Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Aug 30, 2012 - Philosophy - 113 pages
Metaphysics is one of the traditional four main branches of philosophy, alongside ethics, logic and epistemology. It is also an area that continues to attract and hold a fascination for many people yet it is associated with being complex and abstract. For some it is associated with the mystical or religious. For others it is known through the metaphysical poets who talk of love and spirituality. This Very Short Introduction goes right to the heart of the matter, getting to the basic and most important questions of metaphysical thought in order to understand the theory: What are objects? Do colours and shapes have some form of existence? What is it for one thing to cause another rather than just being associated with it? What is possible? Does time pass? By using these questions to initiate thought about the basic issues around substance, properties, changes, causes, possibilities, time, personal identity, nothingness and emergentism, Stephen Mumford provides a clear and simple path through this analytical tradition at the core of philosophical thought. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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User Review  - MarcusBastos - LibraryThing

Is there any value in thinking about the world and its arrangements? Does one should inquire about questions that aren't scrutinized by observation? This short book tries to answer these questions and ... Read full review

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Metaphysics is one of the main branches of Philosophy. Unfortunately, unlike logic, epistemology, or ethics, over the years it has gotten a very distorted perception in the popular culture. If you walk into any large bookstore (or browse an online catalogue), and go into the section labeled “Metaphysics,” you are most likely to come across titles dealing with some aspect of the New Age spirituality, religion, or mysticism. However, the proper domain of Metaphysics is the exploration of “first things:” ideas and concepts that go beyond most of our other ideas about the nature of reality. These ideas include the concepts of objects, time, causality, personhood, etc.
This very short introduction tries to provide the reader with the taste of attempts to answer the questions about the above concepts. The chapters include: “What is a table?”, “What is a cause?” “How does time pass?”, “What is a person?”, and, of course, “What is Metaphysics?” To most of us these questions seem trivial, frivolous even. They seem to require answers to things that are beyond being obvious. Yet, even a simple examination of these questions reveals a lot about our understanding of the world that we take for granted, and to give a proper answer to them is anything but trivial. You can view these considerations as either a sophisticated intellectual exercise, or as something that indeed gets us to understand the World on a very fundamental level. Or, as it is with me, a little bit of both.
Like all of the Philosophy books in this Very Short Introduction series, this one is immensely well written and interesting. They open up a vista to a very fascinating intellectual world. They may not turn you into an armchair philosopher, but they will give you a direction if you choose to pursue such a vocation.


What is an introduction?
1 What is a table?
2 What is a circle?
3 Are wholes just sums of parts?
4 What is a change?
5 What is a cause?
6 How does time pass?
7 What is a person?
8 What is possible?
9 Is nothing something?
10 What is metaphysics?
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About the author (2012)

Stephen Mumford is Professor of Metaphysics at the Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham. He is also Head of the School of Humanities and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He has written many papers and books in metaphysics, including a number of more popular works intended for a non-specialist audience including articles in Times Higher Education magazine, encyclopaedias, and magazines. His most famous book is Dispositions (Oxford, 1998) but he also authored Laws in Nature (Routledge, 2004), Getting Causes from Powers (with Rani Lill Anjum, Oxford, 2011) and Watching Sport: Aesthetics, Ethics and Emotions (Routledge, 2011). He is a frequent public speaker at both academic conferences and more popular events and has delivered talks in around 30 countries.

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