Metaphysics: The Key Issues from a Realistic Perspective
Metaphysics is the study of existence at the highest level of generality. It is traditionally characterized as the study of "being qua being"—of being in general rather than specifically of this or that sort. Accordingly, the salient task of the field is to achieve a clearer understanding of the concepts and principles of being, existence, and reality. As such, metaphysics has been an established sector of philosophy since the time of Aristotle’s initial systematization of the subject in the fourth century B.C.E.
In line with tradition, distinguished philosopher Nicholas Rescher presents key topics that have always figured on the agenda of metaphysics: the nature and rationale of existence, the differentiation of what is actual from the unreal and mere possibility, and the prospects and limits of our knowledge of the real.
A central theme of Rescher’s approach to metaphysics is the inherent complexity of actual existence and the consequent limitedness of our knowledge of the world. In the introduction, he states that the ideal of perfected knowledge—of a grasp on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—is just that, an inherently unrealizable ideal. Nonetheless, he emphasizes that partial understanding and approximate explanation are certainly better than no explanation at all. He thus rejects the nihilistic brand of skepticism, endorsing instead a fallibilism that is realistic in insisting that our efforts to understand reality will always remain imperfect and incomplete. It is in the spirit of being realistic in this sense of the term that his exploration of metaphysics is conducted.
Though a work of philosophical sophistication and logical rigor, Metaphysics displays a clarity of exposition that makes it suitable for use as a text or supplementary reader in upper-class undergraduate and graduate philosophy courses.
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ON REALITY AND REALISM
Is Man the Measure?
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