Metaphysical, Nonmetaphysical

There is a large current debate over so-called “metaphysical” versus “nonmetaphysical” readings of Hegel. Brandom, Robert Pippin, and Terry Pinkard are considered to be in the nonmetaphysical camp, and my sympathies are generally on this side. I also think that the “metaphysical” camp makes many unwarranted assumptions about what metaphysics must be; and that the so-called nonmetaphysical approach to Hegel is actually much closer to what emerges from an unbiased and historiographically aware close textual reading of Aristotelian metaphysics. (Justification of this obviously large claim is a work in progress, far exceeding the scope of a single post. But see menu for many related notes on Aristotle and Hegel.)

I take the term “metaphysics” to refer in the first instance to concerns addressed in the collection of Aristotelian texts later editors placed “after the Physics”, when physics itself had already been developed in terms of a kind of semantics of the becoming of sensible things. Aristotelian “metaphysics” is dedicated to a further exploration of higher-order interpretive concepts already employed throughout his works.

Many layers of very non-Aristotelian Neoplatonic and theological interpretation affect the way Aristotelian texts are still commonly read today. To the extent that they relate to Aristotle at all, common connotations of the term “metaphysics” almost exclusively pick out what were actually non-Aristotelian biases in historical readings of Aristotle. Interpretations I refer to as biased in this way were often highly sophisticated and interesting in their own right, but that is not the point here.