Does Eternity Have A Future?

The Philosophers' Magazine 81:40-44 (2018)
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Metaphysics as an independent discipline has a surprisingly short history. Until the early eighteenth century, many, perhaps even most, writers on “metaphysics” primarily had the eponymous work of Aristotle in mind. In the writings of the early eighteenth-century German rationalists—Christian Wolff and Alexander Baumgarten—we find a conception of metaphysics that is no longer necessarily tied to Aristotle’s great work. But metaphysics as a discipline was not blessed with longevity, as a dozen years or so before Louis XVI it was condemned to the guillotine by Kant’s first critique. The fate of metaphysics after the Kantian revolution is a story that still needs to be told, but it would be fair to say, I think, that for the past two centuries engagement with heavy metaphysical concepts such as eternity has been taken to be either a form of backwardness (religious or otherwise) or a kind of eccentricity. Luckily, things seem to have changed somewhat over the past twenty years. Suddenly, for example, we are seeing debates about monism appear in mainstream journals. (This could hardly be imagined in the 1970s or 1980s.) The emergence of interest in metaphysical monism as well as the persistent engagement with the philosophy of modality may open a window of opportunity through which eternity could again take her rightful seat as a fundamental notion of metaphysics.
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