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Metaphysics - 3rd Edition [Paperback]

Peter van Inwagen

Price: 19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Aug 2008
This essential core text introduces readers to metaphysics. In thoughtful and engaging prose, Peter van Inwagen examines three profound questions: What are the most general features of the world? Why is there a world? And, what is the place of human beings in the world? The third edition includes an entirely new chapter on ontology. The new chapter presents a theory of the nature of being and proceeds to apply this theory to two problems of ontology: the problem of non-existent objects and the problem of universals. Equally valuable as a textbook in a university course or an introduction to metaphysical thinking for the interested layperson, Metaphysics remains a fascinating book for a wide range of readers, from first-time students to the most sophisticated philosophers. Contents 1. Introduction Part One: The Way the World Is 2. Individuality 3. Externality 4. Temporality 5. Objectivity Part Two: Why the World Is 6. Necessary Being: The Ontological Argument 7. Necessary Being: The Cosmological Argument Part Three: The Inhabitants of the World 8. What Rational Beings Are There? 9. The Place of Rational Beings in the World: Design and Purpose 10. The Nature of Rational Beings: Dualism and Physicalism 11. The Nature of Rational Beings: Dualism and Personal Identity 12. The Powers of Rational Beings: Freedom of the Will 13. Concluding Meditation 14. Coda: Being

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"An outstanding and outstandingly complete set of papers in metaphysics, selected by two of the foremost metaphysicians." Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

This extensively revised and expanded edition of van Inwagen and Zimmerman’s popular collection of classic and contemporary readings in metaphysics now features twenty–two additional selections, and new sections on existence and modality.

The volume poses questions that lead to the deepest issues in traditional metaphysics, including problems about the nature of space and time, the relationship between body and mind, and the freedom of the will. With updated commentary from the editors, this collection is essential reading for those seeking answers to some of the most puzzling questions about the world and our place in it. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introductory, but not basic... 13 Feb 2004
By ewomack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Metaphysics often plays the role of modern science's curmudgeonly grandfather. While the relatively young discipline of science gains more and more prestige by showing us more and more of what empirical reality consists of and making larger and larger claims about what science will show us ("The Mind of God" one popular physicist proclaimed), Metaphysics is the hoary old guru that tugs on science's collar and squacks, "Look here, sonny, settle down, we don't have all the answers." Whether this explains the claims of some scientists that metaphysics (or philosophy in general) is redundant and irrelevant, who knows. What is known is that Metaphysics, and philosophy in general, is a place for questions that don't yet have answers. This book provides an excellent introduction to the field of metaphysics, and by the end of the book the reader will have a very good idea of its basic (but indefinite) scope and the questions it asks.
The introduction to the book lays the groundwork for philosophical thought. The author warns the reader not to expect to come out of this reading with any new "information" in the way a physics or biology textbook would teach you something concrete and almost unquestionable. Metaphysics is all about questions that dangle on the head of a pin, and the logic and methodologies one uses to sway the question to one side or the other (or maybe both or neither). The introduction basically admits that metaphysics is not a science and one shouldn't expect scientific knowledge from its study. This chapter alone should be required reading for all new philosophy students (I could have used it at the beginning of my studies some years back - it would have saved me a lot of second guessing and frustration).
The book is basically a whirlwind tour of philosophy that incorporates metaphysical questions and historical arguments. The monism of Spinoza and monism in general are examined. Bishop Berkeley's view of the external world (or lack of it) is put to various arguments. Anti-Realism is considered by the author almost incomprehensible (this chapter is pretty interesting). The classic ontological and cosmological arguments are picked apart (the notion of 'possible worlds' is also introduced) and finally subjects concerning human beings themselves are discussed at length: are we physical or non-physical things? Do we have free will? What is rationality? Each subject is put to the test: the author presents both pros and cons of all the positions one can take on the views, but ultimately the author has a side that he's arguing for. He's not shy about it, either, but he does present all sides fairly, not just the ones he's arguing for. Sometimes it's difficult to tell where the author will come out. In some chapters he seems to be arguing overwhelmingly for one position, when he is in fact for the opposite. This will keep you on your mental toes.
One almost shocking thing about this book is that the author presents his beliefs to the reader before he tears into the arguments. This is pretty rare in philosophy texts, and is very admirable considering that these confessed beliefs do not seem to interfere with the logic or reasoning of his arguments. I found that move pretty gutsy.
If you have a philosophy degree, likely the information in this book will not be new. Nonetheless, it is true that a degree is in no way required for reading this book. It was meant to be, as Van Inwagen says in the preface, "...a book that the - I hope not mythical - 'interested general reader' can pick up and read without guidance from an instructor." This doesn't mean that it's an easy read, quite the opposite. Following the logic of the arguments in many places takes patience. If you're new to some of the concepts, letting them soak in will also take some time. Regardless, this is probably the best introduction to the subject of metaphysics currently out there. Too bad about the cover; it makes the book like a dry overly academic textbook, which it's not. Even if you're skeptical about the value of philosophy, this book will give you something to chew on. But don't expect light and lazy rainy afternoon reading.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction to the Subject 5 Aug 2000
By S. Guha - Published on Amazon.com
I've now read van Inwagen's "Metaphysics" three times, cover to cover, and have more or less internalized the book. It is one of the best introductions to the subject, bar none; indeed, this is the book that first made me realize what metaphysics *is*. This book is suitable for the general reader, even if he has no previous background in philosophy, provided he is willing to think hard. It is equally suited to the beginning student of metaphysics. Van inwagen characterizes metaphysics, accurately in my opinion, as the study of ultimate reality. The metaphysician, in other words, is the inquirer who seeks to say exactly how the world really is. As such, the metaphysician cannot be content with anything less than the strict, literal, and precise truth about all things. The metaphysician's subject can be organized succinctly around three questions:
(1) What is the world really like? What are its most general features, and how is it organized? (2) Why is there a world at all? Why does the world have the general features and organization that it has? (3) What is our place in the world? How, if at all, do we fit into the scheme of things?
(These are paraphrases of questions that van Inwagen puts to the reader in the introduction of his book.)
The book can be seen as an introduction to metaphysical inquiry, by way of actual examples of how metaphysicians have attempted to answer these questions, and more specific questions that fall under them. Thus, van Inwagen examines, among other things, individuality (monism, nihilism, pluralism, Spinoza's & Bradley's arguments for monism), externality (Berkeley's subjective idealism), objectivity (Realism and anti-Realism), the cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments, in several different forms, mind-body dualism and physicalism, free will vs. determinism, composition and persistence through time, and personal identity. In the course of this inquiry, van Inwagen makes no effort to maintain a fine neutrality; he forthrightly states his own opinions and argues for them, examines and criticizes opposing views and arguments, and offers his conclusions. On some matters, he finds no solutions, but only enduring mysteries. The book concludes with a meditation on mystery, and a suggestion that metaphysical problems may be beyond human power to solve (or resolve), and that it is no surprise if that is in fact the case. I happen to disagree with these sentiments, at least to a degree, and I certainly disagree with many of van Inwagen's conclusions. But that's the point. Learning metaphysics isn't learning a set of established facts, it is learning how to form something resembling an intelligent opinion on matters metaphysical. If, by the end of this book, you have learned enough to *disagree* with van Inwagen intelligently, the book has done its job. It certainly did for me.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars breadth and depth from one of the finest 2 Feb 2007
By Micah Newman - Published on Amazon.com
Peter van Inwagen writes here for the "hopefully non-mythical, general interested reader." This book is thus a guide to some broad topics in metaphysics written for someone with no philosophical background, but that is willing and able to think deeply. Of particular value is the introduction, wherein van Inwagen gives a characteristically cobweb-clearing explanation of just what metaphysics *is* (to a philosopher).

The topics (see the Table of Contents) cover pretty much the whole swath of metaphysics, and metaphysics is so wide- and far-reaching itself that each topic would be take several graduate courses to fully explore, just from a contemporary perspective. There is great breadth here, but also significant depth for the issues covered. Basically, for each topic van Inwagen introduces a main idea, then follows an argument to a conclusion (the one that he favors, naturally enough). But one also gets a strong sense of what other issues subside within, or are otherwise connected with, a topic. This book also serves as a terrific example of the author's general acumen for philosophical writing, in being able to navigate very clearly, lucidly, thoroughly, AND concisely through a chosen topic.

I just worry about this book's audience and whether it will reach a very large one. The thing is, it's written for an intelligent generalist and thus in the right tone for an introductory philosophy class, but also manifests perhaps more philosophical depth than your average non-philosophy-major undergraduate is prepared to tackle. I'd be very interested to know how often this ends up as a class text, though. It's also on just one topic, so for a general intro to phil. class it would have to be one book out of, say, three (the other two being in ethics and epistemology, naturally). The quality of this book, though, is such that that's how I'd be inclined to teach an intro class, if only to get as many facilely antirealist college students as possible to read the chapter on Objectivity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ultimate Reality for Beginners 16 May 2010
By Adam Rourke author of The Goblin Universe - Published on Amazon.com
Metaphysics is not really a book for the casual reader. What it is is an introduction into the study of the nature of ultimate reality, for that is what metaphysics is. The nature of ultimate reality is something that most people take for granted. After all what reality is should be obvious to anyone. All you have to do is to open your eyes and look and there it is. If there is anything hidden, science will reveal it. And therein lies the problem for the world is simply not constructed in such a way that science can discover all its aspects by empirical experiment. The world has its objective truths and these are open to the scientific method. But the world also has its subjective truths and these are not solvable by scientific experiment. And it is here that philosophy comes into its own for where science fails the only avenue left open is pure speculative thought. Temper this speculation with logic and the result is philosophy. Where your tools consist of deductive reasoning, logic and the dialectic your answers will never have the certainty of a mathematical equation, but they can illuminate the truth nonetheless.

This is not a book of facts in the same sense as a history book. In a history book one encounters names, places and dates and is expected to learn them by heart. There is plenty of information given in Metaphysics, to be sure, but it is incidental to the task of teaching metaphysics. Metaphysics, and philosophy overall, does not work like that. Philosophy is a discipline of reason. And just as experiments in science are used to advance its knowledge reason is used in philosophy to advance its knowledge. Thousands of years of reasonable argument has produced no creed or dogma or anything that can be called a final answer and it is for this reason that many scientists dismiss metaphysics as irrelevant. The only way that this can be true, however, is if the materialists are right. If reality has any subjective element in it at all then philosophy has its place. And the only groups that can search reality for any of its subjective aspects are philosophers.

The book takes the four most common questions in philosophy, what are the general features of the world and why does it exist, and what is the nature and place of man in that world and uses it as a framework that supports the entire work. A realist the author defends his ideas with great verve while remaining reasonable and respectful of the views of others. In the course of his discussion he manages to bring in most of the common topics of metaphysics, including God and necessary existence, rationality, objectivity, the mind- body problem, ontology, cosmology, teleology and the problem of freedom will. If you are new to metaphysical discourse think of this book as metaphysics 101, a good solid general place to start.

Engaging, thoughtful, provocative and sometimes witty here is a guide through the many twisting paths that are metaphysics. This book was written for the general reader but by that is meant the thinking general reader. This is not light reading. But if you take the trouble to try and understand what is being said you will find that "the little grey cells" have been thoroughly stimulated. The purpose of the book is not to teach you facts but to teach you how to think about facts. For in this lies the essence of metaphysics.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good coverage of all but dualism 16 Jun 2014
By Matthew Rapaport - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very well written introduction to metaphysics in general. Van Inwagen is an excellent writer and was methodical about his explorations of the big metaphysical questions until he got to the subject of dualism to which he gives rather short-shrift and fails to consider many implications of some kinds of dualism. On the other hand, the new editions "part III" on ontology is one of the best expositions of this metaphysical specialty (see also E. J. Lowe) I've read. All in all I enjoyed this read very much, and except for Inwagen's more superficial treatment of dualism would certainly have given it 5 stars
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