What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
Post Reply
Spectrum
Posts: 4529
Joined: December 21st, 2010, 1:25 am
Favorite Philosopher: Eclectic -Various

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Spectrum » July 26th, 2017, 11:41 pm

Atreyu wrote:What metaphysics tells us about the world is that the vast majority of it lies outside the boundaries of empiricism...
[b]Bertrand Russell[/b] wrote:Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation.

All definite knowledge – so I should contend – belongs to science; all dogmas as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology.
But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack from both sides, and this No Man’s Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so convincing as they did in former centuries.
Point from the above is, with Philosophy we have one leg on Science and one leg on speculations that are extrapolated from the empirical. i.e. the empirical possible.

Metaphysics is when one take a leap from that 'No Man’s Land' into a bottomless canyon into the realms of the empirically impossible into theology and illusory ideas.

Paraphrasing Kant's view, Plato was doing metaphysics like flying a kite without any attachment to any empirical strings.
What is realistic is even though without solid empirical proof, whatever that is speculated must still be attached to the thinnest of empirical strings. Without any empirical strings, it is merely an illusory idea. i.e. metaphysical.
Kant insists that “metaphysics is utterly impossible, or at best a disorderly and bungling endeavor” if we do not separate “ideas of reason” from “concepts of the understanding” (Prolegomena §41, 4:329).
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-reason/
Metaphysics whilst impossible empirically is only possible in one's psychological world to generate psychological security.
Thus to understand 'what is Metaphysics', one must understand the related human psychology.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 24
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 27th, 2017, 12:42 am

Hi. Thanks for the advice on quoting here. Sorted me out.

I'll think through your questions and points, because I'm not sure what you're getting at. My slow.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 24
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 27th, 2017, 2:16 am

Perhaps your question about using the words 'dog' and 'justice' is about so-called universals. (Sorry if I've misunderstood.)

If it is, the question seems to be: if the many uses of the same word, each of which is a separate physical object, are nonetheless the same word, what is that word of which the many uses are physical (real) examples or manifestations? What sort of thing is it that the many uses of a word make manifest?

Does that way of formulating the question suit you? Or would you put it another way?

Togo1
Posts: 541
Joined: September 23rd, 2015, 9:52 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Togo1 » July 27th, 2017, 7:35 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:Perhaps your question about using the words 'dog' and 'justice' is about so-called universals. (Sorry if I've misunderstood.)

If it is, the question seems to be: if the many uses of the same word, each of which is a separate physical object, are nonetheless the same word, what is that word of which the many uses are physical (real) examples or manifestations? What sort of thing is it that the many uses of a word make manifest?

Does that way of formulating the question suit you? Or would you put it another way?
Yeah that's basically it. We seem to lean pretty heavily on such things, so they need some kind of place in our model of the world.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 24
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 28th, 2017, 1:48 am

Okay. Here's my go at answering the question.

Language is right at the heart of all our philosophical debates, because we have to use words and other signs to talk about anything, including words. And language is so potent and pervasive in our lives that we forget what words are and how we use them. We mistake words for the things we use them to talk about. And that mistake is the beginning of philosophical confusion in general, and metaphysics in particular.

For example, we use a spade to dig the garden. It's a tool to do a job - and sometimes other jobs, such as bashing people over the head. But 'spade' is a common noun, meaning we use it to talk about lots of different spades, with no limit to how many and how many kinds. Those spades don't call themselves 'spades' or insist which properties something must have in order to join the spade gang. In philosophy-speak: the word 'spade' doesn't define its own extension. In logic, the law of identity - a spade is a spade - is profoundly misleading. It doesn't identify what a spade is at all, or why it's different from all the not-spades.

Our mistake is to ask what it is that all those different spades have in common. What is 'spadeness'? What is the essence of 'spadidity'? Hence the invention of what we called 'universals', and later on 'concepts'. Platonists and nominalists argued - and still seem to be arguing - about whether universals exist, or are real. But they both mistake words for things that therefore may or may not be real. And because there's no natural (physical, scientific) answer, we fool ourselves into thinking the answer - and the question - must be meta-physical.

So my argument is: the questions about the words 'dog' and 'justice' - what sort of things are they that the many uses of these words have in common? - arise from this 'metaphysical' mistake. A word is a physical object, just like a spade. And just as with spades, we can call two appearances of a word 'the same' or 'different'. The fact that we use a word such as 'spade' to refer to (talk about) those things that we call spades makes no difference. That's just the job we do with a word, just as we use a spade to dig many gardens.

I fear my analogy may have run amok. Not sure I've nailed it - seems to be wriggling away. Ho hum. Anything here make sense??

Togo1
Posts: 541
Joined: September 23rd, 2015, 9:52 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Togo1 » July 28th, 2017, 7:31 am

Sure it makes sense, but I'm not sure it addresses the problem.

What you've done is set up categories, real things and unreal things. Very broadly, real things deal with the natural/physical world, and unreal deal with everything else.

Now although you don't come out and say it directly, you seem to be treating everything in the unreal bin as speculative, or metaphyiscal, or otherwise ignorable. You're classing even questions about unreal things as being a 'mistake'.

So far so good, but the problem is that amongst the things being put into the 'unreal' bin are things that we actually need. Words, logic, mathematics.

This is a problem for two reasons. Firstly we can't have any useful science or consideration of the physical world without them. So the things in the real bin depend almost entirely on things in the unreal bin. Which means we can't afford to ignore the unreal bin, or dismiss questions about them as a 'mistake'.

Secondly, the very process of sorting things into real and unreal falls very much on the unreal side of the fence. Which means that if we try and dismiss the unreal bin we end up with something self-contradictory.

User avatar
-1-
Posts: 712
Joined: December 1st, 2016, 2:23 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by -1- » July 28th, 2017, 7:57 am

togo1 wrote:Secondly, the very process of sorting things into real and unreal falls very much on the unreal side of the fence. Which means that if we try and dismiss the unreal bin we end up with something self-contradictory.
Stop!

If you get rid of all "unreal", then there is no longer any need for classification, so there is no self-contradiction generated by the sorting process: there are only real things, and they are in one bin, so to speak, so no "unreal" performance is need to do any sorting work, and no "unreal bin" is needed to contain anything.

That is, if you subtract the "unreal" from the entire existence, then only the real remains, and therefore the need for sorting disappears.
"You can always live without a lover, but you can't love without a liver."

Peter Holmes
Posts: 24
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 28th, 2017, 8:21 am

Agreed, -1-. And, Togo1, I want to add that what you say isn't true.

'So far so good, but the problem is that amongst the things being put into the 'unreal' bin are things that we actually need. Words, logic, mathematics.

My point is that language is indeed in the real bin. And language includes logic (the rules of language) and mathematics. The idea that there is anything unreal about them is where metaphysics comes from.

-- Updated July 28th, 2017, 9:10 am to add the following --

And, just to nail it down flat -

As I think I've said elsewhere - metaphysics is sublimated theology, or more generally, supernaturalism.

And with metaphysics, as with theology, the burden of proof is with those who make the claim, not those of us who reject it. There may be an unreal bin with things in it, but until we have evidence for it, there is no reason to believe that there is, and to do so is irrational.

Togo1
Posts: 541
Joined: September 23rd, 2015, 9:52 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Togo1 » July 28th, 2017, 10:37 am

-1- wrote:
togo1 wrote:Secondly, the very process of sorting things into real and unreal falls very much on the unreal side of the fence. Which means that if we try and dismiss the unreal bin we end up with something self-contradictory.
Stop!

If you get rid of all "unreal", then there is no longer any need for classification, so there is no self-contradiction generated by the sorting process: there are only real things, and they are in one bin, so to speak, so no "unreal" performance is need to do any sorting work, and no "unreal bin" is needed to contain anything.

That is, if you subtract the "unreal" from the entire existence, then only the real remains, and therefore the need for sorting disappears.
How does classifying something as unreal remove it from existance?

Take things back a step. We're talking definitions. If you define something as a particular type thing, fine. If you call that type 'unreal', fine, you can call it whatever you want. You can even suggest that asking questions about things in that category should be somehow be ignored, dismissed, or quietly forgotten about, although people will be free to ignore you.

But there is no sense in which one category somehow ceases to exist. In practice you will constantly coming across things that you'll need to classify, and putting into your real or unreal bins. If your classification system is in your unreal bin, that's a problem.

-- Updated July 28th, 2017, 11:02 am to add the following --
Peter Holmes wrote:My point is that language is indeed in the real bin. And language includes logic (the rules of language) and mathematics. The idea that there is anything unreal about them is where metaphysics comes from.
The idea that there is anything unreal about them comes from the criteria already presented as to what is real and what isn't, which referenced physicality. We've not gone into this is very much detail, but it sounds like you're proposing a set of criteria for classifying things as real and unreal, that includes things like language, logic and mathematics together with physical objects and forces, but excludes metaphyiscs. Can you suggest what these criteria must be?

User avatar
-1-
Posts: 712
Joined: December 1st, 2016, 2:23 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by -1- » July 28th, 2017, 11:21 am

Togo1 wrote:How does classifying something as unreal remove it from existance?
Like this:
togo1 wrote: Which means that if we try and dismiss the unreal bin we end up with something self-contradictory.
I took your suggestion, that's all, and then I showed that it does not create a self-contradiction.
That is the total sum of my addition to the argument. Your suggestion involved removing the unreal bin ("dismiss the unreal bin"). I just examined what happens when we dismiss the unreal bin, and I showed it does not lead to a self-contradiction. That's all. Nothing less, nothing more.
"You can always live without a lover, but you can't love without a liver."

Togo1
Posts: 541
Joined: September 23rd, 2015, 9:52 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Togo1 » July 28th, 2017, 11:36 am

-1- wrote:
Togo1 wrote:How does classifying something as unreal remove it from existance?
Like this:
togo1 wrote: Which means that if we try and dismiss the unreal bin we end up with something self-contradictory.
I took your suggestion, that's all, and then I showed that it does not create a self-contradiction.
That is the total sum of my addition to the argument. Your suggestion involved removing the unreal bin ("dismiss the unreal bin"). I just examined what happens when we dismiss the unreal bin, and I showed it does not lead to a self-contradiction. That's all. Nothing less, nothing more.
I think you're confusing two different meanings of 'dismiss', confusing ignoring the contents of the the bin with removing the bin from existance. Categorising something as unreal appears to imply that the contents of the unreal bin should be ignored, or more properly, that we shouldn't be allowed to ask questions about such things. It doesn't make the bin or its contents disappear.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 24
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 28th, 2017, 12:35 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:My point is that language is indeed in the real bin. And language includes logic (the rules of language) and mathematics. The idea that there is anything unreal about them is where metaphysics comes from.
The idea that there is anything unreal about them comes from the criteria already presented as to what is real and what isn't, which referenced physicality. We've not gone into this is very much detail, but it sounds like you're proposing a set of criteria for classifying things as real and unreal, that includes things like language, logic and mathematics together with physical objects and forces, but excludes metaphyiscs. Can you suggest what these criteria must be?[/quote]

I use the words 'reality', 'nature', and 'the universe' as synonyms. I think we use these words to denote things describable (if not as yet described) by the physical sciences, though scientific descriptions don't exhaust what we want to know and say about them.

Included in this reality is language, something we 'do' as do many other species. We use words and other signs, spoken and written, to do many different things, one of which is to make factual assertions, some but not all scientific, with truth value, about features of reality. Language is a real thing, which we use to talk about real things.

But we also use language to talk about what we call abstract or unreal things, risking equivocation on the word 'thing'. We ask: do such things as causation, universals, justice, knowledge and truth exist? - risking equivocation on the word 'exist'. And such as these are the subject matter of metaphysics, because we recognise that, if there are such things, they are not real - they are 'alongside or beyond the physics'.

The discipline of metaphysics is just as real as any other linguistic activity. It involves the use of words, which are real things. Its problem is that it posits unreal things, without establishing that there are such things, ignoring the equivocation in the expression 'unreal thing' - not explaining what an unreal thing is - and proceeds to assume it can describe and analyse such things - more recently dressing this up as 'conceptual analysis'. (A concept is another abstract, unreal thing, of the absence of evidence for which we seem happily oblivious.)

Given my view of what reality is - what we mean when we talk about real things - as I see it, the challenge to metaphysicians is to justify their belief that there are unreal things which they can try to describe and analyse. It makes no sense to talk about a boundary between the real and the unreal unless we can give a coherent sense to the word 'unreal'. Until then, it makes no sense to talk about the real and unreal bins, and categorising which thing goes into which.

User avatar
-1-
Posts: 712
Joined: December 1st, 2016, 2:23 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by -1- » July 29th, 2017, 2:32 pm

I just happened by, and am looking at this thread.

You guys are mistaken if you think metaphysics has ANYTHING to do with anything that relates to its name.

Metaphysics was part (perhaps a chapter) in one of Aristocrates' books. It was placed just before the chapter of "Physics". Aristocrates had a hard time coming up with a name for the chapter (as you may as well imagine, knowing the subject matter of metaphysics) so he called the chapter, or maybe the chapter became known as, without first his naming it, "metaphysics", which means in Greek, just before physics. The "Just before" refers to its position in the book, not to some previous thing or things that existed before physics came into existence.
"You can always live without a lover, but you can't love without a liver."

Peter Holmes
Posts: 24
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 29th, 2017, 2:42 pm

The ancient Greek 'meta' means 'after'. And the guy's name was Aristotle. But hey. Who cares? What matters is what we use the name to mean now.

-- Updated July 29th, 2017, 2:45 pm to add the following --

By which I mean: what do we understand the word 'metaphysics to mean now? Never mind where the word came from, as you say.

User avatar
-1-
Posts: 712
Joined: December 1st, 2016, 2:23 am

Re: What does metaphysics tell us about the world?

Post by -1- » July 29th, 2017, 2:48 pm

You are right, Peter, on both accounts. I was wrong. I knew Aristocrates did not sound right... but the meaning of the meta-thing I was completely wrong about. In my language Aristotle is spelled and pronounced "Arisztotelesz," Aristoteles. Esz means brain, totel is simply the misspelled version of "total", and Arisz is short for Arisztid, the name of a proverbial nobleman in many Hungarian jokes. This epistemology is about as fitting to Aristotle as the study of metaphyisics is to the name of metaphysics, but it explains perfectly why I misspelled the bloody word. I completely mangled it.

-- Updated 2017 July 29th, 2:54 pm to add the following --
Peter Holmes wrote:what do we understand the word 'metaphysics' to mean now? Never mind where the word came from, as you say.
I, for one, have no clue. Never read the book.

What I've written above was based on the correct information my uncle fed me some 10-20 years ago. The old man read the book in original ancient Greek, and understood it. His favourite subject in high school had been ancient Greek and classical studies. To this day he speaks it fluently. His mother tongue is Hungarian, he speaks German on the level of a native German, and he's started to forget English, because he only started to study it in his thirties, after emigrating from Hungary, and he's in his nineties now.
"You can always live without a lover, but you can't love without a liver."

Post Reply