Glossary of Metaphysical Definitions

From Norris Clarke’s: The One and the Many

Action = is the “self-revelation of being” (St Thomas), that it reveals a being as this kind of actor on me.

“Being” = that which is, or exists, is real, as in the existential propositions: “This is”; “That is”; “There is a snake in the cellar”; or “This wine is good.” Being is the most fundamental attribute of all real things.

  • Being = in its strong primary sense as real being means that which is, i.e., actually exists in the real order, is present as standing out of nothingness with its own act of existence outside of an idea. It actively presents itself to other real beings by its characteristic self-manifesting, self-communicating action on them, and in return receives their action on it, thus becoming a member in the interconnected community of real existents we call the universe. 
  • Being = is the ultimate objective correlative of the drive of the mind to know, co-extensive with its scope, that which defines it as intellect.
  • A real being = that which actually exists with its own act of existence outside of an idea.
  • A mental being = that which is present not by its own act of existence but only inside an idea; its being is to-be-thought-about: numbers, etc.
  • “that which is” = has 2 irreducible yet inseparable aspects: the is of actual existence and the that which, the subject which exists or has existence (the essence or what of a thing).
  • “is” = so fundamental that it is impossible to define it by anything clearer, so we can use paraphrases, for example: “exists,” or – perhaps more evocative – “presents itself”: a being is that which is actually present in some way, presents itself as standing out from the darkness of non-being into the light of being.

Metaphysics = that part of philosophy that studies all real beings insofar as they are, as they belong to the all-embracing community of real existents. It seeks to discover the basic properties, principles, and laws that govern all beings in our universe insofar as they exist.

  • Aristotle & Aquinas called it the science of being qua being, i.e., of all beings insofar as they are. Spelled out, this means the study of all beings precisely insofar as they are real (actually existent).
  • Metaphysics draws into the explicit light of reflection what all other human inquiry takes for granted or leaves implicit – the foundation of actual existence upon which all else is built & without which all subject matter vanishes into the darkness of nonbeing, of what is not.
  • The object of metaphysics = is the understanding of what it means to be for all beings.
  • The unrestricted drive to know gives rise to metaphysics = the search for the ultimate intelligibility of all being. My mind is by its nature oriented toward the totality of all being as knowable, as its final goal which alone can satisfy its drive to know.

Philosophy = is the critically reflective, systematically articulated attempt to illumine our human experience in depth and set it in a vision of the whole. We take experience & data and try to illumine them in depth (ultimate grounding, ultimate meaning, connections with rest of reality, etc).

Principle of causality = any being that does not contain the sufficient reason for its own existence within itself requires a cause.

Principle of non-contradiction = “Nothing (i.e., no real being) can both be and not be at the same time and under the same aspect” ~ Aristotle

Principle of sufficient reason = every being has the sufficient reason for its existence (i.e., the adequate ground or basis in existence for its intelligibility) either in itself or in another.

Truth = the conformity of mind to reality.

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