Metaphysics in Ordinary Language

Metaphysics in Ordinary Language

Stanley Rosen
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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    Metaphysics in Ordinary Language
    Book Description:

    In this rich collection of philosophical writings, Stanley Rosen addresses a wide range of topics-from eros, poetry, and freedom to problems like negation and the epistemological status of sense perception. Though diverse in subject, Rosen's essays share two unifying principles: there can be no legitimate separation of textual hermeneutics from philosophical analysis, and philosophical investigation must be oriented in terms of everyday language and experience, although it cannot simply remain within these confines. Ordinary experience provides a minimal criterion for the assessment of extraordinary discourses, Rosen argues, and without such a criterion we would have no basis for evaluating conflicting discourses: philosophy would give way to poetry.Philosophical problems are not so deeply embedded in a specific historical context that they cannot be restated in terms as valid for us today as they were for those who formulated them, the author maintains. Rosen shows that the history of philosophy-a story of conflicting interpretations of human life and the structure of intelligibility-is a story that comes to life only when it is rethought in terms of the philosophical problems of our own personal and historical situation.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15046-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 Suspicion, Deception, and Concealment
    (pp. 1-14)

    The passage from Stendhal that serves as our motto is recorded by Nietzsche in a notebook entry dating from 1887–88.¹ It expresses a theme that fascinates Nietzsche at all stages of his productive life. The most powerful statement of that theme occurs in paragraph 30 ofBeyond Good and Evil, as part of the climax of Nietzsche’s account of the distance that separates the exceptional human being from the multitude (par. 26–30): “Our highest insights must—and should—sound like follies, perhaps like crimes, when in an impermissible manner they reach ears which are not suited or predetermined...

  6. Chapter 2 The Lived Present
    (pp. 15-38)

    In this essay, I shall be concerned with one aspect of the problem of human temporality. My question is this: How do we experience the present? Like the phenomenon of time, the question is itself at once familiar and obscure. We are all conversant with the experience of living in the present, as distinct from having existed in the past and being about to do so in the future, barring some unexpected accident. Let us say that the lived present has a certain thickness or what Bergson calleddurée. But to speak of the present as marked by duration is...

  7. Chapter 3 Erotic Ascent
    (pp. 39-61)

    In all three Platonic accounts of Eros, to be found in theSymposium,Phaedrus, andRepublic, there is an ascent from the city to the domain of the Ideas. But this ascent is not uniform in all cases; and, contrary to Heracleitus’s assurance, the way up is not the same as the way down. I begin with a comparison of theSymposiumand thePhaedrus. In theSymposium, Diotima tells Socrates that Eros is a daimon; she goes on to explain that “everydaimonionis in between god and mortal” (202d13f). The Greek term is used elsewhere by Socrates to...

  8. Chapter 4 The Golden Apple
    (pp. 62-80)

    Almost fifty years ago, as a young student at the University of Chicago, I received my preliminary initiation into the erotic mysteries of the Platonic dialogues from an ambiguous foreign prophet named Leo Strauss. As I was no Socrates and Strauss no Diotima, this initiation could not be entirely satisfactory. I had no difficulty in accepting Strauss’s central hermeneutical principle that the key to Plato’s teaching is the dialogue-form itself. What could be more self-evident than that Plato wrote dramas rather than treatises (albeit somewhat eccentric, not to say occasionally boring dramas like theParmenidesandTimaeus) and so that...

  9. Chapter 5 The Problem of Sense Perception in Platoʹs Philebus
    (pp. 81-101)

    The main part of this essay will consist of a detailed analysis of a short but dense and puzzling passage on sense perception in Plato’sPhilebus(38c5 to 39c6 in the Stephanus pagination). As a preface to this analysis, I shall refer briefly to a passage in theTheaetetus. Although I shall give as precise an analysis as I can of the Platonic text, my goal is neither philological nor historical, but theoretical. I want to study the text in question for the light it sheds on the general problem of how to explain our ability to distinguish between true...

  10. Chapter 6 Forms, Elements, and Categories
    (pp. 102-111)

    My thesis is quite simple: However useful the development of categorial schemata may be on an ad hoc basis, it is a philosophical error to attempt to impose a table of categories onto the totality of experience. As a corollary to this thesis, I would suggest that the discovery of order is to a certain extent a consequence of production and is therefore at least partly relative to human intention. An excessive insistence upon the comprehensive adequacy of this or that categorial table leads invariably to disappointment, whether through internal difficulties or the discovery of new modes of order, often...

  11. Chapter 7 Technē and the Origins of Modernity
    (pp. 112-125)

    In this essay, I make a suggestion about the role of Platonism in the development of the modern epoch. It has become quite common to find in the scholarly literature the claim that such originators of modernity as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Descartes were influenced by Plato’s geometrical cosmology. According to this view, the mythical description of the cosmos as constructed from a variety of pure geometrical figures, which Plato records in theTimaeus, is the prototype for the late Renaissance and early modern conviction that philosophy is written in the book of nature in the languages of mathematics.


  12. Chapter 8 Sad Reason
    (pp. 126-143)

    I trust that the title I have chosen is not too melancholy. The topic is a large one, but it is certainly familiar to all of us, and it is difficult to see how anything could be of greater concern to thoughtful human beings. The question before us is whether the life of reason is happy or sad. Those who dislike large topics might be inclined to reply, “Sometimes sad, sometimes happy,” and I suppose they would mean by this that happiness depends upon something other than our degree of rationality. In one sense, I agree with this sober reply....

  13. Chapter 9 Transcendental Indeterminateness
    (pp. 144-163)

    It has often been observed that, in describing the transcendental structure of possible experience, Kant has difficulty in preserving the indeterminateness of empirical knowledge. This difficulty centers on the nature of perception.¹ Simply stated, the problem is how to combine a transcendentally imposed necessity with empirical contingency. In my opinion, there is a parallel difficulty that has not received extensive consideration: how to combine transcendental purposiveness with the empirical contingency of reflective judgment.²

    In this essay, I want to consider these two problems together. My question is, then, What is the link between perception and judgment in Kant’s model of...

  14. Chapter 10 Freedom and Reason
    (pp. 164-181)

    I begin with an informal statement of three different theses concerning the relation between freedom and reason. According to the first thesis, freedom is a consequence of the subordination of the intellect to independent formal structure. One finds a version of this thesis, for example, in Plato’sSophistat 253c6ff, where dialectic, or the science of the combination and separation of forms—also referred to as division in accordance with kinds—is identified by the Eleatic Stranger and the young mathematician Theaetetus as the science that characterizes the free man.

    In theSymposiumandPhaedrus, Plato assigns to Socrates the...

  15. Chapter 11 Interpretation and the Fusion of Horizons: Remarks on Gadamer
    (pp. 182-201)

    The expression “fusion of horizons” (Horizontverschmelzung) is the central concept of the universal hermeneutics developed by the German philosopher H. G. Gadamer in his influential bookTruth and Method. It will be the main topic of this essay, but in order to set it into the proper context, I need to say something about Gadamer’s overall enterprise. In so doing I will try to clarify the meaning of hermeneutics and discuss the sense in which it is intended to be universal. This discussion will culminate in a fundamental criticism of Gadamer’s hermeneutics. In the second half of the essay, I...

  16. Chapter 12 Is There a Sign of Freedom?
    (pp. 202-217)

    There is more than one way in which to honor the work of a thinker. I shall try to recognize the contribution of Josef Simon, not by a summary of his achievements or even by a textual analysis of his work, but by addressing the theme which he has so subtly articulated in the two booksWahrheit als FreiheitandPhilosophie des Zeichens. In the course of a single essay, I cannot pretend to do more than to indicate how Simon’s thinking has assisted me in stating the difficulties I see in contemporary philosophy of language.

    It seems to me...

  17. Chapter 13 Philosophy and Ordinary Experience
    (pp. 218-239)

    I propose to deal with the question of the relation between philosophy and ordinary experience. This sounds quite straightforward, but I am afraid that it is actually an unusually difficult problem. It is a striking fact of our century that philosophy has become increasingly concerned with ordinary experience, ordinary language, everyday life, or the life-world, to cite four often-used expressions. This concern is evident in both wings of the two major contemporary philosophical movements, which are popularly if inaccurately designated as the analytical and the continental or phenomenological schools. Interest in everyday or ordinary language has clearly been stimulated by...

  18. Chapter 14 Nothing and Dialectic
    (pp. 240-257)

    I have been thinking about nothing for nearly forty-five years; prior to thinking about it, I worried about it a lot. It was upon first reading Plato’sSophistthat my worrying was temporarily quenched by thinking. The first thing I thought was, “What am I worrying about?” It would be gratifying to be able to report that this devotion to thinking put a permanent end to my worries. Unfortunately this is not possible. At least with respect to nothing, thinking and worrying are very closely connected. The attempt to distinguish between thinking and worrying is not without its interest. But...

  19. Chapter 15 Kojèveʹs Paris: A Memoir
    (pp. 258-278)

    In 1960–61 I was a Fulbright Research Professor at the Sorbonne. My sponsor was Jean Wahl, a kindly gentleman who was one of the first, and perhaps the first, to redirect French philosophical attention to Hegel in the late twenties with his lectures on the unhappy consciousness. Wahl was interesting because of a certain amorphousness in his nature. By education and age, he served as a symbol of the Paris of the previous generation. At the same time, he possessed a childlike openness and imaginative predisposition for novelty that hinted at things to come. One could not confuse him...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 279-288)
  21. Index
    (pp. 289-290)