On Metaphysics

On Metaphysics

Roderick M. Chisholm
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttts76h
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  • Book Info
    On Metaphysics
    Book Description:

    On Metaphysics was first published in 1989. On Metaphysics brings together eighteen essays by a self-described analytic philosopher who is concerned with redirecting the linguistic emphasis in contemporary philosophy toward the traditional questions of metaphysics. The essays explore the most fundamental categories of reality: substance and attribute; parts and wholes; human freedom and the self; coming into being and passing away; and the nature of objective reference. Chisholm combines an “internal” approach to theory of knowledge with an “intentional” approach to metaphysics. The book thus presupposes that the self is better known to the self that is any other individual thing, and that our knowledge of ourselves provides us with the key to understanding the problems of ontology. Chisholm has made both minor and major revisions in many of the essays since their initial publication. “The Categories,” written expressly for this book, represents a summation of the ontology set forth in On Metaphysics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5538-0
    Subjects: Philosophy
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction (pp. vii-viii)

    Two assumptions about the nature of metaphysics are presupposed by this book. Neither is remarkable in itself. But in contemporary western philosophy each is usually associated with the rejection of the other. One assumption is that the problems of philosophy are extraordinarily difficult and can be solved only by the responsible application of what Russell called “honest toil.” The other is the view of Leibniz and Brentano, according to which reflection on the self and on what it is to think provides us with the key to understanding the fundamental categories of reality.

    The categories discussed here are: substance and...

  4. Part I. Freedom and Determinism
    • 1 Responsibility and Avoidability (pp. 3-4)

      Edwards and Hospers hold that there is an important sense in which we may be saidnotto be morally responsible for any of our acts or choices. I propose the following as an explicit formulation of their reasoning:

      1. If a choice is one we could not have avoided making, then it is one for which we are not morally responsible.

      2. If we make a choice under conditions such that, given those conditions, it is (causally but not logically) impossible for the choice not to be made, then the choice is one we could not have avoided making....

    • 2 Human Freedom and the Self (pp. 5-16)

      1. The metaphysical problem of human freedom might be summarized in the following way: Human beings are responsible agents; but this fact appears to conflict with a deterministic view of human action (the view that every event that is involved in an act is caused by some other event); and italsoappears to conflict with an indeterministic view of human action (the view that the act, or some event that is essential to the act, is not caused at all.) To solve the problem, I believe, we must make somewhat far-reaching assumptions about the self or the agent—about...

  5. Part II. Coming into Being, Persisting, and Passing Away
    • 3 Identity through Possible Worlds (pp. 19-24)

      In an article on Hintikka’sKnowledge and Belief, I suggested that certain difficult questions come to mind when we consider the thought that an individual in one possible world might be identical with an individual in another possible world.² The present paper is written in response to the editor’s invitation to be more explicit about these questions.

      Let us suppose, then, that the figure of an infinity of possible worlds makes good sense and let us also suppose, for simplicity of presentation, that we have a complete description of this one. We may consider some one of the entities of...

    • 4 Identity through Time (pp. 25-41)

      According to Bishop Butler, when we say of a physical thing existing at one time that it is identical with or the same as a physical thing existing at some other time (“this is the same ship we traveled on before”), we are likely to be using the expression “same” or “identical” in a “loose and popular sense.” But when we say of a person existing at one time that he is identical with or the same as a person existing at some other time (“the ship has the same captain it had before”), we are likely to be using...

    • 5 Possibility without Haecceity (pp. 42-48)

      The “problem of the merely possible” is that of describing the merely possible without supposing that there is a realm ofpossibiliafalling between being and nonbeing and without violating the principles of contradiction and excluded middle. To solve the problem, one may make use of one or the other of the following two locutions:

      (A) x is possible such that he is anF;

      (B) There is a (possible) world in whichxis anF.

      Some philosophers would attempt to explicate (A) in terms of (B). Suppose I am not a physician but could have been one. Then...

    • 6 Coming into Being and Passing Away: Can the Metaphysician Help? (pp. 49-62)

      I assume that, in our theoretical thinking, we should be guided by those propositions we presuppose in our ordinary activity. They are propositions we have a right to believe. Or, somewhat more exactly, they are propositions that should be regarded as innocent, epistemically, until there is positive reason for thinking them guilty.

      A list of such propositions would be very much like the list of propositions with which G. E. Moore began his celebrated essay, “In Defence of Common Sense.”¹ The list I might make for myself may be suggested by the following: “(1) I am now thinking such and...

  6. Part III. Parts and Wholes
    • 7 Parts as Essential to Their Wholes (pp. 65-82)

      One kind of philosophical puzzlement arises when we have an apparent conflict of intuitions. If we are philosophers, we then try to show that the apparent conflict of intuitions is only an apparent conflict and not a real one. If we fail, we may have to say that what we took to be an apparent conflict of intuitions was in fact a conflict of apparent intuitions, and then we must decide which of the conflicting apparent intuitions is only an apparent intuition. But if we succeed, then both of the intuitions will be preserved. Since there was an apparent conflict,...

    • 8 Boundaries (pp. 83-89)

      Stephan Körner has noted that one way of drawing up a theory of categories will divide all particulars “into (a) a class of independent particulars, i.e., particulars that are ontologically fundamental, and (b) a class of dependent particulars, i.e., particulars that are not ontologically fundamental.”¹ The dependent particulars might be said to be “parasitical upon” the fundamental particulars.

      I shall here discuss the nature of spatial boundaries, viewing them as dependent particulars.

      Frege observes: “One often calls the equator an imaginary(gedachte)line, but it would be wrong to call it a line that has merely been thought up(erdachf)....

    • 9 Scattered Objects (pp. 90-96)

      The classic paper on scattered objects was written by Richard Cartwright.¹ What I present here may be thought of as a commentary on that paper. Like Cartwright, I believe that there are scattered material objects. But my views differ from his in several respects: (1) Where Cartwright makes use of such absolute spatial concepts aspointandregion, I make use of the relational concept oftouching(ordirect spatial contact). This alternative approach may throw a different light on some of the metaphysical questions that the problem of scattered objects involves. (2) I consider a distinction between two fundamentally...

  7. Part IV. The Mental
    • 10 The Nature of the Psychological (pp. 99-106)

      I shall here formulate a definition of apsychological attribute.What I will say presupposes the common sense distinction between the psychological, or mental, and the nonpsychological.

      The following may be taken as being paradigmatic cases of psychological attributes: judging; being sad about something; being pleased about something; wondering about something; feeling depressed; seeming to oneself to have a headache; and being appeared to redly. And the following will be paradigmatic cases of nonpsychological attributes: being extended; wearing a hat; being green; weighing 7 pounds; being the successor of 9; being such that all men are mortal.

      There is a...

    • 11 Presence in Absence (pp. 107-113)

      An account of intentionality should be adequate to the following two theses: (I) “Mental phenomena can succeed in achieving objective reference” and (II) “Mental phenomena are distinguished by the fact that they may be directed upon objects that do not exist.”¹ The second thesis is sometimes said to involve “the problem of error” or “the problem of presence in absence.”² The first, therefore, might be said to involve “the problem of truth” or “the problem of presence in presence.”

      Just what are these problems? I will discuss them by reference only tojudging. But what I will say about judging...

    • 12 Questions about Minds (pp. 114-118)

      What is the mind-body problem? The word “mind” has a number of rather different uses and this fact has led to some confusion in recent discussions. We may distinguish at least five such uses and therefore at least five senses of the “mindbody problem.”

      (1) We could use the term “mind,” as Descartes had used the term “mens,” to refer to that which has psychological properties–to that which thinks, senses, believes, desires. In this case, we would be using “mind” to mean the same as “person” and hence to designate such entities as you and me. If we use...

    • 13 Is There a Mind-Body Problem? (pp. 119-128)

      The title—“Is there a Mind-Body Problem?”—will suggest that I have doubts as to whether there is a mind-body problem. And I do have doubts as to whether there is a special problem concerning the relation betweenthe mindand the body. You may say: “Well, plenty of people have worried about the problem of the relation of the mind and the body. And so therefore there is a problem.” And of course that is true enough: people have been concerned with it. But what I wish to suggest is that they shouldn’t have been concerned with it: there...

    • 14 The Primacy of the Intentional (pp. 129-138)

      According to the thesis of the primacy of the intentional, the reference of language is to be explicated in terms of the intentionality ofthought. The word “Pferd,” for example, refers to horses insofar as it is used to express thoughts that are directed on horses. But most contemporary philosophers of language, until recently at least, have held that the intentionality of thought is to be explicated in terms of the reference oflanguage. But no such explication is at hand.

      I will suggest what one can say about the reference of language if one presupposes the primacy of the...

  8. Part V. An Intentional Approach to Ontology
    • 15 Properties and States of Affairs Intentionally Considered (pp. 141-149)

      Arethere such things as properties? There are many things that weseemto know about properties.

      Some properties (for example, the property of being a horse) are exemplified; and some of them (for example, the property of being a unicorn) are not exemplified. Some of them (for example, the property of being both round and square) cannot be exemplified by anything. And some of them (for example, the property of being self-identical) must be exemplified by everything. There are properties P and Q that are necessarily so related that if P is exemplified, then Q is also exemplified. There...

    • 16 States and Events (pp. 150-155)

      Aristotle and Bolzano had said that some things are beings of other things.¹ We will say that if one thing is a being of another thing, then the first thing isa state ofthe second. And we will take “x is a state of y” as undefined. In this way, we will be able to set forth an explication ofeventsand to show how events are related to attributes and to individual things.

      Our assumption that there are states of things may be put this way:

      A1 For every x, there is the state x-being-F if and only...

    • 17 The Self in Austrian Philosophy (pp. 156-161)

      Bolzano’s definition ofsubstanceprovides us with a kind of key to the conceptions of the self in Austrian philosophy. His definition is as clear as anyone could possibly wish. He says that there are two kinds of things: (1) those things that are states or conditions of other things (“Beschaffenheiten von anderen Dingen”); and (2) those things that are not states or conditions of other things: “the latter are what I callsubstances.”¹ Examples of things that are states or conditions of other things are “the color, smell and weight of a body,” the beliefs that a particular person...

    • 18 The Categories (pp. 162-168)

      We present finally a classification of the most fundamental ontological categories. The classification will refine some of the concepts introduced in earlier essays. There will be four dichotomies—four ways of dividing sets of things into exclusive and exhaustive subsets. In each case, one of the two subsets will be the negation of the other. I will also attempt, so far as possible, to characterize each subset in positive terms.

      The dichotomies are these:

      (1) Things that arecontingentand things that are noncontingent ornecessary; (2) contingent things that arestatesand those that are nonstates orcontingent individuals;...

  9. Index (pp. 169-174)
  10. Back Matter (pp. 175-175)


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