The time thus spent seems to have been on the whole happy, even allowing for warm discussions with the mathematicians and metaphysicians of France, and for harassing controversies in the Netherlands.
The conception of the Unconscious, by which von Hartmann describes his ultimate metaphysical principle, is not at bottom as paradoxical as it sounds, being merely a new and mysterious designation for the Absolute of German metaphysicians.
- three kinds of definite answers are returned: those of materialism, idealism and realism, according to the emphasis laid by metaphysicians on body, on mind, or on both.
In order to prove this novel conclusion he started afresh from the Cartesian " I think " in the Kantian form of the synthetic unity of apperception acting by a priori categories; but instead of allowing, with all previous metaphysicians, that the Ego passively receives sensations from something different, and not contenting himself with Kant's view that the Ego, by synthetically combining the matter of sensations with a priori forms, partially constructs objects, and therefore Nature as we know it, he boldly asserted that the Ego, in its synthetic unity, entirely constructs things; that its act of spontaneity is not mere synthesis of passive sensations, but construction of sensations into an object within itself; and that therefore understanding makes as well as shapes Nature.
When the later reaction to Kant arose against both Hegelianism and materialism, the nearly contemporary appearance of Fechner's Psychophysics began to attract experimental psychologists by its real as well as its apparent exactness, and both psychologists and metaphysicians by its novel way of putting the relations between the physical and the psychical in man and in the world.
Like most of the great metaphysicians of the 17th century, Malebranche interested himself also in questions of mathematics and natural philosophy, and in 1699 was admitted an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences.
As a convinced realist he took his standpoint on nature and experience, and could afford to look on objectively at the controversies of the metaphysicians.
It will be seen, however, that neither Socrates nor Isocrates was philosopher in any strict sense of the word, the speculative aims of physicists and metaphysicians being foreign to the practical theories both of the one and of the other.
These difficulties arise quite naturally from the obligation, which metaphysicians, theologians, moral philosophers, men of science, and psychologists alike recognize, to give an account, consistent with their theories, of the relation of man's power of deliberate and purposive activity to the rest of the universe.
The unity of opposites translated into its most abstract terms PP ing as the " identity of being and not-being," the principle in that the " real is the rational," the apparent substitution of " bloodless " categories for the substance of concrete reality gave it an air of paradox in the eyes of metaphysicians while physicists were scandalized by the premature attempts at a complete philosophy of nature and history.
The earliest "metaphysicians " concerned themselves with the nature of being (ontology), seeking for the unity which they postulated behind the multiplicity of phenomena (see Ionian School Of Philosophy and articles on the separate thinkers); later thinkers tended to inquire rather into the nature of knowledge as the necessary pre-requisite of ontological investigation.
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