The Metaphysical Character of Philosophy

Zovko, Marie-Élise and Zovko, Jure (2012) The Metaphysical Character of Philosophy. In: Metaphysics. InTech, Rijeka, pp. 9-44. ISBN 978-953-51-0646-3

[img] Text
1-37459.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to Registered users only

Download (1MB)


Philosophy cannot do without fundamental metaphysical questions, because these questions permeate every aspect of human activity. In this article, we show that there exists a clear continuity in the history of philosophy regarding investigation of the epistemic conditions of understanding and explanation of reality. Herein lies philosophy's essentially metaphysical character. Drawing on selected paradigms from classic works from the history of philosophy, we focus on metaphysics of subjectivity as fundamental philosophical discourse of modernity, which finds its archetypal expression in Kant's conception of the transcendental unity of apperception as precondition for our understanding and explanation of objectivity and the world of our experience. This opens a range of possibilities for innovative analysis of the metaphysical character of philosophy The process by which metaphysical problems crystallize is a permanent and ongoing one in which the interpreter of philosophical texts actively participates, establishing through his interpretation an active dialogue with works of the past and so cultivating a productive relationship of philosophizing to its own history. No consideration of metaphysics, meanwhile, is possible without reference to "post-metaphysical" thought. The situation of "metaphysics after metaphysics" requires both theoretical illumination of the epistemic conditions of self-consciousness and investigation of implementation of insights gained thereby to realisation of our role and purpose in the world and in society. The endeavour of the human spirit to find in itself sufficient principles of knowledge, insofar as it is fundamentally concerned with "conditions of the possibility" of knowledge and reality, forms the basis for an understanding of the metaphysical character of philosophy. Human reason, namely, is constituted not only by the capacity formal-logical reasoning, but also by a type of thought, exemplified in the process of Kant's "transcendental deduction", which in union with principles of judgment, categories of understanding, imagination, and sense intuition constitutes the synthetic unity of human cognition. The connection of a subject and predicate which is the basis of propositional thought is grounded in the synthetic unity of our preconscious, conscious, and self-conscious life and cannot exist apart from it. Our preconscious and self-conscious ability to "subsume" empiric content under the unity of judgments takes Kant beyond the opposition of subject and object and the functionality of our cognitive faculties to an integrated view of the physical and cultural basis of knowledge and human action. "[T]he highest point to which one must tie all use of understanding, above all every kind of logic, and after that also transcendental philosophy, " is thereby " understanding itself" (Critique of pure Reason B134) Kant establishes thus a new form of epistemic metaphysics, based on the universality of the transcendental unity of apperception and the synthetic unity of judgment in its practical, theoretical and contemplative aspects. Later critics of metaphysics (Heidegger, Derrida) object that in a metaphysics of subjectivity the concept of the subject is only a substitute for the traditional concept of substance in its role as hupokeimenon, and fails to overcome the inappropriate "thingness" of such a principle. One source for active renewal of metaphysics in the post-metaphysical era can be found in in Royce's reconceptualisation of Peirce's semiotics and his expansion of Peirce's idea of the "community of scientific investigators" to the ideal of a universal community of interpretation. As Peirce and Royce show, post-metaphysical rejection of the categories of understanding is attenuated by the shared, communal aspect of interpretation. Royce in particular challenges nominalist and instrumentalist variants of pragmaticism to assert the shared, universal and objective nature of standards of judgment involved in the process of interpretation. Interpretation is thereby never only a relationship of a subject to an object, but involves the mutual interpretation of the interpretandum to one another in the community of interpretation, basis and expression of the cooperative and communicative nature of our humanity, cognition, action. In contemporary metaphysics of subjectivity, our substantiality is constituted by „our unmediated knowledge of ourselves“, whereby the prereflective relationship we have with ourselves has the status of a non-propositional insight. In Royce, even this prereflective relationship to ourselves is mediated by our relationship to one another in the community of interpretation. For Peirce and Royce, we are subjects by virtue of our ability to interpret our knowledge to ourselves and others. This basis for judgment is never devoid of intention ; rather all knowledge and insight is a manifestation of aim-directed behaviour and possesses therewith an inherently ethical dimension. In a metaphysics of subjectivity, the human being is not considered primarily from the standpoint of its finitude, uncertainty and mortality (Sein zum Tode), but rather as a being which thanks to its conscious life and its transcendental structurality actually constitutes the "center of the world". Metaphysics, in this view, constitutes itself "in the spontaneous thought of every individual." (Henrich) From this spontaneous event arise the central questions of philosophy: what does each of us think of his life and the final questions which preoccupy us? what is it that enables us to differentiate and know things and the world? how does this enable conceptualisation of and reflection upon one's own existence? what is the relevance of our subjective autonomy for our ethical behaviour? In posing these questions, we come to recognize that we exist in a world already determined by the achievements of culture and civilisation, a "Lebenswelt", which unites in itself a system of epistemic and ethical normativity. By rejecting attempta to reduce our striving for knowledge to utilitarian and instrumentalist forms of self-interest, and emphasizing the contribution to our conscious life which experience of the beautiful, sublime, and organization and apparent purposiveness in nature provide, metaphysics of subjectivity allows us to conduct our lives in a permanent attitude of creative imagination and productivity. By focusing on the "final questions" which comprise the "deep layer of our subjectivity", a metaphysics of subjectivity thematises that which may provide our conscious life with stability, consolation, peace, responsibility, and accountability for our actions.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Depositing User: Maja Šoštarić
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2014 10:57
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2021 11:07

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item