“Most of the proposals and questions of the philosopher are rooted in our misunderstanding of the logic of the language”), but in the light of Wittgenstein’s vital position and some of the ethical motives of his late work, his “thesis of silence” (that which is inexpressible, one must be silent) acquires the character of a metaphysical attitude.
Analysts ultimately find a compromise way to preserve the positive possibilities of metaphysics (first of all, this is the ability to limit the substantiation of theoretical knowledge) and avoid the concepts inherent in the old metaphysics of hypostatization: if we do not attribute “real” being to the linguistic structures, we can recognize their quasi-metaphysical status of ” “Within the accepted language. From the publication of the work of Strawson “Individuals. The experience of descriptive metaphysics “(1959) usually refers to the beginning of a moderate restoration of the traditional attitudes of metaphysics in the analytic tradition. Strawson’s “descriptive” metaphysics proves that without the metaphysical assumptions of the existence of “bodies”, “personalities” and the space-time framework of their being, it is impossible to identify either single objects or states of consciousness. “Restorative” metaphysics shows how to improve and extend the use of language. A similar position to metaphysics is taken by Quine, who opposed such antimetaphysical “antidotes”, as methods of verification and falsification, the doctrine of the theory evaluation only as a complete system of sentences. Since the theory, in accordance with its principle of “ontological relativity,” can only be considered in the language of another theory, this open-ended process of interpreting theoretical languages can not be reduced to an absolute criterion, and therefore it is impossible and not necessary to break the linguistic schemes that generate the metaphysical picture of the world. Philosophy in this respect is only quantitative – regarding abstraction – it differs from the natural sciences. Although Quine calls himself, like Strawson, a “naturalist”, there are enough metaphysical elements in the presented position.
The evolution of structuralism, which replaced the substantiation of metaphysics by the analysis of impersonal structures that mediate nature, collective and individual consciousness, and also postulated the non-alternative nature of the method of natural sciences, even in traditionally humanitarian spheres, where it was supposed to study objective symbolic structures, based on linguistics and anthropology, was also characteristic. From Levi-Strauss, the study of signs does not require the study of their referents, and therefore the metaphysical problems in science are irrelevant. But the logic of scientific research (especially studying the structure of myths), on the contrary, led to the ultimate expansion of the spiritual and semantic component, and late Levi-Strauss throws the phrase about the “uninvited guest” on structuralist discussions, about the human spirit.
The relationship between metaphysics and poststructuralism is even more significant (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Guattari, Baudrillard, Lyotard). His struggle against the “logocentrism” of classical metaphysics is reminiscent of anti-Hegelianism of the 1840s. Authoritative thinkers (Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Heidegger) are subversive metaphysics. Poststructuralism declares metaphysics a “war without rules” because the rules already impose a metaphysical position. The world for poststructuralism is text, with the “deconstruction” of which the disappearance of references is revealed. But at the same time, the manifest principles in their own way require a more rigid metaphysics than the classical, with its softening distance between subjective arbitrariness and being. Highlighting the “lusting person” as a substratum of subjective activity and as an explanatory-exposing principle, the departure from structuralist scientism for the analysis of meaningful spirituality, the identification in any sign system of power symbols-all this entails resuscitation of the old voluntaristic metaphysics of Schopenhauer’s refined experience of avant-garde actions against “bourgeois culture”.
In general, the philosophy of the 20th century is characterized by a growing attraction to metaphysics, but the range of positions – from the mild recognition of the benefits that metaphysics brings, generalizing cultural phenomena and building a picture of the world, to a radical break with tradition while preserving the supertask of the metaphysical justification of experience – a clear characteristic.