The simple definition of metaphysics (part 1) leads to understand that metaphysics is Logos-centric by existential necessity. Yet, isn’t the Holy Spirit who reveals the Son toward whom we can turn? (part 2).

Before presenting what a logocentric metaphysics is, it probably is useful to remind what metaphysics is, or, at least, the definition we retain here1.

What is Metaphysics?

History of a Word and of a Matter

If Plato has once and forever established the speculative reference in metaphysics, the word itself derives from Aristotle’s work, who once and forever did set the conceptual language of science; both of them providing metaphysics with ultimate credentials.

Important here to remind the three senses of the Greek meta: ‘after’, ‘beyond’ and ‘trans(formed)’, which senses shall play some instructive role in the following.

The vocable ‘metaphysics’ in one word is not to be found in Aristotle’s work where the matter is however clearly defined. Its occurrence is even quite late, appearing first in the catalog of the Aristotle’s work established by the Anonimus Menagii, most probably Hesychius of Miletus (VIth century AD), while Aristotle wrote the related fourteen books in the IVth century BC. Some may have believed that the inaugural ta meta ta phusika (by Nicolas de Damas, 1st century BC) only meant these texts were to take place ‘after the things about physics’; yet the metaphysical doctrinal intention of Aristotle is firmly established (not to mention that the metaphysics books were to be placed, per Aristotle himself, after the texts on mathematics!).

So, after specifically designating Aristotle’s books through the Middle Age, “metaphysics” then rapidly and rightly designated the philosophical science of what is beyond physical realities, or what precedes it, to say it in Aristotle’s words:

the knowledge of this [motionless independent thing] precedes it [composite natural things] and is first philosophy, and it is universal in just this way, because it is first. And it belongs to this sort of philosophy to study being as being, both what it is and what belongs to it just by virtue of being.


As we see it here, Aristotle’s metaphysics undeniably encompasses two topics:  the being as being and the First being:

  • If what precedes physics is not protophysics, this is because meta have here the sense of ‘trans’: the Latin transformatio exactly translate the Greek métamorphôsis; also, St Thomas Aquinas sometimes uses transphysica to designate metaphysic realities. This gets along with ‘first philosophy’ or ‘theology’, that is to say the science of the first Being or divine Being. And in fact, first philosophy or theology adequately describes several books of the Lyceum founder. The quasi equivalence between metaphysics and first philosophy is illustrated by Descartes English and French titles: Meditations on First Philosophy and Méditations métaphysiques (the original Latin title being Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, Paris, 1641).
  • The being as being, distinctively, gets no specific science name in Aristotle’s books, but clearly endows meta with both senses of ‘after’ (once physical beings are noticed, after comes the question: what is being?) and ‘beyond’ (being as being is beyond any physical being).

While we today recognize in the later topic what modern science has named ontology (Clauberg, 1647), neither the Antiquity or the Middle Age saw a need for separating two necessarily combined points of view, yet never confusing them and, rather, recognizing that the two are entwined.

Whatever discussions have later taken place about hierarchizing these objects and related sciences (from Suarez to Gilson via Kant and Heidegger), we have no choice but to note that metaphysics, as to be read about until nowadays, still necessarily encompasses both topics First Being and being as being.

About the Possibility of Metaphysics

Some two prominent thinkers have tried to prove either the impossibility of metaphysics (that is Kant) or its historical failure (this is Heidegger).

In fact, the Kantian and post-Kantian criticism, abused by its fantastic intellectual constructions, pretends to fix a priori a limit to knowledge within the knowledge itself. Yet, what knowledge could know the limit of knowledge? As if an eye could see the limit (the border) of its vision. This is pure contradiction! In phase with the whole project of the Critique of Pure Reason. There, “pure reason only is concern with itself”, and “what is limiting must be different to what it limits” (sea doesn’t limit sea), writes Kant, so reason cannot limit reason, which was the illusory purpose of the Critique—unless reason gets above itself, like by being illuminated by an absolute (divine) Reason. As such, contrary to the Critique, if one can get conscious of the limits of the human and existential conditioning, this is because “these limits are extrinsic and knowledge disposes of its internal illimitation” (Borella):

Likewise, intelligence cannot draw the limit of its intellective power, unless it surpasses that limit, and thus contradicts. So, we have to live with it, we are sentenced to the logos, even to the infinite (divine) Logos. Beyond the light of our intelligence is the infinite Source. This is why, in its very essence, the intellective light is metaphysic. In this respect, metaphysics is neither some philosophic luxury, or vain exaltation, or illusory pretentiousness: it results from the awareness of the very nature of intellect. […]. It is true that this awareness is not easy. We live and move within the logos, likewise a fish lives in water. Nonetheless, it belongs to the spirit to be aware; so, it is not impossible to get aware of the ‘miraculous’ nature of the spiritual act, which is the act of intelligence.

Jean Borella3

Heidegger’s critique of all metaphysics before him, from Plato through the modern age, consists in denouncing the fact that this science never reached true being; it has reduced, he thinks, to a limited ontotheology (term most probably forged by Kant), where God appears as a simple being. The truth was easily reestablished (formally by Etienne Gilson) as God is not a being, but he is the “pure act of being” (actus purus essendi, as expressed by St Thomas Aquinas, as example), or, most frequently, the transcendent Cause of any being. God, as first being, ‘only’ is the auto-affirmation of the Cause preceding any being, be it be the first one.

Metaphysics Practice: Reason or Intelligence?

Kant failure to see the possibility of metaphysics lies in his conviction that reason is the utmost ability of knowing, that strict rational construction is an unsurpassable mean. In line with his times though, he is the first philosopher ever putting reason (Vernunft) above intelligence (Verstand). Yet, reason just is a tool, while intelligence leads and governs. Reason calculates (a ‘book of reasons’ was an accounting book) or reasons, which is the same, while intelligence understands the calculation or the reasoning. Reason is as limited as intelligence is illimited. Reason is even twice limited; limited by the object it will reasons on and by the logic it has to stick with, should it lead to contradiction or paradox. As such, reason is trapped within its own limits, though construction still is its mainspring. As an unavoidable consequence, it ends up into systems, in which reason becomes forever confined, carrying away with it the person reasoning. Intelligence, as totally opposed to reason, is pure opening to things or beings, alike eye is open to whatever is visible. This goes as far as saying that things are not thought about, but think themselves in the intelligence of the person. That’s why you can’t force yourself to understand something you don’t understand (Simone Weil); this is what Plato called knowing by reminiscence or what classic philosophy has called knowing by participation. There, there is no construction; there, you cannot feel secured inside a rational system; there, there is so such thing like comfortable certainty. Even, viewed from the empire of rationality, there is the realm of uncertainty, but some ineffable uncertainty. There, metaphysics invites mysticism; there, speculation (speculum is mirror in Latin) meets revelation, even if of platonic type; there, at last, knowledge may become gnosis. And that is, we believe, the fundamental purpose of metaphysics: to open the intellect to an epiphany of the Spirit, to offer the potential link from existential realities to the unique Reality, to let happen the necessary pneumatization of the intellect, if this is the will of the Spirit.

The Language of Metaphysics

Contrary to some unthoughts on metaphysics and religions, there is no such thing than some supra-metaphysics or “transcendent unity” or “Religio perennis” or “Sophia perennis” or “King of the world”, which requires to put oneself into God shoes, looking at religions from above them, and believing in one’s own intellectual power. Moreover, such alleged ‘Supra-religion’ doesn’t require any specific revelation per se; in fine, this is just a bottom-up construction, a mythologic projection of a concept (be it attractive before having thought it through). An immanent or, even better, an “analogic unity of religion” (Borella) would make more sense, keeping each one unique in its form and language.

This means then that metaphysics does not provide any supreme language above those of religions. As such, if metaphysics truly is an epiphany of the Spirit, the language of a (revealed) religion is adequate to express universal metaphysic (ultimate) notions, and vice versa.

What is a Logos-Centric Metaphysics?

Now, we believe that both the word ‘metaphysics’ and what it is about cannot be clearer. We also now know which faculty is at work (intelligence or intellect) and which language we can use (religious or not). Hence, it’s about time to see what a Logos-centric metaphysics can be.

The Irruption of the Logos in Human History

As we have seen, the possibility of metaphysics lies in the fact that human being “lives and moves within the logos, likewise a fish lives in water” (Borella). The light of our intelligence is the infinite Source, which is in Christian terms: “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Jn 1:9). It is thus crystal clear that any metaphysics only can exist, if the Logos is part of the equation. Yet, there has been a unique moment in the history of humanity: that is when the Word, “and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1), the Logos Himself, “was made flesh” (Jn 1:14). This event is founded by the vertical identity of Christ-Word-Son, that is to say that from within Trinity, at the eternal time of Creation and through Incarnation, the same ‘Person’ is at work. As such, the divine Logos is not some philosophical event per se and has no equivalent in philosophy, but It has indeed, whether you believe in it or not, relativized philosophy. Philosophy has been thence established in its proper order, where it is not supposed to drown within the indefinity of its own discourse (whether the antique sophistic discourse, or its most modern equivalents: the Kantian, Hegelian, Heideggerian, Derridian, etc. discourses)4.

The Logos, through the vertical Identity (Christ-Word-Son) is the axis of the universe, the universe turns around It, and any thinking, looking for a way out of the trap of reason, simply turns to Him.

Such ‘vertical’ Logos is to be found in other traditions and languages. This is purua and buddhi in the khya. Buddhi, in the advaita vedānta, specifically corresponds to the intellect (Vijñānamayakośais). In Sufism, Ibn ‘Arabī distinguishes the three levels of the Logos, defined as al-haqiqa al-Muhammadiyya (the metaphysic reality of Muhammad):

  • vis-à-vis of the Principe (or Super-Being), Logos is the first degree of Being, the perfect theophany of God, in the very degree of the absolute Being;
  • vis-à-vis of the external world, Logos is the primary cause of its existence, its evolution and its conservation;
  • vis-à-vis of human being and his final destiny, Logos is the efficient instrument of his spiritual evolution and his eternal destiny. He is source of prophecy and origin of holiness (nubuwa and walaya).

The “Two Hands” of God

Yet, while any metaphysics is Logos-centric by existential necessity, there is another ‘Person’ involved. That Person is what makes metaphysics be an “epiphany of the Spirit” (Borella). Here we are! with the “two hands of God”, as St Ireneaeus puts it, as a pure way of saying.

This two ‘hands’, are to be spotted all along the vertical Axis.

  • Within the unique God deployed into Trinity, the Person of the Son is the pure relation of filiation; He shows a Person to be a Relation. On the other hand, what unifies the Persons of Father and Son is the Relation of donation and love, and that Relation Itself shows to be a Person, whom is called the Holly Spirit in Christianity. This founds in divinis the commutability between Person & Relation.
  • Now, God creates by the Word. It is a creatio ex nihilo sui et subjecti, meaning that neither the form or the matter existed beforehand. So, God creates through the Word, fine; but where does He creates? In the Holy Spirit! Space is the “sensorium Dei” from Newton, an image of God immanence, which coexists with His absolute transcendence.5
  • On Earth, Christ incarnates but the Holy Spirit never is far: He is there at the virginal conception and deploys after the resurrection at Pentecost. Therefore, we turn to the Sun while bathing into the Spirit.

And these are the two ways to God, Intelligence through the Son, Love with the Spirit. One is the Truth, the other is Charity. They cannot be one without the other. There is no Intelligence without Charity, no Truth without Love6.

This is why, in metaphysics, we can use the Christian language: turning to Christ opens to the Holy Spirit, or we can adopt a more general language: you turn to transcendence, and immanence may show up.

Yet, isn’t it even the contrary that is true: the Holy Spirit reveals the Son toward whom we can turn?

In fine, both, together, are the light of the intellect and of the world.

This is why metaphysics necessary is Logos-centric and, alongside, an epiphany of the Spirit.

Note: while editing Jean Borella’s next book (Situation du catholicisme aujourd’hui. Entre résistance et dissolution – now published: 2023), one come to this text from him:

Si l’on peut approprier la vérité au Fils et l’amour au Saint-Esprit, on comprend alors que l’œuvre propre de la charité c’est de conduire à la vérité de même que l’œuvre propre de l’Esprit c’est de révéler le Fils : Esprit et Fils, charité et vérité, volonté et intelligence, amour et connaissance, dans leur union et leur unité se réalise la perfection même de l’être.

If one can associate truth to the Son and love to the Holy Spirit, one thus understands that charity work is to lead to truth, likewise the proper work of Spirit is to reveal the Son: Spirit and Son, charity and truth, will and intelligence, love and knowledge, in their union and their unity fully realize the very perfection of being.

Jean Borella


  1. In this paper, my thinking often follows Jean Borella’s thinking. For § 1: see Borella’s contribution to Bruno Bérard (dir) et al, Qu’est-ce que la métphysique ?, L’Harmattan, 2010 (pp. 149-178).[]
  2. Cf. Metaphysics, Book 6, section 1026a.[]
  3. « De la connaissance métaphysique : la métaphysique comme épiphanie de l’Esprit », in Bruno Bérard (dir) et al, Qu’est-ce que la métaphysique ? op. cit., p. 165.[]
  4. Cf. Borella, Penser l’analogie, pp 14-15.[]
  5. To be precise, matter is not created per se. It is not the object of a proper act of creation, but it necessarily ‘supports’ the creation of something; it is thus concreated. In St. Thomas Aquinas in particular: primary matter is not the object of a proper act of creation (for to create is to create being, and materia prima is not, by itself (per se) a being; so matter rather is concreated than created.[]
  6. Love and Truth is a book in English from Jean Borella.[]