Tag Archives: metaphysics

Robert Nozick

One might hold that nothingness as a natural state is derivative from a very powerful force toward nothingness, one any other forces have to overcome. Imagine this force as a vacuum force, sucking things into nonexistence or keeping them there. If this force acts upon itself, it sucks nothingness into nothingness, producing something or, perhaps, everything, every possibility.

Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1981, p. 123

Quentin Smith

The basic presupposition shared by Heidegger and other philosophers in the rational-metaphysical tradition from Plato and Aristotle onwards is that the central metaphysical question is a Why-question, and is about the reason or reasons that explain why everything is and is as it is. Metaphysicians from Plato to Hegel presupposed the most fundamental metaphysical truth to be the answer to this question, and metaphysicians from Schopenhauer onwards presupposed the most basic metaphysical truth to be the unanswerability of this question.

Quentin Smith, The Felt Meanings of the World: A Metaphysics of Feeling, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1986, p. 13

James Ladyman and Don Ross, with David Spurrett and John Collier

Of all the main historical positions in philosophy, the logical positivists and logical empiricists came closest to the insights we have urged. Over-reactions to their errors have led metaphysicians over the past few decades into widespread unscientific and even anti-scientific intellectual waters. We urge them to come back and rejoin the great epistemic enterprise of modern civilization.

James Ladyman and Don Ross, with David Spurrett and John Collier, Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, Oxford, 2007, p. 310

John Post

[I]f PSR [the principle of sufficient reason] is wrong and there are uncaused events, what happens to the imperative to seek causes? Should scientists and others now stop looking for them? Not at all. To seek causes does not commit us to believing there must always be a cause for us to find, no more than seeking gold commits us to supposing there will always be gold where we hope to find it. Often there will not be. On such occasions the better part of wisdom is to admit it and look elsewhere. Science does not presuppose PSR, even though science is an enterprise dedicated in large part to seeking causes.

John Post, Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction, New York, 1991, pp. 66-67

John Stuart Mill

If it were possible to blot entirely out the whole of German metaphysics, the whole of Christian theology, and the whole of the Roman and English systems of technical jurisprudence, and to direct all the minds that expand their faculties in these three pursuits to useful speculation or practice, there would be talent enough set at liberty to change the face of the world.

John Stuart Mill, ‘Diary’ (February 7, 1854), in The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Toronto, 1988, vol. 27, p. 652

Peter van Inwagen

Let us suppose, unrealistically, that IQ tests really measure intellectual ability. Let us in fact assume, even more unrealistically, that they measure the intellectual abilities that are relevant to success in metaphysics. Why should we suppose that a species with a mean IQ of 100—our own species—is able to solve the problems of metaphysics? Pretty clearly a species with a mean IQ of 60 wouldn’t be in a position to achieve this. Pretty clearly, a species with a mean IQ of 160 would be in a better position than we to achieve this. Why should we suppose that the “cut-off-point” is something like 90 or 95? Why shouldn’t it be 130 or 170 or 250? The conclusion of this meditation on mystery is that if metaphysics does indeed present us with mysteries that we are incapable of penetrating, this fact is not itself mysterious. It is just what we should expect, given that we are convinced that beings only slightly less intellectually capable than ourselves would certainly be incapable of penetrating these mysteries. If we cannot know why there is anything at all, or why there should be rational beings, or how thought and feeling are possible, or how our conviction that we have free will could possibly be true, why should that astonish us? What reason have we, what reason could we possibly have, for thinking that our intellectual abilities are equal to the task of answering these questions?

Peter van Inwagen, Metaphysics, Boulder, Colorado, 1993, p. 201

Henry Sidgwick

Many religious persons think that the highest reason for doing anything is that it is God’s Will: while to others ‘Self-realisation’ or ‘Self-development’, and to others, again, ‘Life according to nature’ appear the really ultimate ends. And it is not hard to understand why conceptions such as these are regarded as supplying deeper and more completely satisfying answers to the fundamental question of Ethics, than those before named: since they do not merely represent ‘what ought to be’, as such; they represent it in an apparently simple relation to what actually is. God, Nature, Self, are the fundamental facts of existence; the knowledge of what will accomplish God’s Will, what is, ‘according to Nature’, what will realise the true Self in each of us, would seem to solve the deepest problems of Metaphysics as well as of Ethics. But […] [t]he introduction of these notions into Ethics is liable to bring with it a fundamental confusion between “what is” and “what ought to be”, destructive of all clearness in ethical reasoning: and if this confusion is avoided, the strictly ethical import of such notions, when made explicit, appears always to lead us to one or other of the methods previously distinguished.

Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed., London, 1907, bk. 1, chap. 6, sect. 1