on 19 May 2004
There are several 'introductory' texts on metaphysics available for students of the subject and the general reader. Since analytic metaphysics remains at the heart of philosophy learning and teaching in the UK it is good that a range of surveys taking different perspectives are available. However, very few have the comprehensive sweep Lowe offers here.
Topics covered include: the nature of metaphysics, identity, change, composition over time, temporal parts and substantial change, necessity, essentialism, possible worlds and their interpretation, counterfactuals and conditionals, causes, causal agency, actions and events, events and space-time, absolutism and relationalism, incongruent counterparts, paradoxes of motion, tense and the reality of time, the direction of time, universals and particulars, tropes, abstract and concrete objects. Along the way he also includes discussion on such topics as mathematical objects and knowledge, event ontologies and categories of being.
Lowe generally seeks 'common sense' solutions to tricky metaphysical problems, that is, he works hard to defend much of our common sense intuitions about the fundamental nature of reality. This makes the book all the more useful as a textbook, since it guides the reader through more radical alternatives without abandoning her at the end of a discussion with an unpalatable outcome likely to deter further exploration - at that level the text engages the reader beautifully.
More advanced readers will also want to look at Lowe's 'The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity and Time' (Oxford, 1998) for a more detailed and scholarly treatment of some of the more difficult topics covered (a masterly executed piece of contemporary philosophical analysis in this reviewer's opinion).
The only criticisms that might be made of this book are that the defence of traditional metaphysics given in the introduction is a little too brief and too strident, especially with regard to neo-Kantian approaches, and at times Lowe's style is a little too subtle, such that important parts of his arguments are too easily glossed - a problem in any textbook of this nature.
Overall, this is a great textbook and survey that should be a standard on any course of metaphysics for many years.
on 13 February 2013
I have read a couple of introductory textbooks on metaphysics, and this one stands up as good. It is relatively easy to read and of sufficient depth for an undergraduate metaphysics course (with some specific additional readings around topics of interest). I very occasionally found the writing style a little irritating - but that is probably just me. On the other hand, the introduction and the way it builds understanding are to be praised.
As it seems with any metaphysics book there is a choice of topics, which does not seem to cover the full spectrum of what might be considered as metaphysics. This book is good on identity and change, universals and particulars, necessity and possibility, space and time, and ok on causation. It misses out other topics such as mind-body problem, free will and determinism - so if these are of interest look elsewhere or be ready to buy an additional book or two.