Thus the title of a two volume work by Josef Gredt, O.S.B..
I recently acquired the 7th edition (1937). A little research on OCLC indicates that it was first published in 1899 in Freiburg. First editions are relatively rare, yet the University of Pittsburgh owns a copy.
I first encountered this book on the shelves of the Robbins Library in the philosophy department of Harvard University. What was it doing there? Someone told me that John Wild used to use the book when he taught his seminar on Metaphysics.
Now this would have been between 1927 and 1961, the years when Wild was on the Harvard faculty. A little background: Wild was born in Chicago in 1902. He received a B.A. from the University of Chicago and then his Ph.D from Harvard in 1926. After a year as an instructor at Michigan, he returned to Harvard, where he wrote George Berkeley (1936); Plato's Theory of Man (1946); Introduction to Realist Philosophy (1948); Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law (1953); and The Challenge of Existentialism (1955).
As those titles indicate, Wild's interests changed from an initial focus on empiricism, to studies on Plato, to "realism", and then finally to existentialism. After a kind of philosophical conversion to existentialism he moved to Northwestern, then went to Yale, and then Florida. He died in 1972. His seminars using Gredt as the text probably date from his "realist" phase in the '40s.
(By the way, I've never seen so much as a reference to Wild's Plato books. I haven't a clue whether they are valuable.)
But now imagine a Harvard faculty with Wild and Demos, as well as C.I. Lewis, Donald Williams, and Quine on the faculty. That was an interesting time. (Williams "took the full breadth of the philosophical tradition in his stride"--observe Quine, Nozick, and Firth in their APA Memorial Minute for him--"writing on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and the philosophy of history. Scholarship in the philosophical classics, early and late, informed and disciplined his work. The breadth of his writing, moreover, was reflected in that of the courses he gave at Harvard." N.B. Are you able, dear reader, to draw a contrast at this point with what I have previously referred to as the current, narrow professionalism of philosophy?)
I was interested in Gredt because I wondered what it would be to teach metaphysics as if it constituted knowledge. And does it make sense, in contrast, to study metaphysics from within a tradition in philosophy that, as a matter of historical fact, takes its start from denying the possibility of any significant metaphysics at all? (Won't that only give us: the metaphysics that can be made to seem plausible on these unpromising principles?) To be sure, one might conclude that the whole thing was nonsense, but shouldn't one do so only after giving it the best try on its own terms? (And by all means use Wolff, or someone else, if that seems better to you: the point would be to use some text written by someone who believes metaphysics is knowledge.)
Gredt is bracing. I open a page at random:
THESIS XV: In omni ente creato essentia actualis et existentia eius distinguuntur distinctione reali positiva.Then follows a description of the state of the question, under five distinct points. I quote from the first:
704. St. qu. 1. Ens creatum distinguimus contra ens increatum seu ens a se. Hoc exsistit vi essentiae suae, ac proinde necessario exsistit; essentia eius non recipit exsistentiam, sed est ipsa exsistencia. (Etc.)After which follow several 'proofs':
705. Prob. th. Arg. I (ex limitatione entis creati). Actus non limitatur nisi per potentiam a se realiter distinctam. Atqui in omni ente creato existentia est actus per essentiam actualem limitatus. Ergo.There then follow 'corollaries' (e.g. essentia creata se habet ad existantiam, sicut materia prima se habet ad formam), 'scholia' (Diversa substantiarum composito et simplicitas), and 'objections' with replies.
Now here is the amazing thing: Wild was teaching Gredt in a metaphysics seminar in Emerson Hall, Harvard University, at roughly the same time that Quine in an office down the hall was writing "On What There Is" and (with Goodman) "Steps Toward a Constructive Nominalism"!