Metaphysics, part one

Metaphysics was one of my favourite classes this semester. I'll provide highlights of what we learned:

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that thinks about what is common to every being, every thing that exists; it asks what are the universal properties of being as such. It looks at the deep underlying bond of unity among all beings, despite all their distinctions: that they are.

It is based on the supposition that being is understandable (intelligible). Though this can't exactly be proven, it is a reflection of human experience. Our mind has an insatiable appetite to know and understand, so it is only natural that things are understandable. Everything we accomplish is based on the assumption that being is intelligible, so to deny the intelligibility of being is folly.

One of the basic datum of metaphysics is the principle of sufficient reason: every being must have the sufficient reason for its existence in itself or in another being. If we didn't maintain this principle, then we wouldn't be able to problem-solve--it maintains that beings must have causes (or explain themselves).

We were introduced to the distinction between existence and essence: existence is the existence of a thing, and essence is the subject which exists.

We can know the world as it really is, though not completely. We can really know the world because beings by their nature reveal themselves, what they are like--otherwise we wouldn't know them, which we do. But we can't completely know the world because no single act of a being can completely express its nature, and we have a limited capacity for comprehending all the information conveyed by an action.

We saw the shift from ancient and medieval philosophy to modern philosophy: prior to the shift, there was a focus on objects studied, to a focus on subjects, the person's interior experience of being. In modern and contemporary philosophy the concern is how minds work, whereas before, philosophers could actually get to knowledge of beings.

The participation doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas is that the bond of unity among all being is that they all participate in the act of existence, which derives from God.

Essence and existence are distinct (not the same, nor do they come from the same source in the being) but inseparable metaphysical co-principles. If they were not distinct, then every being would be the same thing. They are inseparable because they cannot exist apart from each other; one's existence depends on the other, and vice versa. Existence is the principle of similarity among beings: every being has existence. Essence is the principle of dissimilarity.

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