24 Pages

What Is Metaphysics? Realist, Conceptualist, and Neutralist Answers


Any systematic attempt at examining a neo-Aristotelian approach to metaphysics must begin with the meta-metaphysical question, What is metaphysics?, 1 insofar as the answer given to it affects in signifi cant ways the answers to other, more specifi c metaphysical questions. For example, if metaphysics is conceived to be a study of concepts, then whatever particular answers one gives to questions concerning being, matter, potency, individuality, and universals will have to be interpreted as referring to concepts. Even more signifi cant, the kinds of metaphysical questions that one may legitimately ask are determined to a great extent by the answer to the meta-metaphysical question. If metaphysics is conceived as a study of being, then it is diffi cult to fi t in it questions about non-being. This should not be surprising insofar as other disciplines are likewise affected by similar considerations. If one conceives biology as the study of organisms, then any question that is asked in it must concern organisms in some way. This is the reason why questions about volume and mass are more pertinent to physics than to biology, whereas questions about cells and bacteria are not part of the province of physics.