A full-fledged humanistic solution to the modern human identity crisis occasioned by the way we must think in living our lives and the way we have become accustomed to think in our search for knowledge and understanding of the world

The Metaphysics of Self and World

Toward a Humanistic Philosophy

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E. M. Adams

"Just possibly a landmark book. Adams writes very well and his illustrations are very good. He also displays great erudition."
Richard Taylor, University of Rochester

A great fissure occurred in Western civilization in the early modern period with the divorce between the humanities and the sciences and the rise of scientific naturalism. The Metaphysics of Self and World is a philosophical exploration of the relationship between the individual, the culture, and the world. It is, in the authorís words, "a philosophy of the humanities, a philosophy of humanity, and a philosophy of social reality." It explores the implications of a world-view that would integrate the perspective of the sciences with humanistic ways of thought.

E.M. Adams claims that we do violence to ourselves as human beings by trying to fit into the world as delineated in scientific categories. Rejecting cultural subjectivism and scientific naturalism, he argues for the irreducibility and validity of the categories of the humanities and for a fully developed humanistic philosophy of self and world. In generating this world-view, he utilizes the humanities as a source of culture therapy in order to close the fissure in Western civilization.



"A very impressive, well-written, and philosophically sound work. With this volume, Adams rounds out a major contribution to contemporary philosohy and cultural criticism."
Douglas Browning, University of Texas at Austin

"E. M. Adams is one of America's most distinguished philosophers. The Metaphysics of Self and World is a masterpiece in philosophy, original and persuasive, profound and clear, tightly argued yet dealing with major philosophical and cultural issues, reaching the heights of speculative theory while also affording wise and compassionate insight into urgent practical problems. All those who take philosophy seriously, as well as all those concerned about the present plight of the humanities and the predicament of mankind in the midst of science and technology, will learn immeasurable from reading it."
Andrew J. Reck, Tulane University




1. Self and World: The Problem

2. The Humanities and Cultural Criticism
The Humanities • The Social Character of a Culture • The Structure of Feeling of a Culture • Philosophy and the Cultural Mind • Philosophical Skepticism • Categorial Analysis • Categorial Analysis Illustrated • The Importance of Epistemology • How Metaphysics is Possible • Conclusion

3. Meaning and Subjectivity
A Realistic Theory of Meaning and Subjectivity • Representationalism: The Naturalistic Challenge • The Classical Empiricist Theory of Representations • The Modern Functionalist Theory of Representations • Criticism of Modern Functionalism • Functional Theory of Sense Experience • Functional Theory of Propositional Attitudes • Functional Language • The Irreducibility of the Language of Meaning • Conclusion

4. Knowledge and Objectivity
Behavioral Knowledge • Rational Knowledge • A Naturalistic Theory of Rational Knowledge • A Humanistic Theory of Rational Knowledge • Behavioral and Rational Knowledge Contrasted Objectivity • Levels of Subjective and Objective Appraisals • The Objectivity of Secondary Qualities • The Spread of Subjectivism • Conclusion

5. Semantic and Epistemic Powers of the Human Mind
Grounds of the Culture • Epistemic Encounters • Modes of Epistemic Encounters • Somatic Sensations • Sensory Experience • Affective and Conative Experience • Self-Awareness • Memory • Reflective Awareness and Rational Intuition • Perceptual Understanding • Conclusion

6. The Subjective and Normative Structure of Selfhood
Persons • Human Beings • Logic and Selfhood • The Nature of Logic • Logic and the Mental • Logic and the Ethics of Thought • Rationality and the Unconscious • Ethics and Selfhood • The Form of a Moral Life • The Goal of a Moral Life • Principles of Life Criticism • Conclusion

7. Persons and the Normative Structure of Society
The Individual and Society • The Normative Structure of Society • Social Organization • Cultural Institutions • Economic Institutions • Political Institutions • Conclusion

8. Toward a Humanistic World-View
Summing Up • A Humanistic World-View • Religion, Theology, and Ultimate Reality



About the Author(s)

E. M. Adams is Kenan Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has written numerous books and articles, and a festschrift celebrating his work, Mind, Value, and Culture: Essays in Honor of E. M. Adams (edited by David Weissbord), was published in 1989. He is also the author of Religion and Cultural Freedom.

Subject Categories

Philosophy and Ethics



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