Metaphysics is the study of existence at the highest level of generality. It is traditionally characterized as the study of "being qua being"—of being in general rather than specifically of this or that sort. Accordingly, the salient task of the field is to achieve a clearer understanding of the concepts and principles of being, existence, and reality. As such, metaphysics has been an established sector of philosophy since the time of Aristotle’s initial systematization of the subject in the fourth century B.C.E. In line with tradition, distinguished philosopher Nicholas Rescher presents key topics that have always figured on the agenda of metaphysics: the nature and rationale of existence, the differentiation of what is actual from the unreal and mere possibility, and the prospects and limits of our knowledge of the real. A central theme of Rescher’s approach to metaphysics is the inherent complexity of actual existence and the consequent limitedness of our knowledge of the world. In the introduction, he states that the ideal of perfected knowledge—of a grasp on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—is just that, an inherently unrealizable ideal. Nonetheless, he emphasizes that partial understanding and approximate explanation are certainly better than no explanation at all. He thus rejects the nihilistic brand of skepticism, endorsing instead a fallibilism that is realistic in insisting that our efforts to understand reality will always remain imperfect and incomplete. It is in the spirit of being realistic in this sense of the term that his exploration of metaphysics is conducted. Though a work of philosophical sophistication and logical rigor, Metaphysics displays a clarity of exposition that makes it suitable for use as a text or supplementary reader in upper-class undergraduate and graduate philosophy courses.
"A satisfying and highly accessible exposition of major topics in contemporary metaphysics. Rescher achieves a remarkable synthesis that sensitively integrates Aristotelian realism with a Kantian justification of presuppositions about the existence of a common external world. Rigorously argued with detailed excursions into vital concepts concerning our knowledge of reality, its complexity, lawfulness, and modality, this new book will be profitably read by students and professionals for its valuable insights and new directions in scientific ontology and epistemology." Dale Jacquette Professor of Philosophy The Pennsylvania State University "Others have proclaimed the end of metaphysics as well as the end of history, but Nicholas Rescher in his usual magisterial form is here to remind us of the importance of both metaphysics and the lessons to be learned from history. In chapter after chapter, Rescher insists that nature is intelligible and that the intellect is powerful enough to ferret out the secrets of nature. Explanation, even ultimate explanation, is possible and indeed a necessary pursuit." Prof. Jude Dougherty, Dean Emeritus, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America, and editor of The Review of Metaphysics