The metaphysics of non-metaphysicians

December 2, 2011

Now the history of mind reveals pretty clearly that the thinker who decries metaphysics will actually hold metaphysical notions of three main types.

For one thing, he will share the ideas of his age on ultimate questions, so far as such ideas do not run counter to his interests or awaken his criticism. No one has yet appeared in human history, not even the most profoundly critical intellect, in whom no important idola theatri can be detected, but the metaphysician will at least be superior to his opponent in this respect, in that he will be constantly on his guard against the surreptitious entrance and unquestioned influence of such notions.

In the second place, if he be a man engaged in any important inquiry, he must have a method, and he will be under a strong and constant temptation to make a metaphysics out of his method, that is, to suppose the universe ultimately of such a sort that his method must be appropriate and successful. Some of the consequences of succumbing to such a temptation have been abundantly evident in our discussion of the work of Kepler, Galileo, and Descartes.

Finally since human nature demands metaphysics for its full intellectual satisfaction, no great mind can wholly avoid playing with ultimate questions, especially where they are powerfully thrust upon it by considerations arising from its positivistic investigations, or by certain vigorous extra-scientific interests, such as religion. But inasmuch as the positivist mind has failed to school itself in careful metaphysical thinking, its ventures at such points will be apt to appear pitiful, inadequate, or even fantastic.

— E.A. Burtt
The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science.

4 Responses to “The metaphysics of non-metaphysicians”

  1. Br. Michael Says:

    Hello cburrell,

    My name is Br. Michael, OFM and I came across your blog in searching the internet for a text version of Anonymous 4’s The Legends of St. Nicholas album.

    In December 2007 and 2008 you posted text from Jacobus de Voragine, The Gilte Legende (translation c.1440) and I was wondering if you had more of that text in addition to what you posted. I am working on a private Morning Prayer liturgy for my brothers this Tuesday 12-6-11 and could use more of that text if you have it.

    If you do, please email me and I would be very grateful.

    Peace and all good things,
    Br. Michael

  2. cburrell Says:

    Br. Michael, I am afraid that I do not have any more of the text from the Gilte Legende to offer you. I transcribed the text you found from the booklet accompanying the Anonymous 4 CD. There may be one or two more short passages in the booklet, but, regrettably, mine is boxed up and in storage at the present time. So sorry to be unable to help.

    • Br. Michael Says:

      Thank you for getting back to me! I appreciate the help. I suspected the booklet contained the text, but I bought the music on I-tunes and it didn’t come with the booklet.

      The nice thing is finding your blog. It seems interesting and I will keep up on it.

      May you have a blessed Advent. Peace and all good things!

      • cburrell Says:

        Yes, iTunes can be hit and miss with booklets. Anonymous 4’s label, Harmonia Mundi, has not really embraced downloading, and I know of no way to get their booklets apart from buying the physical CDs.

        Thank you for your good wishes, and I wish you a good Advent as well!


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