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WITAM PAŃSTWA NA MOJEJ STRONIE AUTORSKIEJ

      PIOTR JAROSZYŃSKI  

"Sic vive cum hominibus, tamquam deus videat; sic loquere cum deo, tamquam homines audiat" Seneka

Piotr Jaroszynski 

Metaphysics or ontology?  

Polskie Towarzystwo Tomasza z Akwinu 

Lublin 2011  
 

Summary

Metaphysics or ontology? Answering this question is crucial for an understanding of Western philosophy. The question is an occasion to examine how the subject of metaphysics has been judged and developed within different currents of philosophy. Why does the question elicit diverse answers? Why have some schools of thought judged that the very name of metaphysics is inadequate? Metaphysics generates a host of controversies. Besides determining just what is the the object of metaphysics, the philosopher must confront other key questions:
(1) What about the origin and significance of the name "metaphysics''?
(2) What does it mean to say that metaphysics studies being as being.
(3) How does the intellect understand an object as object? (4) How does the intellect grasp being as a notion? While philosophers have divergent answers to these questions, the history of philosophy reveals that they regard them as important. Their attention to these questions shows that the history of philosophy manifests certain stages toward distinguishing metaphysics from ontology.

Expressis verbis the problem of a difference between metaphysics and ontology did not exist either in ancient times or in the Middle Ages. It could not exist up to the first half of the first century bc, because both names were missing. While the name "metaphysics" appeared in the first century bc, the term "ontology" was not invented until the seventeenth century. Curiously, once the names became established in philosophical discourse, they were, as a rule, used interchangeably or complementarity, rather than in an opposing manner. Only in the twentieth century debates about philosophy were held with reference to those names as expressing different approaches to the object of philosophy, or even with appreciating ontology as the most important area of philosophy, and penalizing metaphysics by modifying, deconstructing, or erasing it from history.

This controversy has virtually passed from the scene, for metaphysics has been dismissed, by various philosophical approaches, as obsolete; when considered at all, it is for the purpose of subjecting it to negative criticism. Is it not strange that metaphysics, once anointed as "the Queen of the Sciences," would have fallen so far out of favor that she rarely appears in curricula at the vast majority of universities, including Catholic universities and seminaries? This neglect exists in spite of the fact that Pope John Paul II, in his famous encyclical Fides et ratio, strongly emphasized the importance of metaphysics for the Christian culture and argued that theology would be impoverished, if not impossible, without it. Certainly, his intention was not to promote metaphysics institutionally. Instead his aim was to support theology which depends on philosophy in order to interpret Revelation in accordance with truth. What profit can come from philosophy if it be cut off from reality? Theologians depend on philosophy whether they realize it or not. How can the theologian assess the value of philosophy which he uses unconsciously (Fides et ratio, 77)? Sometimes specifying these disciplines an problems becomes entangled in cultural circumstances. University officials and government bureaucrats have been known to adjudicate these subjects in the name of prevailing intellectual fashions. If there is a consensus that ontology should replace metaphysics, sometimes metaphysics is marginalized, or eliminated, by administrative fiat. The status of philosophy at a university can be decided by internal faculty and staff; on the other hand, far too often, it is decided by the interference of external officials. This influence (or meddling) can actually alter the nature of philosophical curricula. In their intention to standardize curricula, ministers of education often alter language in such a way as to alter and reconstitute the subject matter of philosophical education itself. A case in point is when administrators ignore the distinction between metaphysics and ontology. What is worse, they sometimes, by administrative decree, simply replace metaphysics with ontology. Such an outcome occurred at John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) where, after faculty objected to substituting in the curriculum the designation "the lecture of metaphysics" with "the lecture of ontology", a compromise was established: "the lecture of metaphysics/ontology".

While modern and contemporary debates about metaphysics have been rich in analysis and linguistic distinctions, it has not engaged the foundational questions of metaphysics. Getting to the heart of the matter requires keen historical investigation. An intensive and comprehensive awareness of the scope of philosophical knowledge, by authors ranging from ancient and medieval transmitters to mainstream modern thinkers is necessary for an assessment of the possibility, nature, and importance of metaphysics. Of course, there is reluctance to take up this research, for modern and contemporary philosophers manifest an aversion for the past, especially for the Middle Ages. That aversion, which was rooted in the Reformation that launched such slogans as "Middle Ages - the Dark Ages" or "medieval philosophy - the handmaid of theology", was adopted by new dominant trends which were not so much religious as ideological in their nature. No wonder then that ideologies of the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Revolution of 1968 (which all were variations of socialism), while discrediting Christianity, also discredited philosophy in its classical sense in order to abolish rational and realistic philosophy, and promote naked postmodernism.

Through the mediation of whom then did the luminaries of modern and contemporary philosophy shape their image of ancient and medieval philosophy? It turns out that neither Descartes, nor Kant, nor Hegel, nor Husserl, nor Heidegger successfully broke with the past in order to start over. Truth be known, each of these philosophers leaned on a master who bridged the past for his student. This he did by giving a vision of the Greek and medieval philosophy. For modern philosophy such a bridge was engineered by Francisco Suarez, whose work Disputationes metaphysicae was a basic manual for classical secondary schools and universities, both Catholic and Protestant. It is through Suarez that modern philosophers learned about the most important philosophers of the past. Another author, whose impact was narrower than that of Suarez, but who was still significant, was Christian Wolff. He manufactured a crystalline image of Scholastic philosophy so as to expose it to criticism and rejection. As is well known Immanuel Kant relished that criticism and rejection. While Wolff was not as popular as Suarez, Kant managed to promulgate Wolff's philosophy as significant. Along with inflating the reputation of Wolff, he also transmitted Wolff's distorted image of scholasticism. Finally, among the most significant figures of the twentieth century was Franz Brentano. It is difficult to exaggerate his influence. As a bridge-builder, he brought back some ideas from ancient and medieval philosophy which inspired a development of new philosophical trends and systems, especially in phenomenology.

What did Suarez, Wolff, and Brentano have in common? They shared a similar perspective on scholasticism, as they looked through the prism of the philosophy of Duns Scotus. Through Suarez, Wolff, and Brentano, Scotism widely affected contemporary philosophy, although its representatives rarely seem to be aware of it. For they do not know that what is called "Scholasticism" is just a variation of Scotism, even when such Scholasticism is matched with Thomism. The situation then is unusual. Although the modern and contemporary philosophers declaratively want to distance themselves from the past, especially from Scholasticism, they still remain stuck in it, or rather in one of its currents, the current generated by John Duns Scotus.

Metaphysics or ontology then? Answers to this question emerge from the controversies which exist not on the level of names, but centers on their meanings, and which involves such disputes as that between Aristotle and Plato in antiquity, between Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus in the Middle Ages, and in modern times between idealism and realism, where the latter is represented by Etienne Gilson on behalf of the history of philosophy, and by Lublin Philosophy School created by Mieczyslaw Albert Krapiec.

What future controversies surround metaphysics and ontology? The answer depends on whether parties to the dispute will be open to knowledge about ancient and medieval philosophy on strictly theoretical, and not merely practical, technical, or theological, groundsl. Secondly, there is a burning need of advancing their knowledge not in terms of novelty and originality, but in terms of assessing the progression or regression of earlier and later philosophers. In other words, how does a philosopher relate to his or her predecessors? The historiosophy of philosophy in Hegel's thought attempts to answer this question. In Hegel's account, the past is automatically assimilated into and overcome by the present. Sometimes this gives Hegel license to interpret the past in unacceptable ways. For instance, consider his synopsis of the the career of Francis Bacon. As a teenager Bacon supposedly studied philosophy for two years with an annual break due to his ill health.And yet, Hegel's claim that, even by this time, Bacon self-consciously envisioned undermining the philosophy of Aristotle, belongs to philosophical myths which allow for creating modernist geniuses unencumbered by the idols of the past.

There is no automatism in the development of philosophy - philosophy can fade until its complete necrosis. Take Postmodernism as a case in point: is it not the death of philosophy? No, because it is no philosophy at all!. It is merely an ideology, artificially propagated in the media and universities under the aegis of political correctness. This ideology is not capable of engaging in dialogue, because it rejects any possibility of the rational cognition of reality, which is the common point of reference for those who seek the truth. Missing reality makes every dialogue become a multiplexed monologue that loses any cognitive function. So, how is classical philosophy to be defended? In the usual way which has been followed for centuries, i.e. by studying, discussing, writing, and delivering lectures. This is the way of practicing philosophy in its classical sense. The Hegelian spirit of time becomes ineffective, if man, consciously and courageously recognizing the role of philosophy in the Western civilization, does not surrender to the pressure of fashion or administrative regulation. This philosophy lives, if only one philosopher makes an effort to practice metaphysics.

And this is no small thing. The dispute over the place of metaphysics in the philosophical culture of the West has a special significance, because its results are responsible for shaping the vision of reality which includes what belongs to the transcendent, what is called God by religion, and also what pertains to the immanent, especially to society where man can develop and share with others common cultural principles and goals. Ultimately, it is the place of metaphysics to identify such principles and objectives, and to explain how they are grounded in reality. Nothing but classical metaphysics can explore reality as reality. No other disciplines can do the same, neither modern science which can examine reality only under a chosen aspect, nor ontology which investigates concepts and mere possibilities. The work of metaphysics can be done only by metaphysics, and on that account it is an irreplaceable treasure in western civilization.

The aim of this book is not to announce a winner in the rivalry between metaphysics and ontology. The idea is to show the philosophical context in which the dispute has been conducted. Now the author can only hope that his study will shed light on nagging contentious points in the on-going debate about metaphysics. Moreover, the author hopes that his narration and assessment will invite other interested parties to take up their own detailed examination of the issues. If that happens, it will be a boon to the culture, because the dispute about metaphysics and ontology is bound to continue.
Transl. P. Tarasiewicz, Curtis Hancock

Table of Contents

Publisher's word.................................................................................... 5
Preface..................................................................................................11
Part I The beginning of metaphysics.........................................................15
Chapter 1  From σοφία [sophia] to φιλοσοφία [philosophia] ........................17
Chapter 2  From philosophy to τα μετά τά φυσικά [ta meta ta physika] .......29
Chapter 3  FromTa μετά τά φυσικά [ta meta ta physika] to metaphysics ... 45
Chapter 4 The autonomy of metaphysics .................................................69
Chapter 5  Ontology in The Middle Ages?.................................................73
Summary.............................................................................................. 87
Part II The beginning of ontology..............................................................89
Chapter 1  Descartes and Malebranche: back to Augustinianisms..............91
Chapter 2   British philosophy: the marginalization of metaphysics.............97
Chapter 3   Fathers of ontology: from Lorhard to Clauberg..........................105
Chapter 4  Ontology prior to metaphysics: from Wolff to Kant.....................115
Chapter 5  Logic as ontology: Hegel....................................................... 129
Chapter 6  The apotheosis of mathematics: Bolzano, Frege, Meinong.........133
Chapter 7 Phenomenology beyond metaphysics:  Husserl, Ingarden,
Heidegger..............................................................................................143
Chapter 8  Metaphysics as ontology: Hartmann........................................167
Chapter 9  Analytic philosophy: the metaphysics of conceptual schemes ...175
Chapter 10 Metaphysics or process ontology?..........................................187
Chapter 11 Negative ontology: Adorno .......................................................189
Chapter 12 Postmodernism: the end of metaphysics or the end of ontology? .. 199 Summary.............................................................................................. 207
Part III Metaphysics or ontology? Controversial points................................209
Chapter 1   Being or the notion of being?..................................................211
Chapter 2  Real being or Possible being?............................................... 235
Chapter 3  Existence: act or modus?..................................................... 257
Chapter 4  Essence instead of being...................................................... 291
Chapter 5  Ontology: irreal reality............................................................331
Chapter 6  Ontology versus object...........................................................345
Chapter 7  Intentionality: beyond reality...................................................375
Chapter 8  Ontology versus subject.........................................................389
Chapter 9  Ontology versus system....................................................... 403
Chapter 10 Univocity or analogy?.......................................................... 441
Chapter 11 Metaphysics, ontology, ontotheology?.................................. 459
Conclusion...........................................................................................465
Summary.............................................................................................. 471
Index of names...................................................................................... 477
Index of subjects................................................................................... 487
 

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