The time thus spent seems to have been on the whole happy, even allowing for warm discussions with the mathematicians and metaphysicians of France, and for harassing controversies in the Netherlands.
The unity of opposites translated into its most abstract terms PP ing as the " identity of being and not-being," the principle in that the " real is the rational," the apparent substitution of " bloodless " categories for the substance of concrete reality gave it an air of paradox in the eyes of metaphysicians while physicists were scandalized by the premature attempts at a complete philosophy of nature and history.
The earliest "metaphysicians " concerned themselves with the nature of being (ontology), seeking for the unity which they postulated behind the multiplicity of phenomena (see Ionian School Of Philosophy and articles on the separate thinkers); later thinkers tended to inquire rather into the nature of knowledge as the necessary pre-requisite of ontological investigation.
- three kinds of definite answers are returned: those of materialism, idealism and realism, according to the emphasis laid by metaphysicians on body, on mind, or on both.
In order to prove this novel conclusion he started afresh from the Cartesian " I think " in the Kantian form of the synthetic unity of apperception acting by a priori categories; but instead of allowing, with all previous metaphysicians, that the Ego passively receives sensations from something different, and not contenting himself with Kant's view that the Ego, by synthetically combining the matter of sensations with a priori forms, partially constructs objects, and therefore Nature as we know it, he boldly asserted that the Ego, in its synthetic unity, entirely constructs things; that its act of spontaneity is not mere synthesis of passive sensations, but construction of sensations into an object within itself; and that therefore understanding makes as well as shapes Nature.
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