Thinking Being: Introduction to Metaphysics in the Classical Tradition


In Thinking Being, Eric Perl articulates central ideas and arguments regarding the nature of reality in Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and Aquinas. He shows that, throughout this tradition, these ideas proceed from and return to the indissoluble togetherness of thought and being, first clearly expressed by Parmenides. The emphasis throughout is on continuity rather than opposition: Aristotle appears as a follower of Plato in identifying being as intelligible form, and Aquinas as a follower of Plotinus in locating the first principle “beyond being”. Hence Neoplatonism, itself a coherent development of Platonic thought, comes to be seen as the mainstream of classical philosophy. Perl’s book thus contributes to a revisionist understanding of the fundamental outlines of the western tradition in metaphysics.

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Biographical Note

Eric D. Perl, Ph.D. (1991), Yale University, is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University. He has published many articles on Plato and Neoplatonism and a monograph, Theophany: The Neoplatonic Philosophy of Dionysius the Areopagite (State University of New York, 2007).

Table of contents


1. The nature of metaphysics
2. The scope of this study
3. Thought and being
Chapter I. Parmenides
1. Milesian background
2. Being and thinking
3. What is being?
Chapter II. Plato
1. Reading Plato
2. Being as form
3. The meaning of separation
4. The levels of being
5. The ascent of the soul
6. Knowledge as sunousiva
7. The good
8. The forms and the demiurge
9. The motion of intellect
10. The receptacle of becoming
Chapter III. Aristotle
1. The principles of change
2. Nature as form
3. Reality as form: Metaphysics Z
4. The priority of act
5. The unmoved mover
6. Life, sense, and intellect: On the Soul
Chapter IV. Plotinus
1. Being and intellect
2. The One beyond being
3. The production of being
4. Transcendence and immanence
5. Being as beauty
6. The sensible and the intelligible
8. The two matters
Chapter V. Thomas Aquinas
1. Aquinas and the philosophical tradition
2. Essence and existence
3. God as existence itself
4. Creatures and God
5. Analogical predication
6. The transcendentals


Academic libraries; specialists in ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, and metaphysics; post-graduate students; philosophically educated laymen; all interested in the history of western philosophy.

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