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Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Stephen Mumford
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Kurzbeschreibung

30. August 2012 Very Short Introductions
Metaphysics is one of the traditional four main branches of philosophy, alongside ethics, logic and epistemology. It is also an area that continues to attract and hold a fascination for many people yet it is associated with being complex and abstract. For some it is associated with the mystical or religious. For others it is known through the metaphysical poets who talk of love and spirituality. This Very Short Introduction goes right to the heart of the matter, getting to the basic and most important questions of metaphysical thought in order to understand the theory: What are objects? Do colours and shapes have some form of existence? What is it for one thing to cause another rather than just being associated with it? What is possible? Does time pass? By using these questions to initiate thought about the basic issues around substance, properties, changes, causes, possibilities, time, personal identity, nothingness and emergentism, Stephen Mumford provides a clear and simple path through this analytical tradition at the core of philosophical thought. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 113 Seiten
  • Verlag: Oxford University Press (30. August 2012)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 9780199657124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199657124
  • ASIN: 0199657122
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 17,3 x 10,7 x 1 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 4.213 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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It manages to be jargon-free without sacrificing rigour and complexity. Times Higher Education Supplement

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Stephen Mumford is Professor of Metaphysics at the Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham. He is also Head of the School of Humanities and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He has written many papers and books in metaphysics, including a number of more popular works intended for a non-specialist audience including articles in Times Higher Education magazine, encyclopaedias, and magazines. His most famous book is Dispositions (Oxford, 1998) but he also authored Laws in Nature (Routledge, 2004), Getting Causes from Powers (with Rani Lill Anjum, Oxford, 2011) and Watching Sport: Aesthetics, Ethics and Emotions (Routledge, 2011). He is a frequent public speaker at both academic conferences and more popular events and has delivered talks in around 30 countries.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Fascinating Introduction to Metaphysics 27. Oktober 2012
Format:Taschenbuch
Metaphysics is one of the main branches of Philosophy. Unfortunately, unlike logic, epistemology, or ethics, over the years it has gotten a very distorted perception in the popular culture. If you walk into any large bookstore (or browse an online catalogue), and go into the section labeled “Metaphysics,” you are most likely to come across titles dealing with some aspect of the New Age spirituality, religion, or mysticism. However, the proper domain of Metaphysics is the exploration of “first things:” ideas and concepts that go beyond most of our other ideas about the nature of reality. These ideas include the concepts of objects, time, causality, personhood, etc.

This very short introduction tries to provide the reader with the taste of attempts to answer the questions about the above concepts. The chapters include: “What is a table?”, “What is a cause?” “How does time pass?”, “What is a person?”, and, of course, “What is Metaphysics?” To most of us these questions seem trivial, frivolous even. They seem to require answers to things that are beyond being obvious. Yet, even a simple examination of these questions reveals a lot about our understanding of the world that we take for granted, and to give a proper answer to them is anything but trivial. You can view these considerations as either a sophisticated intellectual exercise, or as something that indeed gets us to understand the World on a very fundamental level. Or, as it is with me, a little bit of both.

Like all of the Philosophy books in this Very Short Introduction series, this one is immensely well written and interesting. They open up a vista to a very fascinating intellectual world. They may not turn you into an armchair philosopher, but they will give you a direction if you choose to pursue such a vocation.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 von 5 Sternen  13 Rezensionen
27 von 28 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen One of the best general introductions on metaphysics... 2. Januar 2013
Von ewomack - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
This book won't make anyone more popular at parties, but it will exercise that mostly underutilized organ that nature took great care to encase in a thick skull. Ultimately, that philosophical subject known as "Metaphysics" will tax the most sharpened of wits because it contains a litany of unanswered questions. Those looking for answers should consult math book teachers' guides. Worse still, most of these questions lead to only more questions. Even seemingly infantile questions such as "what is a table?" or "what is change?" do not have simple non-controversial answers. On closer inspection it turns out that reality contains numerous nearly incomprehensible elements that have dodged inquisitive minds for millennia. And, arguably, throughout those same millennia it has produced just about nothing of indubitable utility. The questions and controversies just keep coming. So why would anyone in their right mind bother with this evasive, frustrating and ancient subject? This is basically what this short book, aptly titled "Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction," attempts to answer.

In the true spirit of metaphysics each chapter takes the form of a question. So, whether intentionally or not, readers will find themselves asking questions over and over again merely by perusing the book. Even the introduction asks "What is an introduction?" Here a question, there a question, everywhere a question, question. Structurally, the book attempts to make its ominous subject more accessible by "doing" metaphysics rather than merely explaining it right up front. So no turgid delineations of the epochal history of this topic clutter the text - plenty of other books do that. Instead, individual questions and subjects get asked and discussed one by one, beginning with "what is a table?" This unearths the topic of just what comprises an individual object, or a particular, including its properties or qualities. And do objects consist of a substratum or of a bundle of these properties? And where particulars dwell so do universals, as the next chapter "what is a circle?" discusses. The book continues with chapters on parts and wholes, change, causation, the passing of time, personhood, possibility and nothingness. The billion dollar question "what is metaphysics?" doesn't get asked until the final chapter.

Along the way the subject matter remains the focus, not a list of big names, though some of those inevitably appear such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Locke, Mill, Wittgenstein, Lewis, Armstrong, Kant and of course Captain Kirk. These names only appear in relation to the ideas outlined in the current chapter. Plus, many "isms" appear, all of which receive clear explanations, such as "reductionism," "emergentism," "holism," "presentism," "eternalism," and others. None of these remain difficult to understand in the context of this introductory book. No prior knowledge required.

Most chapters conclude the same way: inconclusively. Do placebos prove causation? Maybe. Does time flow in a sequence? Probably, but maybe. Does personhood arise from psychological continuity over time? Or should bodily continuity count as well? Do other "possible worlds" exist - really concretely exist, in a David Lewis sense - to account for contingencies? Do negative properties exist? Must they exist? They make for a messy metaphysics, but perhaps reality is messy? As anyone can guess, the words "yes," "no" and "without a doubt" appear very infrequently in this book. Here uncertainties reign.

The final chapter defends metaphysics against the charges of being pointless and unscientific. It truly may seem pointless, even after reading this book. But this bizarre subject can nonetheless has the power to extend one's perspective and to introduce new ways of thinking about the world and reality. And science often does the same thing. But this chapter does state explicitly that metaphysical theories do not stand or fall by observation. This may cause many to pause and wonder: so how does one accept or reject metaphysical theories? The chapter may not answer this understandable question to everyone's satisfaction. One answer provided is "on the basis of reasoning alone," which may furrow some skeptical brows. Though no one should leave this book questioning the value or purpose of metaphysics, this final chapter, in some ways, feels as inconclusive as the rest. Not to mention that some other statements throughout the book may make some wonder what foundation the subject rests on. References to "theories that we hold dear" and chapter six's statement that "many of us don't want our metaphysics to be so dependent on one's point of view. We like to feel that we are dealing with objective, eternal and immutable truths, unaffected by our human perspective on things." What is this "dear" and what are these "wants" and "immutable truths?" These statements raise other intriguing questions, but a book of this length can only skim the surface of such larger background issues.

This tiny book stands as one of the best general introductions on this topic currently available. Anyone can follow its logic, examples and language. It also succeeds in evoking the scintillating mysteries inherent in many metaphysical questions. Many introductions drag the reader through a morass of arguments, counter-arguments and counter-counter-arguments. Professional philosophers need to wade in such waters, of course, but this intimidating method may estrange newcomers to the field. This book allows comprehension of the major issues without drowning itself in arguments, though many do appear. For some, this book may encompass all they ever need to know about metaphysics. Others will get hooked and find themselves rummaging through larger tomes or more detailed introductions. And those already versed in the subject matter may simply find themselves in the presence of a good read. And that's as conclusive a statement as anyone can make about this great introduction. Embrace bewilderment!
18 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A truly great book 5. Februar 2013
Von Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
There are two books that have done more to help me understand the important, but difficult, ideas in philosophy than any other book and Mumford's VSI is one. The other, for those interested, is Bertrand Russell's "Problems of Philosophy".

'Metaphysics' is a very fine book on many levels. It's easy and fun to read. (In the context of it being a philosophy book of course.) It makes extremely difficult ideas seem simple.

For many just understanding what metaphysics is requires a fair amount of study and Mumford's book will teach you what metaphysics is and get you to understand some of the more important metaphysical problems.

I've read the book twice and plan to read it more. The second time I read it was on vacation at the ocean. Getting up at sunrise, getting a good cup of coffee, and reading 'Metaphysics' on the beach is something that everyone should do at least once.
14 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Fascinating Introduction to Metaphysics 27. Oktober 2012
Von Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Metaphysics is one of the main branches of Philosophy. Unfortunately, unlike logic, epistemology, or ethics, over the years it has gotten a very distorted perception in the popular culture. If you walk into any large bookstore (or browse an online catalogue), and go into the section labeled "Metaphysics," you are most likely to come across titles dealing with some aspect of the New Age spirituality, religion, or mysticism. However, the proper domain of Metaphysics is the exploration of "first things:" ideas and concepts that go beyond most of our other ideas about the nature of reality. These ideas include the concepts of objects, time, causality, personhood, etc.

This very short introduction tries to provide the reader with the taste of attempts to answer the questions about the above concepts. The chapters include: "What is a table?", "What is a cause?" "How does time pass?", "What is a person?", and, of course, "What is Metaphysics?" To most of us these questions seem trivial, frivolous even. They seem to require answers to things that are beyond being obvious. Yet, even a simple examination of these questions reveals a lot about our understanding of the world that we take for granted, and to give a proper answer to them is anything but trivial. You can view these considerations as either a sophisticated intellectual exercise, or as something that indeed gets us to understand the World on a very fundamental level. Or, as it is with me, a little bit of both.

Like all of the Philosophy books in this Very Short Introduction series, this one is immensely well written and interesting. They open up a vista to a very fascinating intellectual world. They may not turn you into an armchair philosopher, but they will give you a direction if you choose to pursue such a vocation.
8 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Short Yet Rich Introduction 1. Februar 2013
Von bronx book nerd - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
Author Stephen Mumford does an amazing job of introducing the reader to metaphysics and its very challenging concepts. From what is change to what is time to what are causes, Mumford guides the metaphysical neophyte gently and with care. As with other volumes from this series, only so much can be covered. However, Mumford does so in a way that gives the reader a firm grounding in the basic metaphysical questions, a grounding from which the reader can then take their next step (a helpful bibliography to do so is included). As with many other subjects in philosophy, the reader learns to understand that there are many alternative answers and perspectives, and that final conclusions may never be available, although perhaps more clarity and understanding. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the small tomes from the Very Short Introduction series.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The clarity of Mumford’s book speaks volumes 13. Januar 2014
Von Susanne Cardwell - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
Metaphysics A Very Short Introduction by Stephen Mumford is a brilliantly written introductory text that was considerably easier to digest than was the very short introduction to Philosophy of Science.

Contrary to my initial view that metaphysics dealt exclusively with the supernatural, the book subject matter, to my surprise, entertained many concrete as well as some supernatural explanations of phenomenon. Covering a wide range of topics from attempting to explain what is time to attempting to explain what is a person, the book made no definitive assertions, but offered many possibilities, complete with their inconsistencies, strengths, and weaknesses.

In my opinion, some of the most riveting questions the book answers include: (1) Are wholes just sums of parts (which is a topic that is deeply engaged in Buddhist circles), (2) What is a cause? (3) What is a person (and how does the definition apply to animals versus humans?) (4) How does time pass? (is it like a line that goes infinitely in either direction, a circle, etc.), and (5), the ultimate topic, in my opinion, What is possible?

I very much enjoyed the discussion on what is an absence, especially when it became evident that sometimes causation is based on absences, such as the absence of water in the case of a dying plant.

Similarly, the discussion on what counts as a person offered some profound subtopics, including Descartes view that the mind continues beyond the death of the person and Wittgenstein’s view that memory aligns us with the person we were in the past, where each point of having the past memory is like a strand in a rope, connecting the multitude of past/present memory periods (some of which are present in certain related periods, absent or forgotten in others) into one continuous rope. Although my explanation is a bit convoluted here, you can be assured that Mumford’s explanation is crystal clear—that is the beauty of his book, the sheer simplicity with which he presents such a complex, abstract, and theoretical topic.

The highlight of the book for me was the topic of what is possible. Here, Mumford introduces the theory of the plurality of worlds as fathomed by David Lewis. This controversial theory suggests that when we consider what is possible, the framework of seeing what is possible in another universe/world is not only helpful to the consideration, but foundational, as he suggests that these other worlds actually exist, culminating into as many other worlds as accounts for the sheer exhaustion of all possibilities. This is just one way to frame the topic of what is possible. Another is the idea of combinations and recombinations of all existing elements of the universe

As made obvious in the book, there are many shortcomings and strengths of each of the views (which, to illustrate, in the case of the combinations and recombinations point-of-view has extended to a breaking down of possibilities into logical versus natural possibilities to account for combinations that are not possible in the physical world, such as being able to jump to the moon).

To conclude the book, Mumford discusses what is metaphysics and why it has any value, especially when it has no immediate physical utility other than the pleasure of delving into the abstract.

Coincidentally, if I’m correct, it is the abstract philosophizing that serves as an underpinning of the domains of what counts as science, ethics, statistics, and so forth. For instance, how can we be comforted in the verity of our assumptions on statistical correlations and causation if we don’t have a compatible foundation on what causation means in metaphysical terms. The author sums up the difference of science and metaphysics as two ends of a scale, in which science is the observable while metaphysics is the abstract and theoretical understanding of the world. The metaphysical assumptions can be rejected on the grounds of being counterintuitive or contradictory, reduced to absurdity, although even on these grounds, there exist ongoing debates.

Stephen Mumford’s book was possibly the best introduction for anyone brand new to metaphysics or anyone newly introduced to Western philosophies that dabble in metaphysics (for example, Descartes or Kant). The clarity of Mumford’s book speaks volumes and is highly recommended as the first go-to for learning either metaphysics or even philosophy in general.
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