Tagged: Metaphysics

Can Ethics be the First Philosophy?

Emmanuel Levinas is a unique philosopher in the 20th century. He redefines traditional philosophy by radically re-thinking it from the point of view of justice, which in his understanding originates in the encounter with the other. For Aristotle, the “first philosophy” is metaphysics: what is the meaning of the verb “to be.” This leads to a whole system of ontology that serves as the background to 2500 years of metaphysical thought.
Levinas suggests a radical turn. “This is the question of the meaning of being: not the ontology of the understanding of that extraordinary verb, but the ethics of its justice. The question ‘par excellence’ or the question of philosophy. Not ‘Why being rather than nothing?’, but how being justifies itself.”

Levinas: Ethics as First Philosophy (1984)

This essay was published for the first time in “Justifications de l’Ethique” (Bruxelles: Editions de l’Universite de Bruxelles), 1984, pp. 41 – 51. I am quoting here from the English translation in “[easyazon_link identifier=”0631164472″ locale=”US” tag=”mainacademicsite-20″]The Levinas Reader[/easyazon_link],” edited by Sean Hand, 1989, p. 76. Ethics as First Philosophy’ is a clear and powerful summary of Levinas’s methodical and yet radical move away from Husserl’s transcendental idealism and Heidegger’s hermeneutics towards the ethical question of the meaning of being, as we encounter it in the face-to-face relation. Beginning with the phenomenological legacy which reveals knowledge as built on an intentionality...

Heidegger: Brief über den Humanismus. 1947

[5] Wir bedenken das Wesen des Handelns noch lange nicht entschieden genug. Man kennt das Handeln nur als das Bewirken einer Wirkung. Deren Wirklichkeit wird geschätzt nach ihrem Nutzen. Aber das Wesen des Handelns ist das Vollbringen. Vollbringen heißt: etwas in die Fülle seines Wesens entfalten, in diese hervorgeleiten, producere. Vollbringbar ist deshalb eigentlich nur das, was schon ist. Was jedoch vor allem «ist», ist das Sein. Das Denken vollbringt den Bezug des Seins zum Wesen des Menschen. Es macht und bewirkt diesen Bezug nicht. Das Denken bringt ihn nur als das, was ihm selbst vom Sein übergeben ist, dem...

Gottfried Leibniz: Monadology (1714).

1. The monad, of which we will speak here, is nothing else than a simple substance, which goes to make up compounds; by simple, we mean without parts. 2. There must be simple substances because there are compound substances; for the compound is nothing else than a collection or aggregatum of simple substances. 3. Now, where there are no constituent parts there is possible neither extension, nor form, nor divisibility. These monads are the true atoms of nature, and, in a word, the elements of things. 4. Their dissolution, therefore, is not to be feared and there is no way...

Aristotle – Metaphysics

This text is a foundational text of Western philosophy; it was written in 350 B.C.E. In it, Aristotle defines the nature of philosophy in relation to scientific knowledge. He starts with human curiosity – the desire to know does not need any further explanation.His approach differs from Plato: knowledge starts with the senses, but the senses do not tell us the “why” of anything. Wisdom is not just experience or knowledge about things in the world, it is knowledge about the principles and causes of things. Here is the beginning of Metaphysics: Book I: Part 1 “ALL men by nature...

Plato: Parmenides Dialog

Translated by Benjamin Jowett, from Project Gutenberg. Here are some links that will help to understand the text better:  Plato’s Parmenides (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) Parmenides (dialogue) – Wikipedia The symbolic structure of Plato’s Parmenides   PARMENIDES PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Cephalus, Adeimantus, Glaucon, Antiphon, Pythodorus, Socrates, Zeno, Parmenides, Aristoteles. Cephalus rehearses a dialogue which is supposed to have been narrated in his presence by Antiphon, the half-brother of Adeimantus and Glaucon, to certain Clazomenians. We had come from our home at Clazomenae to Athens, and met Adeimantus and Glaucon in the Agora. Welcome, Cephalus, said Adeimantus, taking me by...

Heidegger: Existence and Being

The text was written in 1949, and addresses the question of metaphysics. Towards the end, he asks: Why is there any being at all and not rather Nothing? “Descartes, writing to Picot, who translated the Principia Philosophiae into French, observed: “Thus the whole of philosophy is like a tree: the roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches that issue from the trunk are all the other sciences . . .” Sticking to this image, we ask: In what soil do the roots of the tree of philosophy have their hold? Out of what ground do the roots-and...