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Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  405 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Metaphysics is one of the traditional four main branches of philosophy, alongside ethics, logic and epistemology. It is also an area that continues to attract and hold a fascination for many people yet it is associated with being complex and abstract. For some it is associated with the mystical or religious. For others it is known through the metaphysical poets who talk of ...more
eBook Kindle, 129 pages
Published August 30th 2012 by OUP Oxford
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Roy Lotz
“Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly.”
—William James.

I have read several excellent books from the Very Short Introduction series, but this book transcends the genre: it is perhaps tied with Russell’s Problems of Philosophy for the best introduction to philosophy I’ve ever read. The book is a marvelous display of philosophical thought. What’s more, the fine quality of thought is matched by the fine quality of writing. (Mumford does have the bad habit of
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Asking questions such as 'The cheese contains a hole, for instance. Is the hole part of the cheese?' and posing other more mind bending suggestions, this is a great introduction into such a confuddling topic. The backwards structure to presenting the idea of Metaphysics seemed ludicrous but made perfect sense in the end.

I'm not sure if it was just me but low key this book was hilarious in its wit and seeming absurdity. A great short book for people looking to get into the subject or who are
Bojan Tunguz
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Metaphysics is one of the main branches of Philosophy. Unfortunately, unlike logic, epistemology, or ethics, over the years it has gotten a very distorted perception in the popular culture. If you walk into any large bookstore (or browse an online catalogue), and go into the section labeled “Metaphysics,” you are most likely to come across titles dealing with some aspect of the New Age spirituality, religion, or mysticism. However, the proper domain of Metaphysics is the exploration of “first ...more
Apr 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You've probably heard the question asked - if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

A dog has properties, characteristics that make us call it a dog when we see it. Which of those characteristics could be modified and by how much before we no longer call it a dog?

If space is an area that contains nothing, are we justified in calling space a something?

Welcome to metaphysics! Think of it as a field where unanswerable questions are posed, deeply considered
Mardin Uzeri
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Metaphysics is commonly regarded as one of the main branches of philosophy (alongside logic, ethics, and epistemology). For anyone who seeks to systematically approach the study of philosophy, I can not recommend this book more highly.

It is concise, informative, profound, exceedingly witty, and an overall joy to read.

The clarity that Stephen Mumford was able to impart on a complicated subject that is often written about in a boring, muddled manner impressed me to no end. The even-handed way he
Ha Pham
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Basically all of your shower thoughts in one book.
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The year was 2001... I was an impressionable youth with no guidance or idea of what I wanted to be when I "grew up". Lo! A philosophy 101 course appeared! I learned to hate Kant, Hegel and Marx. And now, many years later, and much balder, I take another 101 course in the form of this book.

In all possible worlds...

Aug 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I discovered the Very-Short-Introduction series fittingly while being in Oxford. The first few volumes I read were either very solid (European Union, Human Rights) or outright brilliant (Okasha's volume on Philosophy of Science). After having stumbled over a sub-par volume (Privacy), Mumford reinstalls my faith in this series. His introduction to metaphysics is almost on the same level as Okasha's introduction to the philosophy of science, and were it not for a technical short coming I would ...more
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun overview of the kind of questions address by metaphysicists. What is a thing? What is change? What is a cause? What is time? What's a person? What's possible? Is nothing something? Is metaphysics just a giant waste of time? You could do worse with yours than read this little book, anyway.

Christopher C. Fuchs
Having read a bit about metaphysics, I purchased this book to explore a little deeper. Unfortunately I found it dry and, more importantly, inconsequential. The author failed to convince me that metaphysics has any application to the modern world. The author acknowledges that metaphysics is often considered "useless" or "childish" but does not adequately rebut those challenges. The decision to save the chapter "What is Metaphysics?" until the very end was a contributing mistake, which the author ...more
Windi Astuti
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Metaphysics is one of the traditional four main branches of philosophy, alongside ethics, logic, and epistemology. As a beginner, this part of very short introduction series help me understand metaphysics by provoking different questions in every chapter.

I'm interested in the subject because in metaphysics, we have our reasoning as our guide to how the world could be or how it should be. I have questions remain unanswered and by doing metaphysics activity I (might) get the answers. I can't
Steph De Mel
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is easily one of the best installments in the VSI series. Mumford's writing is clear, concise, and incredibly engaging; I felt, as I read this, as though I were sitting in a lecture theatre and watching him teach. Consequently, I got a lot of enjoyment out of this VSI, and found the subject matter incredibly interesting. Highly, highly recommended!
James C
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mumford provides a quick and easy summary of metaphysics, and the topics in contention. These topics include the nature of time, personhood, causation, change and many others. I’d recommend it to anybody who is interested in these questions as the book provides a brief yet detailed summary of the conversation surrounding these topics.
Wangshan Lu
I feel a good portion of the discussions do not bear useful information without also discussing related science:
- "whole-vs-part" -> complex system/emergence
- "what is a person" -> neuroscience
- "causality" -> probability/Bayesian probability
Marts  (Thinker)
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
An easy-to-read philosophical overview of this theme...
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite short, it is very well organized.

I have only missed any comment about the relation: metaphysics and religions beliefs.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Good book to get your brain in the right place for launching into the study of metaphysics...don’t expect anything more than that, as the author didn’t intend anything other than that.
Connor DeLoach
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good introduction for someone with zero knowledge
Eric T. Voigt
"... it depends on one's view of the relation between the world, language, and truth." (pg. 93) That's everything for ya.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very surface level and the backwards chapter order doesn't work. My least favorite so far of VSI series.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book, what I liked most about it is the main idea of starting with particular examples and ending with the actual definition of what metaphysics is about.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good introductory book on metaphysics; good, not great. I'm not new to the subject, but even for people like me it is good practice to go back to the very basics and get an overview of the discipline of metaphysics, and see how it all should hang together. I particularly appreciated the first chapters on substance, particulars, properties, and change. Since these topics were first touched on and developed by the Greeks, their analysis was (and is) very down-to-earth. However, when it ...more
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since this is a book about philosophy it is appropriate to borrow one of the most famous ideas from philosophy to describe this book and state that Stephen Mumford’s Metaphysics is the Platonic Form of a Very Short Introduction. It is succinct, lucid, and written in a clear style that makes some of the most complex issues in philosophy accessible to the average reader. Some VSI's require advanced degrees to begin to understand them. Not this one. It's what every VSI should be, though most are ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great example of a Very Short Introduction, drawing from common experiences to build the basic concepts of the field and argue for its relevance.
Frank Spencer
Very Short Introductions are almost always helpful, and this one is no exception. It illustrates well that Metaphysics involves coming up with useful analyses, but no final truths. Somehow, that fact is easier to handle in this book than it is elsewhere. There are good discussions of time, causation, parts and wholes, possible worlds, and relation. There is enough lightness in the text (section titles such as, "For Hume the Bell Tolls" and sentences such as, "Stuff happens.") to make it ...more
Ben Holloway
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent little book. Metaphysics can be opaque. This book takes the veil off some of the mystery without degrading the discipline.

If you are married to a philosopher and think that talking about tables and chairs the way your spouse does is insane and irrelevant, then this book is for you. If you are a freshman who just got yourself an introduction to metaphysics but wished it was more introductory then this book is for you. If you are a highly decorated metaphysician but have
Tso William
The personal voice of this very short book feels like Professor Stephen Mumford is delivering a personal lecture to you. Unlike the lectures of many professors, this one does not read directly from the lecture notes or powerpoints in front of him. He does more than to recount the difficult and abstract philosophical concepts. He made you 'feel' the significance behind those concepts. I believe that Graham Priest, the author of Logic from the Very Short Introduction series, should take a lesson ...more
Marcus Vinicius
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is there any value in thinking about the world and its arrangements? Does one should inquire about questions that aren't scrutinized by observation? This short book tries to answer these questions and, along the way, gives the reader a first look in some crucial metaphysics problems. The text is well organized and succeed in presenting the material in an understandable way. This book is well suited for a reader that doesn't have previous expertise in the matter. Sometimes the reading can be hard ...more
Jon Jacobs
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't say enough about how good this book is. I think it should be read by all.

It gives anyone who is interested easy access to a profoundly important topic. Mumford's 'Metaphysics' is also a most amusing read.

I compare Mumford's book to Bertrand Russell's "Problems of Philosophy" in that both of them offer easy, and amusing, access to some of the most profound ideas man has ever thought up.

May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mumford is a leading philosopher in metaphysics, and provides a very interesting overview of this topic, and does so at a level that a dummy like me can understand. I had read interviews of him on the 3AM blog, and was impressed with his knowledge and with his openness, as well as his ability to articulate concepts that others have difficulty articulating.
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