Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: Metaphysics: Constructing a Worldview by William Hasker

Metaphysics: Constructing a World View by William Hasker is a relatively short book (124 pages), but contains a great deal of information. Surprisingly enough, although the topic of metaphysics may sound daunting, the subject matter is presented very simply. The reader will come away with a good overview of metaphysics and the common metaphysical issues.

Basically, metaphysics asks the questions of What is there? What is real? What is ultimate? What is man’s place in what is real? It is, essentially, how one views the world, reality, and man’s place in the world. The subtitle is appropriate, as an exploration of metaphysical questions really does begin to construct one’s worldview.

Hasker divides the book into five sections: 1) an introduction to metaphysics, 2) Freedom and necessity, 3) Minds and bodies, 4) The world, and 5) God and the world. The introduction lays the foundation for the rest of the book by unpacking the philosophical questions that metaphysics asks. The author shows how metaphysical theories are judged – on the basis of their factual adequacy, logical consistency and explanatory power. He also addresses some preliminary epistemological questions up front.

Section two on freedom and necessity explores the issues of human free will, determinism, and the role God plays in these theories. Arguments and objections on each side are presented. This is a good introduction to these issues for the philosophy student and the layman. Section three on minds and bodies explores the mystery of the interaction between mind and body. Is man more than his body? Is there a soul? What is the mind of man? Dualism, materialism, and emergentism are described, with additional treatment of the subject of immortality and resurrection.

The last two sections deal with the world and God’s relationship with the world, respectively. The views of realism and idealism are compared. In addition, scientific realism is explored and its consequences examined. A few pages are devoted to the origin of the world. Hasker then deals with God and metaphysics and surveys the competing worldviews of naturalism (the world without God), pantheism (God as identical with the world), panentheism (God as including the world), and theism (God as creator of the world). These are short summaries that give the reasons behind adopting each view, along with some criticisms. Hasker’s epilog concludes Metaphysics by presenting a “Christian metaphysic,” in which he asks whether or not there is a specifically Christian way of doing metaphysics and suggests his own modest answers.

To conclude, Metaphysics: Constructing a World View is a very readable and helpful book that is perhaps most beneficial as part of the larger “Contours of Christian Philosophy” book series, which includes treatments of philosophy of religion, epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of science. For those studying worldviews, this is a great additional tool.


Anonymous said...

Since the great William Alston recently passed away (sad, but he was almost 90), perhaps you should next review some of his work on the epistemology of religion.

Brian said...

Thanks. I've added it to my wishlist. Hope to get to it... eventually!

Chris said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the good review. This sounds like a good introduction to metaphysics. I read the philosophy of religion book in this series, by C. Stephen Evans, and it's a concise, helpful introduction too.

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