Now that metaphysics has been rehabilitated, Spinoza’s thought can help us overcome our last idol of delusion: humanism, the notion that humans are in some innate sense special and separate from the rest of nature.
What defined much of 20th-century philosophy was an attempt to overcome metaphysics and replace it with science. But those attempts failed. From the Logical Positivists and Wittgenstein to Derrida and Heidegger, metaphysics found its way back into the very theories that were trying to get rid of it. But even if metaphysics is inescapable, we cannot simply return to speculative theorizing about the ultimate nature of reality. Instead, we need to recognize that all theories have limits and are merely attempts to find better ways to navigate our way in the world, not to discover ‘the mind of God,’ argues Hilary Lawson.
Failure to acknowledge the role that presuppositions play in the pursuit of scientific knowledge grants natural science the privileged status of the science of pure being once enjoyed by rationalist metaphysics; it does not get rid of dogmatism, but merely replaces one kind of uncritical dogmatic realism with another, argues Dr. D’Oro
To criticize metaphysics is itself inevitably to rely on certain metaphysical claims, thereby making metaphysics impervious. Metaphysical ideas underpin all our thinking, argues Prof. Robert Stern.
In distancing himself from the Big Questions, such as the nature of reality and the meaning of life, Ludwig Wittgenstein ends up applying a generally-defined form of metaphysics as an antidote to unclear thinking.
It is second nature for human beings to look for ultimate truths and ground our lives on that search. But should we give up on ultimates altogether and, instead, live pragmatically on the basis of the best ‘literary story’ we can come up with? Dr. Danielsen Huckerby describes how philosopher Richard Rorty argued for just that.
The story of our falling for naive physical realism—the notion that we can become directly acquainted with non-mental entities, which are supposed to have standalone existence—in the early 20th century, and how modern thought is now bringing us back to more mature Idealism.
Jacques Derrida argued that finding some ‘uncontaminated’ presence of reality is impossible, for our experiences are determined by our mental contexts. Yet, perhaps far from refuting metaphysics, Derrida may actually make a case for the recognition that our reality isn’t just contaminated by the mental, but is mental.
Prof. Paul Redding highlights the recently rediscovered importance of German Idealism, particularly Hegel’s idealism, in articulating solutions to present-day problems.
University of Chicago’s Prof. Robert Pippin returns to Kant and Hegel to ask the question: is intelligibility a precondition for existence? Are our thought processes and their inherent capabilities and limitations fundamentally linked to what can or cannot exist in nature? He reviews German Idealism to ponder what it could mean for us today.