In this new essay, Giorgio Agamben, rather than offering a theoretical definition, explains the strategic function that the concept of first philosophy – or metaphysics – has fulfilled in the history of philosophy. His hypothesis is that the destiny of all philosophical activity depends on the possibility or impossibility of a metaphysics. Even if what is designated by the syntagma “first philosophy” were ultimately to be proved lacking in content and the primordiality to which it lays claim were completely specious. Nonetheless, its function would ultimately be less decisive since what is at play is the definition – in the strict sense of setting boundaries – of philosophy with respect to other forms of knowledge, and these latter with respect to philosophy. In this sense, first philosophy is actually a second or last philosophy that presupposes and accompanies the knowledge that lies within the jurisdiction of other forms of knowledge, in particular the physical sciences and mathematics. Thus, first philosophy deals with a relationship of dominion or subjection and, eventually, the conflict between philosophy and science in western culture.
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