Philosophy

Research Article

Logical Positivism and the Function of Reason

Professor Bernard Phillips

Metaphysics as a human enterprise is for ever called upon to vindicate its claim to be entitled “knowledge.” Sometimes the challenge is issued in the name of irritated common sense. Sometimes metaphysics is relegated into insignificance by a supercilious estheticism. Sometimes metaphysics is excommunicated for daring to trespass on the holy domain of religion. Here its death sentence is pronounced by an all-embracing scepticism, and there by the confident faith in the universal adequacy and exclusive validity of the methods of science. The attacks on metaphysics throughout the ages have been so numerous and so severe that one would expect the victim to have expired long ago. Yet the inextinguishable will-to-live exhibited by metaphysics has been as remarkable a phenomenon as the perennial tenacity of her would-be executioners. And although the bells have been tolled many times for metaphysics, she is still able to announce with Mark Twain that the rumours of her demise have been slightly exaggerated. In the long run, history seems to reveal a singular indocility with respect to the arguments of the enemies of metaphysics, and as Gilson has pointed out, one of the lessons to be derived from the study of the history of philosophy is that metaphysics always buries its undertakers.