Metaphysics - Research Article from Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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The Changing Methods of Metaphysics

Traditionally, metaphysics was practiced as a top-down, a priori discipline, with Euclidean geometry as its model. The metaphysician begins with self-evident principles of a highly general nature, together with appropriate definitions, and proceeds to draw out the necessary consequences.

This approach is clearly exemplified in the work of two prominent eighteenth-century metaphysicians, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Benedict (Baruch) de Spinoza. Leibniz spun metaphysical gold out of the dross of the principles of noncontradiction and sufficient reason: His entire Monadology (1965), replete with an infinite collection of possible worlds, with the actual world (the best of all possible worlds) consisting of a myriad of mutually reflecting, simple, mind-like substances. Spinoza was even more self-consciously imitating Euclid, but his conclusions are almost diametrically opposed to those of Leibniz. Spinoza's ontology comprises exactly one substance (God-or-Nature), of which the mental and the physical realms are two aspects, and...

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This section contains 10,595 words
(approx. 36 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Metaphysics Encyclopedia Article
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Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Metaphysics from Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.
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