Metaphysical Pluralism. An Appendix to “The Principle of Metaphysical Realism”

0. In my immediately previous post, “The Principle of Metaphysical Realism,” I presented said principle, that

There is at least something.

or that

At least something exists.

as “the utterly basic, and thus absolutely first, principle of metaphysics,” prior even to the principles of non-contradiction and excluded middle standardly identified by the Aristotelian tradition in philosophy as the “first principles.” I further presented it as one basis for identifying the philosophical perspective motivating After Aristotle as Aristotelian or, at least, neo-Aristotelian in nature. In today’s postlette, I’d like to offer a bit of a precision of that identification before moving on, in the next post, to the discussion of the principles of non-contradiction and excluded middle I had promised to put forward.

1. An Aristotelian philosophical perspective, then, be it that of Aristotle, Aquinas, or a quibbler like yours truly, nipping at their heels, is not only to be classified as a metaphysical realism, in the very minimalist sense pointed to by the principle of metaphysical realism, but also, more specifically, as a pluralistic realism. That is, the principle of metaphysical realism, contrasting though it does with the thesis of metaphysical nihilism, that

Nothing exists.

is consistent with both of two very different metaphysical perspectives, that of metaphysical monism and that of metaphysical pluralism.

As a first step in towards the further precision I have in mind, let me restate the
principle of metaphysical realism as the principle that

At least one being is an existent.

A statement of the thesis of metaphysical monism is the conjunction according to which

At least one being is an existent and it is not the case that there is a being which is distinct from, or not identical with, that being.

or

At least one being is an existent and any being whatsoever is identical with that being.

or, again

At least one being is an existent and at most one being is an existent.

2. A statement of the thesis of metaphysical pluralism, on the other hand, will conjoin an affirmation of the first conjunct of the thesis of metaphysical monism with a denial of metaphysical monism’s second conjunct, thus

At least one being is an existent and it is not the case that at most one being is an existent.

or

At least one being is an existent and it is not the case that any being whatsoever is identical with that being.

3. That is

At least one being is an existent and at least one other being too is existent.

or, more briefly

There are at least two beings.

or, yet again, making use of a bit more of the apparatus of modern logic in its expression

There is a being x and there is a being y, and being x is not identical with being y.

Again, it is at least in principle possible for there to be the metaphysical theory that

There are at least two beings and there are at most two beings.

or

There is a being x, there is a being y, such that being x is not identical with being y and, for any being z, either z is identical with x or z is identical with y.

So, too, for three existents, the “at least” variety

There is a being x, there is a being y, and there is a being z such that being x is not identical with being y, being x is not identical with being z, and being y is not identical with being z.

and the “at most” variety

There is a being x, there is a being y, and there is a being z such that being x is not identical with being y, being x is not identical with being z, being y is not identical with being z, and, for any being w, w is identical with x, w is identical with y, or w is identical with z.

Etc. The answer to the question, central and difficult, of whether, for an Aristotelian philosophical perspective, there is not just a finite number but an infinite number of beings, is one that I am not yet prepared to claim that I know the answer to, though I am inclined in the direction of infinitism.

4. The foregoing is sufficient to demonstrate that the philosophical perspective animating this blog is, in that it is metaphysically pluralist as well as metaphysically realist, at least to that extent consistent with the philosophical perspectives of Aristotle and Aquinas. Not all philosophical perspectives are.

A yet more complete demonstration of the coincidence of the philosophical perspective animating this blog with that or those of Aristotle and Aquinas is ready to hand. That is, I need only point out that it, like they, is a philosophical dynamism, affirming the thesis that

At least one being is a changing being.

You will almost certainly have immediately seen where that thesis fits in the array of possibilities, contradicting as it does the thesis of philosophical staticism, according to which all beings are static and unchanging, or

No being is a changing being.

Etc. The answer to the question, central and difficult, of whether, for an Aristotelian philosophical perspective, it is the case that

All beings are changing beings.

or it is the case that

At least one being, i.e., God, is not a changing being.

is one that I am not yet prepared to claim that I know the answer to.

Until next time.

Richard

About Rchard E. Hennessey

See above, "About the Author/Editor."
This entry was posted in Thomas Aquinas's Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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