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A Path into Metaphysics: Phenomenological, Hermeneutical, and Dialogical Studies.

A Path into Metaphysics: Phenomenological, Hermeneutical, and Dialogical Studies. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990. xviii + 387 pp. $59.50--Metaphysics, the most concrete of human inquires, cannot rightly leave anything out, not even or especially its own history. At the very least, a consideration of the history of metaphysical investigation is necessary in order to recover the peculiar naivete proper to the discipline, for any language at our immediate disposal comes to us already stamped by the thinking of our predecessors. Nor may we rule out of hand the possibility that metaphysics is itself in some way subject to "physics" or time. Finally, only arrogance could keep us from admitting that the "history" of metaphysics might hold answers to our most pressing questions, and indeed put questions to us we had not thought to ask. Metaphysics is, in short, an archeological science in a double sense.

Wood, who takes his bearings principally from Heidegger (pp. xv, 4), devotes half of this "introduction" (cf. p. xvii) to metaphysics to its history. Part 2 of the book, "Reading the Tradition," surveys the contributions of three ancient philosophers, one medieval thinker, and seven modern writers. One might, as a matter of emphasis, quarrel with his decision to treat Aquinas as simply one with the tradition of Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle (cf. p. 181): the hyphen in his "Ancient-Medieval Tradition" bears more intensive examination. And while Wood's attempt to read the "Modern Tradition" as in many ways continuous with and an advance over its past (p. 205) is to be applauded, one regrets that he does not explore in sufficient detail the reasons which led Descartes, Spinoza, and even Leibniz to oppose the ancient and medieval traditions. Otherwise stated, Wood does not adequately explain why the phrase "the modern tradition" is not an oxymoron. However that may be, the breadth of his interest in the history of philosophy is exemplary. His deft summaries of key figures in that history--these also include Kant, Hegel, and Whitehead--will prove helpful especially to those who are unfamiliar with it.

The first part of the book, "Humanness, Metaphysics, and Being," begins with a series of "meditations" on birth, death, embodiment, consciousness, and related themes meant to shake the reader free from the grip of the everyday. Subsequent chapters, using the various "dimensions" of human life as evidence of the analogical character of worldly being, advance the thesis that metaphysics, far from indicating a forgetting or denial of our humanity, is its proper fulfillment, a fulfillment which remains in principle incomplete or "open" (pp. 112-17). For Wood, then, "divine science" is in its beginnings and in its end inseparable from anthropology in the strict sense (pp. 67, 308). The "dialogue" he initiates in Part 2 sets in motion the static principles of Part 1.

The irenic tone which characterizes the book as a whole is certainly due more to Buber, Wood's other acknowledge guide (pp. xv, 307), than to Heidegger, whose logomachy is rarely well emulated because rarely well understood. Wood also has the ability, frequently displayed, to make apparently inaccessible or outlandish notions comprehensible and pertinent. For this and for other reasons his book would make a good undergraduate text. In this regard, the author would seem to have realized his intention most admirably.
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Author:McCarthy, John C.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:The Unity of the Self.
Next Article:In memoriam: F.S.C. Northrop (1893-1992).

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