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By R. G. Collingwood

One of many nice Oxford philosopher's most interesting works, Essay on Metaphysics considers the character of philosophy, and places ahead Collingwood's unique and influential theories of causation, presuppositions, and the good judgment of query and resolution. This new version contains 3 attention-grabbing unpublished items that light up and enlarge the Essay.

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A reader may reply: 'I see that you have proved metaphysics to be perfectly useless for the purpose for which it is generally thought useful, namelyassisting the progress of science by showing which presuppositions, and therefore which schools of scientific thought, are justified in the light of metaphysical criticism and which are not. But whereas I draw from this conclusion the inference that metaphysics is a futile occupation and had better be stopped, you seem to "be inferring that metaphysics is not, for example, the attempt to decide whether it is true or false that all events have causes, but an attempt to do something different.

A skilful thinker, practised in disentangling such knots, will quickly resolve it into four: I. Have you a wife? 2. Were you ever in the habit of beating her? 3. Do you intend to manage in future without doing so? 4. Have you begun carrying out that intention? ABSOLUTE PRESUPPOSITIONS 39 ,After disentangling comes ~rranging. The reason why questions have to be arranged is because one of them may be contingent upon a certain answer being given to another. The question whether you ever beat your wife does not arise unless an affirmative answer has been given to the question whether you ever had one.

Each is important, and fundamentally important, to the science that makes it, because it determines the entire structure of that science by determining the questions that arise in it, and therefore determining the possible answers. Thus every detail in these respective sciences depends on what absolute presuppositions they respectively make. But this does not mean that it depends on these presuppositions' being thought true, or that the truth of the conclusions arrived at depends on the presuppositions' being in fact true.

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