Metaphysics in its strictest sense, is applied, as a term. to that department of philosophy which has for its object the investigation of existences out of ourselves "that knowledge of causes and principles which we should carry with us into every department of inquiry." Inasmuch as mind cannot properly know what is not in contact with itself, the question, " What is the nature of our knowledge of the external world?" has been asked by philosophers, and answered in various ways; and this is the great question of metaphysics, if the term is applied in a strictly historical sense. Among modern writers of note in the field of philosophy, Prof. Ferrier, in his Institutes of Metaphysics (Edinb. and Lond. 1854, 12mo), accordingly occupies himself solely with the questions connected with knowledge, or the nature of our perception of an external world; his explanatory title is, The Theory of Knowing and Being. On the other hand, the lately-deceased Scotch philosopher Mansel, in his article Metaphysics (Cyclopcedia Britannica, 8th ed. vol. 14, s.v.), divided the subject into two parts-" Psychology, or the science of the facts of consciousness [which expresses the science of mind generally] as such; and Ontology, or the science of the same facts considered in their relation to realities existing without the mind"-that is, the problem of perception or metaphysics in the narrower sense. "Metaphysics," says the writer of the article on that subject in the Edinburgh Cyclopcedia, "have been called the First philosophy, or the Science of Sciences, as their object is to explain the principles and causes of all things existing, and to supply the defects of inferior sciences, which do not demonstrate, or sufficiently explain, their principles." Here we have a still further departure from our first and somewhat circumscribed sphere to the vast expanse of the department itself known as philosophy. Of the above two branches of philosophy or metaphysics, psychology (q.v.) investigates the faculties and operations of the human mind, while ontology (q.v.) seeks to develop the nature and laws of real existence. The former deals with the phenomena of consciousness, the constitution of the mind, the laws of thought; the latter with the essential characteristics of being per
se, the constitution of the universe, the laws of things. The former is descriptive, and the latter scientific metaphysics. "Metaphysics," says Sir William Hamilton (Lect. vii, p. 85), "in whatever: latitude the term be taken, is a science, or complement of sciences, exclusively occupied with mind. Now the philosophy of mind-psychology or metaphysics, in the widest signification of the terms-is threefold, for the object it immediately proposes for consideration may be either, 1, Phenomena in general; or, 2, Laws; or, 3, Inferences and Results.... The whole of philosophy is the answer to these three questions:
1. What are the facts or phenomena to be observed?
2. What are the laws which regulate these facts, or under which these phenomena appear?
3. What are the real results, not immediately manifested, which these facts or phenomena warrant us in drawing?" The great authority which Aristotle enjoyed in the Middle Ages, and the little actual knowledge respecting the laws of existence, induced his followers to form from his philosophical fragments a system, which served as a canon for the philosophy of the time. The oldest commentators of Aristotle had directed their endeavors to this point; but metaphysics, as an independent science, was developed by the schoolmen of the Middle Ages (Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William Occam, and others). In the 17th century, however, the metaphysics of the schoolmen was undermined, by the introduction of a critical spirit of investigation. Lord Bacon, More, Hobbes, appeared in England; Th. Campanella, in Italy; Des Cartes, in France, as adversaries of the Aristotelian school-philosophy. For details, SEE PHILOSOPHY.
As regards the origin of the name, the most recent discussions appear, on the whole, to confirm the commonly-received opinion, according to which the term Metaphysics, though originally employed to designate a treatise of Aristotle, was probably unknown to that philosopher himself. It is true that the oldest and best of the extant commentators on Aristotle refers the inscription of the treatise to the Stagyrite (Alexander, inl Arist. Meth. p. 127, ed. Bonitz); but in the extant writings of Aristotle himself, though the work and its subject are frequently referred to under the titles of the First Philosophy, or Theology, or Wisdom (Asclepius, apud Brandis Scholia, p. 519, b. 19; Bonitz, in Arist. Metaph. p. 5), no authority is found for the latter and more popular appellation. On the whole, the weight of evidence appears to be in favor of the supposition which attributes the inscription τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικά to Andronicus Rhodius, the first editor of Aristotle's collected works. The title, as given to the writings on the first philosophy, probably indicates only their place in the collection, as coming after the physical treatises of the author (comp. Bonitz ad Arist. Metaph. p. 3, 5). In this respect the term Metaphysics has been aptly compared to that of Postils; both names signifying nothing more than the fact of something else having preceded. Shakespeare used metaphysical as synonymous with supernatural.
"Fate and metaphysical aid doth seem To have thee crowned."- acbeth, Act i, Scene 3.
Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. i) considered metaphysical as equivalent to supernatural; and is supported by the Greek commentator Philoponus. But if μετά be interpreted, as it may, to mean along with, then metaphysics, or metaphysical philosophy, will be that philosophy which we should take along with us into physics. and into every other philosophy-that knowledge of causes and principles which we should carry with us into every department of inquiry. Aristotle called it the governing philosophy, which gives laws to all, but receives laws from none (Metaphys. lib. i, cap. 2). Lord Bacon (Advancement of Learning, bk. ii) has limited its sphere, when he says, " The' one part (of philosophy), which is physics, inquireth and handleth the material and efficient causes; and the other, which is metaphysics, handleth the formal and final cause." But all causes are considered by Aristotle in his writings which have been entitled Metaphysics. "Aristotle," says Schwegler (Hist. of Philos. p. 112), "held that every science must have for investigation a determined province and separate form of being, but that none of these sciences reaches the conception of being itself. Hence there is needed a science which should investigate that which the other sciences take up hypothetically, or through experience. This is done by the first philosophy, which has to do with being as such, while the other sciences relate only to determined and concrete being. The metaphysics, which is this science of being and its primitive grounds, is the first philosophy, since it is presupposed by every other discipline. Thus, says Aristotle, if there were only a physical substance, then would physics be the first and the only philosophy; but if there be an immaterial and unmoved essence which is the ground of all being, then must there be also an antecedent, and, because it is antecedent, a universal philosophy. The first ground of all being is God, whence Aristotle occasionally gives to the first philosophy the name of theology." "The aim of metaphysics," says D'Alembert (Melanges, 4:143), "is to examine the generation of our ideas, and to show that they come from sensations." This is the ideology of Condillac and De Trace. "Metaphysics," says Stewart (Dissert. pt. ii, p. 475)," was a word formerly appropriated to the ontology and pneumatology of the schools, but now understood as equally applicable to all those inquiries whichῥhave for their object to trace the various branches of human knowledge to their first principles in the constitution of the human mind;" and in the Preface to the same Dissertation he says that by metaphysics he understands the "inductive philosophy of the human mind." For literature, SEE PHILOSOPHY. (J. H. W.)