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Title: Metafysisch verlangen en metafysische behoefte
Subtitle: Twee opvattingen over wat de mens naar metafysische kennis doet streven
Author(s): DE VRIESE, Herbert , VANHEESWIJCK, Guido
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 80    Issue: 3   Date: 2018   
Pages: 489-526
DOI: 10.2143/TVF.80.3.3285687

Abstract :
In his essay 'Ueber das metaphysische Bedürfniß des Menschen' Schopenhauer states that the human being is the only species that may wonder about his own existence. He concludes, therefore, that the human being is an animal metaphysicum with an inborn metaphysical need. In order to underpin this interpretation, Schopenhauer refers to Aristotle who, according to him, proclaims exactly the same view in the introduction to his Metaphysics. However, Schopenhauer’s equalization of the status of ‘metaphysical need’ with the status of ‘metaphysical desire’ as propounded by Aristotle is, on further consideration, far from convincing. The central aim in this paper is to make a clear-cut distinction between both theories of the human aspiration for metaphysical knowledge, i.e. between metaphysical desire and metaphysical need. Our starting-point is a presentation of Aristotle’s theory of metaphysical desire and Aquinas’ variant of this metaphysical desire in the shape of desiderium naturale visionis Dei. Next, we show how in the modern era a new paradigm arises, in which the aspiration for knowledge is primarily motivated by a ‘need for certainty.’ At this point, we present a conceptual analysis of the difference between desire and need, based on Harry Frankfurt’s distinction. Aided by that very distinction, we try to elucidate why the classical theory of metaphysical desire is thoroughly different from the modern theory of metaphysical need. Finally, we concentrate on Kant’s theory of the metaphysical need so as to articulate in detail the contrast between the two theories and to show why Schopenhauer’s equalization is untenable.

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