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Knowledge, Being and the Human

Some of the Major Issues in Philosophy


Jan Hartman

This book, in the form of a classical philosophical treatise, presents a large-scale theoretical project: It uses a metaphilosophical perspective to present the framework for postmetaphysical thinking, situating it in the domain of the metaphysics of morality. It offers an innovative defence of scepticism based on a critical and radical analysis of the concepts of knowledge and truth. Metaphysical and transcendental traditions are deconstructed, mainly in relation to the paradoxes of so-called realism and idealism, which are the consequence of dependence on an archaic substance theory. Moreover, the book proposes a certain form of philosophising in spite of everything, i.e. within a sceptical approach. The critique of ethics leads to an a-ethical concept of the will and the values of life.


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The task I have set myself in this concise treatise is to find a field in which there is still room to apply metaphysical thinking, i.e. that which goes beyond the domain of possible empirical experience. Admittedly, I suspect that this Kantian definition of metaphysics is not one that can be sustained without caveats, but let us at least accept it as a starting point for our discussion. In the first and second parts of this book, I follow the trail of modern philosophy, first by examining epistemological issues, and then, armed with conclusions referring to the nature and scope of possible cognition, I review the concepts of metaphysics and its cognitive aspirations. I have no reason to withhold from readers the results of these analyses. In terms of the question of knowledge, the position at which I arrive is scepticism. As far as metaphysics is concerned, the results are in accordance with the expectations of a sceptic – the whole metaphysical tradition is based on errors and sophisms. This has, I admit, already been said in philosophy more than once. I believe, however, that the version of scepticism presented on the pages of this book is both new and, to a certain extent, radical, such as the critique of metaphysics and its cognitive aspirations. Part three, coming after two radically critical and negative arguments, nonetheless has positive overtones. My deliberations on metaphysics have led me to the conviction that it is something that can be followed, albeit not in a...

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