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Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Introduction to Philosophy
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
    3. 1.2 How Do Philosophers Arrive at Truth?
    4. 1.3 Socrates as a Paradigmatic Historical Philosopher
    5. 1.4 An Overview of Contemporary Philosophy
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. References
    9. Review Questions
    10. Further Reading
  3. 2 Critical Thinking, Research, Reading, and Writing
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 The Brain Is an Inference Machine
    3. 2.2 Overcoming Cognitive Biases and Engaging in Critical Reflection
    4. 2.3 Developing Good Habits of Mind
    5. 2.4 Gathering Information, Evaluating Sources, and Understanding Evidence
    6. 2.5 Reading Philosophy
    7. 2.6 Writing Philosophy Papers
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. References
    11. Review Questions
    12. Further Reading
  4. 3 The Early History of Philosophy around the World
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 Indigenous Philosophy
    3. 3.2 Classical Indian Philosophy
    4. 3.3 Classical Chinese Philosophy
    5. Summary
    6. Key Terms
    7. References
    8. Review Questions
    9. Further Reading
  5. 4 The Emergence of Classical Philosophy
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 Historiography and the History of Philosophy
    3. 4.2 Classical Philosophy
    4. 4.3 Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Philosophy
    5. Summary
    6. Key Terms
    7. References
    8. Review Questions
    9. Further Reading
  6. 5 Logic and Reasoning
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Philosophical Methods for Discovering Truth
    3. 5.2 Logical Statements
    4. 5.3 Arguments
    5. 5.4 Types of Inferences
    6. 5.5 Informal Fallacies
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
    11. Further Reading
  7. 6 Metaphysics
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 Substance
    3. 6.2 Self and Identity
    4. 6.3 Cosmology and the Existence of God
    5. 6.4 Free Will
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. References
    9. Review Questions
    10. Further Reading
  8. 7 Epistemology
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 What Epistemology Studies
    3. 7.2 Knowledge
    4. 7.3 Justification
    5. 7.4 Skepticism
    6. 7.5 Applied Epistemology
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
    11. Further Reading
  9. 8 Value Theory
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 The Fact-Value Distinction
    3. 8.2 Basic Questions about Values
    4. 8.3 Metaethics
    5. 8.4 Well-Being
    6. 8.5 Aesthetics
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
    11. Further Reading
  10. 9 Normative Moral Theory
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Requirements of a Normative Moral Theory
    3. 9.2 Consequentialism
    4. 9.3 Deontology
    5. 9.4 Virtue Ethics
    6. 9.5 Daoism
    7. 9.6 Feminist Theories of Ethics
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. References
    11. Review Questions
    12. Further Reading
  11. 10 Applied Ethics
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 The Challenge of Bioethics
    3. 10.2 Environmental Ethics
    4. 10.3 Business Ethics and Emerging Technology
    5. Summary
    6. Key Terms
    7. References
    8. Review Questions
    9. Further Reading
  12. 11 Political Philosophy
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 Historical Perspectives on Government
    3. 11.2 Forms of Government
    4. 11.3 Political Legitimacy and Duty
    5. 11.4 Political Ideologies
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. References
    9. Review Questions
    10. Further Reading
  13. 12 Contemporary Philosophies and Social Theories
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 Enlightenment Social Theory
    3. 12.2 The Marxist Solution
    4. 12.3 Continental Philosophy’s Challenge to Enlightenment Theories
    5. 12.4 The Frankfurt School
    6. 12.5 Postmodernism
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
  14. Index
An acorn is on a branch surrounded by oak leaves.
Figure 6.1 Being and Becoming. The acorn and the oak allow us to frame several metaphysical questions. Are there first causes? Do things have essences? Do things develop along a predetermined path? (credit: “Acorn” by Shaun Fisher/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Defining metaphysics is difficult. On a summary level, one possible definition is that metaphysics is the field of philosophy concerned with identifying that which is real. You may wonder why any reasonable person would invest time pursuing an answer to that which, at first glance, seems obvious. But on deeper inspection of the world around you, it can be challenging to identify what is real.

Consider the acorn. As you probably learned through life science, an acorn is destined to become an oak. If you were to look at the acorn and compare it to the oak, you would see two radically different things. How can a thing change and remain the same thing?

Aristotle offers insight into how the acorn and the oak represent change but within the same being. Within Aristotle’s thinking, each being has a specific end or purpose. As telos is Greek for “end” (end as target or goal), this view is known as teleological. In addition, each being is described as having a specific function (ergon) by which that being seeks the proper end.

In the case of an oak tree, the oak tree works from its acorn to the fullness of the oak. Aristotle describes the becoming as movement from a state of potentiality to actuality. You might say that which is most real concerning the oak stands beneath the movement from acorn to oak. The movement from potentiality toward actuality is one method to make sense of change while maintaining a constant or underlying sense of true being.

As you will discover, the topic of metaphysics is far-reaching and broaches many questions.

  • What is real?
  • What is being?
  • Is there a purpose to our being?
  • What is the self?
  • Is there a God?
  • Do human beings (however defined) possess free will?

Metaphysical questions tend not to be resting points but starting points. This chapter begins to explore many simple yet interrelated questions as part of seeking the real.

The first page of Aristotle’s book shows the title, Ton Meta Ta Physika at the top of the page with text following below.
Figure 6.2 The term metaphysics comes from Aristotle’s book of the same name. The opening sentence translates as “All men by nature desire to know.” Our desire to lay bare the deepest and most discrete understanding of reality is at the heart of metaphysics. (credit: “Aristotle: Metaphysica, first page in Immanuel Bekker’s edition, 1837.” by Wikimedia, Public Doman)
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