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Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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Pattern-chaser
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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by Pattern-chaser » October 9th, 2019, 10:32 am

h_k_s wrote:
October 8th, 2019, 5:49 pm
Metaphysics is what we think or conjecture is out there, without knowing it for sure. For romantic philosophers this means God is out there. The soul (breath/spirit) is also probably out there too.
This is a little bit of a straw man. Just a little. 😉 Perhaps it should read "For romantic philosophers this means God could be out there" and "The soul (breath/spirit) could also be out there too"? Such questions lack evidence, so we cannot meaningfully talk about what is "probable", because there is no statistical technique that would allow the calculation of probabilities when there is no evidence at all to work with. So, while we might observe that these things are possible, we have no idea at all of their respective probabilities.

E.g. the apparent reality that we 'see' could be Objective Reality, or we could be brains-in-vats. Both of these are possible. And the nay-sayers sometimes observe that one possibility is more likely (probable) than another, but this is not a justifiable position. Guessing is fine, of course. We do it all the time. But I think it's important - for reasons of mental hygiene, if nothing else 😉 - to be honest with ourselves, and to admit, openly and consciously, that we are guessing. As h_k_s says, "conjecture".

Many problems of metaphysics are like this. I.e. there is no evidence. So we can learn from discussing them, but we cannot reach any definite conclusions. Many philosophers find this uncomfortable, I think. Why would we bother debating a topic that can have no definite conclusion? It's a reasonable question, and not one that offers any easy answers. I think that the journey - the discussion - is as important as any conclusion that might be reached. We learn from the discussion. In metaphysics, maybe that's all we can expect, and maybe it's enough to justify us talking about them? I think so, but maybe you (the reader, not just h_k_s ) disagree? 🤔

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by The Beast » October 9th, 2019, 3:14 pm

The atomists did not have any evidence other than the evidence of the mind. There is a question of the root of evidence to correspond to that proof of the eyes like the ancient human cult of Priapus but even the eyes need the photonic energy to enable that which is sacred. Mysterious Hermes borrowed a bit to unite both in a magical ritual. But, the word evidence keeps popping up… just like the wand of Cerce.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by Pattern-chaser » October 10th, 2019, 7:13 am

The Beast wrote:
October 9th, 2019, 3:14 pm
But, the word evidence keeps popping up…
...maybe because of the very strong influence that analytic philosophers (and the like) have these days? They have a strong preference for using science to address all problems, including philosophical ones, even when other tools might be more appropriate. So we use their preferred vocabulary, to avoid protestations of incomprehensibility, and thus "evidence" pops up. 😉

And yet, metaphysics is an area where issues very often come without evidence.... 🤔

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by h_k_s » October 10th, 2019, 7:28 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
October 9th, 2019, 10:32 am
h_k_s wrote:
October 8th, 2019, 5:49 pm
Metaphysics is what we think or conjecture is out there, without knowing it for sure. For romantic philosophers this means God is out there. The soul (breath/spirit) is also probably out there too.
This is a little bit of a straw man. Just a little. 😉 Perhaps it should read "For romantic philosophers this means God could be out there" and "The soul (breath/spirit) could also be out there too"? Such questions lack evidence, so we cannot meaningfully talk about what is "probable", because there is no statistical technique that would allow the calculation of probabilities when there is no evidence at all to work with. So, while we might observe that these things are possible, we have no idea at all of their respective probabilities.

E.g. the apparent reality that we 'see' could be Objective Reality, or we could be brains-in-vats. Both of these are possible. And the nay-sayers sometimes observe that one possibility is more likely (probable) than another, but this is not a justifiable position. Guessing is fine, of course. We do it all the time. But I think it's important - for reasons of mental hygiene, if nothing else 😉 - to be honest with ourselves, and to admit, openly and consciously, that we are guessing. As h_k_s says, "conjecture".

Many problems of metaphysics are like this. I.e. there is no evidence. So we can learn from discussing them, but we cannot reach any definite conclusions. Many philosophers find this uncomfortable, I think. Why would we bother debating a topic that can have no definite conclusion? It's a reasonable question, and not one that offers any easy answers. I think that the journey - the discussion - is as important as any conclusion that might be reached. We learn from the discussion. In metaphysics, maybe that's all we can expect, and maybe it's enough to justify us talking about them? I think so, but maybe you (the reader, not just h_k_s ) disagree? 🤔
The definition of a Romantic Philosopher is a philosopher who accepts the Proofs Of God as true/factual.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by h_k_s » October 10th, 2019, 7:29 pm

GE Morton wrote:
October 8th, 2019, 7:32 pm
h_k_s wrote:
October 8th, 2019, 5:51 pm

My premise is self evident for any Empiricist.
Not many empiricists would consider the proposition, "HKS was created" as self-evident.

Per the common understanding to say that something X was created implies a creator --- a sentient being who brought X into existence. There is a weaker sense in which "X was created" means only that X was brought into existence by some external but non-sentient cause Y. An even weaker sense is simply that X came into existence at a certain point in time. In general, "X exists" does not entail any of those hypotheses. X may have always existed, sprung into existence without a cause, or been brought into existence by a non-sentient cause or via the act of a sentient being.

HKS is a localized, transitory manifestation of an eons-long process called "life." The only "creator" involved is the complex of natural laws that drive that process.
You are a very good non-Romantic philosopher.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by Pattern-chaser » October 11th, 2019, 7:15 am

h_k_s wrote:
October 10th, 2019, 7:28 pm
The definition of a Romantic Philosopher is a philosopher who accepts the Proofs Of God as true/factual.
Oh. 😊 I don't have any interest in the social and political groupings within philosophy as it is practised. I'm not much bothered with philosophers either, only in the ideas and concepts they come up with. Of the latter, I steal what I like the look of, like a magpie with sparkly things. :wink:

These Romantic Philosophers are dogmatists, then? Shame. Certainty is always a liability, in my experience.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by Karpel Tunnel » October 11th, 2019, 9:58 am

h_k_s wrote:
October 10th, 2019, 7:28 pm
The definition of a Romantic Philosopher is a philosopher who accepts the Proofs Of God as true/factual.
Is this true? First off I don't think Romantic philosophers have to be theists, but it would seem even stranger if their focus was on proofs since they tended to be anti-analytical, more focused on intution and feeling. I am thinking of romanticism, so perhaps this is different from what you mean. It seems to me they did attribute mystical qualities to nature, but not necessarily deity like qualities.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by NickGaspar » October 14th, 2019, 4:37 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
October 9th, 2019, 10:09 am
Not long ago, on another forum, we were having a discussion about metaphysics. Our problems seemed to revolve around what metaphysics is, so I started a topic to see if we could come up with a working definition, to allow for a better discussion. We couldn't. 😐

"Metaphysics" started off meaning 'the book that follows the one titled "physics"', and then proceeded to accumulate more meanings over many centuries. Now, unless we're philosophers, or something ( 😉 ) we just use "metaphysics" to mean "weird stuff". It's become something of a catch-all term. And I think this is having as much effect on this discussion as it did in the discussion I started out with.

I won't muddy the waters further by describing what I believe metaphysics to be, as it will just add to the confusion. But this is the problem, isn't it? We don't agree what metaphysics is, so we can't easily discuss it. 🤔🤔🤔
The definition of the concept of metaphysics is in the etymology of the word its self!
Meta(from Greek μετα/after) and Physics(from Greek φυσικα/science). Aristotle's work on "metaphysics" (as it was labeled afterwards by Andronicus of Rhodes)was exactly that: Aristotle's philosophical pondring taking place after he was done with his physics(science). It is the attempt to puzzle current epistemology with new data provided by "science" and come up with philosophical narratives capable to produce knowledge and be used in the rest of the philosophical process. (ethics,politics,aesthetics, new epistemology).

There is a important reason why most people mean "weird stuff" when they use metaphysics as a label....and that is "Free Inquiry" in Philosophy.
The fact that many philosophers are free to skip "their science" or reject science's auxiliary principles(methodological naturalism) , in order to avoid all limitations in their philosophy, allow them to come up with really weird metaphysical ideas and far more weird Worldviews ! (e.g.Theism, Occasionalism, Idealism,Solipsism, Relativism etc).

Those ideas which are not based on Methodological Naturalism(Science's auxiliary principles) or don't take in to account our previous epistemology or skip the basic step of science, tend to produce unfalsifiable metaphysics about the ontology of the world and the phenomena in it. This explains why we still deal with the same old metaphysical questions on Theism, idealism, Relativism etc. while Natural Philosophy (science) has had a huge run away success in its epistemology the last 500 years.
This shows that Philosophical practices which include science and its principles have the ability to produce meaningful metaphysics.

The main problem is that we use our reason to do Metaphysics and makes it acceptable to the GIGO effect (garbage in garbage out) which is a huge problem in logic.
Metaphysics is an essential tool but only under specific rules and principles can be useful or meaningful.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by h_k_s » October 14th, 2019, 2:45 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
October 11th, 2019, 7:15 am
h_k_s wrote:
October 10th, 2019, 7:28 pm
The definition of a Romantic Philosopher is a philosopher who accepts the Proofs Of God as true/factual.
Oh. 😊 I don't have any interest in the social and political groupings within philosophy as it is practised. I'm not much bothered with philosophers either, only in the ideas and concepts they come up with. Of the latter, I steal what I like the look of, like a magpie with sparkly things. :wink:

These Romantic Philosophers are dogmatists, then? Shame. Certainty is always a liability, in my experience.
Philosophical inquiry into God and the proofs of God are outside of religion, they are purely philosophical.

Grab a book on philosophy from your local bookstore and check it out. I recommend Roger Scruton's "Modern Philosophy."

You probably won't understand any of it the first time around. You'll need to read it 5 to 10 times first.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by h_k_s » October 14th, 2019, 2:48 pm

NickGaspar wrote:
October 14th, 2019, 4:37 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:
October 9th, 2019, 10:09 am
Not long ago, on another forum, we were having a discussion about metaphysics. Our problems seemed to revolve around what metaphysics is, so I started a topic to see if we could come up with a working definition, to allow for a better discussion. We couldn't. 😐

"Metaphysics" started off meaning 'the book that follows the one titled "physics"', and then proceeded to accumulate more meanings over many centuries. Now, unless we're philosophers, or something ( 😉 ) we just use "metaphysics" to mean "weird stuff". It's become something of a catch-all term. And I think this is having as much effect on this discussion as it did in the discussion I started out with.

I won't muddy the waters further by describing what I believe metaphysics to be, as it will just add to the confusion. But this is the problem, isn't it? We don't agree what metaphysics is, so we can't easily discuss it. 🤔🤔🤔
The definition of the concept of metaphysics is in the etymology of the word its self!
Meta(from Greek μετα/after) and Physics(from Greek φυσικα/science). Aristotle's work on "metaphysics" (as it was labeled afterwards by Andronicus of Rhodes)was exactly that: Aristotle's philosophical pondring taking place after he was done with his physics(science). It is the attempt to puzzle current epistemology with new data provided by "science" and come up with philosophical narratives capable to produce knowledge and be used in the rest of the philosophical process. (ethics,politics,aesthetics, new epistemology).

There is a important reason why most people mean "weird stuff" when they use metaphysics as a label....and that is "Free Inquiry" in Philosophy.
The fact that many philosophers are free to skip "their science" or reject science's auxiliary principles(methodological naturalism) , in order to avoid all limitations in their philosophy, allow them to come up with really weird metaphysical ideas and far more weird Worldviews ! (e.g.Theism, Occasionalism, Idealism,Solipsism, Relativism etc).

Those ideas which are not based on Methodological Naturalism(Science's auxiliary principles) or don't take in to account our previous epistemology or skip the basic step of science, tend to produce unfalsifiable metaphysics about the ontology of the world and the phenomena in it. This explains why we still deal with the same old metaphysical questions on Theism, idealism, Relativism etc. while Natural Philosophy (science) has had a huge run away success in its epistemology the last 500 years.
This shows that Philosophical practices which include science and its principles have the ability to produce meaningful metaphysics.

The main problem is that we use our reason to do Metaphysics and makes it acceptable to the GIGO effect (garbage in garbage out) which is a huge problem in logic.
Metaphysics is an essential tool but only under specific rules and principles can be useful or meaningful.
You have a severe anachronism @NickGaspar in your definition.

It is the way you interpret ancient Greek.

Science was not invented until 18 centuries after Aristotle, when Galileo first poked his eye into a telescope.

Ergo, "metaphysics" means "the chapter after physics" as was said earlier.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by Consul » October 14th, 2019, 3:04 pm

"Nomenclature matters. It shapes the way we think. The word 'metaphysics' continues to trouble and flummox.

[N]ow a new question is raised, and a very reasonable one: if 'ontology' just means 'the study of what exists' or 'the study of things', as opposed to the study of knowledge, don't the sciences qualify for that label? Doesn't the physicist study the existing things of the physical world? And similarly for all the other sciences: don't they all study a certain class of existing things—biology, astronomy, psychology, and so on? There are various entities in reality and the various sciences study the nature of those entities—planets, organisms, subjects of consciousness, and so on. Isn't a scientist by definition an ontologist? The answer must surely be yes: the scientist studies the order of being, or a certain category of beings. He or she wants to know what kinds of being exist, how they should be classified, how they work, what laws or principles govern them. Science is therefore a kind of ontology—a systematic study of what is, why it is, and what it is. Science is the study of being (not the study of nonbeing). But, then, granted the synonymy of 'ontology' and 'metaphysics' (as that term is now understood), science is also metaphysics. There is no contrast between science and metaphysics; science is a special case of metaphysics. The physicist is a metaphysician (= ontologist), quite literally, even when his concerns are thoroughly of this world. Theories of motion, say, are metaphysical theories—because they are ontological theories (not epistemological theories). Darwin had a metaphysical theory of life on Earth. There are metaphysical facts, like the rotation of the Earth or the boiling point of water. Philosophers also do metaphysics, of course, but they do so in the company of scientists: we are all practicing metaphysicians, for we all study being. We all do what Aristotle was doing in the book he wrote after writing the Physics. We study objective reality in a rigorous and systematic way, aiming to produce a general picture of things, seeking to keep bias and human idiosyncrasy out of it.

(Footnote 1:) Scientists until recently were called 'philosophers'—lovers of wisdom. Their kinship with the people narrowly called philosophers today was recognized. Latterly, the designation attracted the qualifier 'natural', so that we had 'natural philosophers' as well as their colleagues, the plain old 'philosophers'. There is really nothing wrong with calling contemporary scientists 'philosophers', despite obvious differences between the fields. I am suggesting that it is the same with 'ontologist' and 'metaphysician': these terms also apply quite broadly, semantically speaking, and there is good reason to allow them their full scope. There will be plenty of time later to note divisions and distinctions within the broad category. We all can be said to pursue wisdom ('philosophy') about being ('ontology') in the manner of Aristotle ('metaphysics'). Some of us do it 'scientifically', others do it 'philosophically'; but we are all concerned with what is. (I also hold that philosophy can be described as a science, so that ontology and metaphysics count as science. Thus philosophers are scientists and scientists are philosophers, i.e., ontologists and metaphysicians. This way of dividing disciplines up strikes me as much healthier and more revealing than the usual exclusive divisions. To mark distinctions we can speak of 'empirical philosophy/ontology/metaphysics' and 'conceptual philosophy/ontology/metaphysics'—or any terminology that fits your view about the nature of the disciplines so labeled.)

This is not to deny any distinction between the kind of metaphysics (ontology) that philosophers do and the kind that scientists do. There are all sorts of distinctions between the kinds of metaphysics the various students of the world engage in—physicists or biologists, chemists or philosophers. No doubt every field differs from all the others in some way. There are many ways to be an ontologist, i.e. metaphysician, though that is what we all are. It is a matter of controversy what constitutes the philosophical kind of ontologist—especially what kind of methodology he or she adopts. Some see themselves as continuous with the scientific ontologists, perhaps arranging their several results into a big perspicuous ontological map. Some rely on the method of conceptual analysis to further their ontological goals. Others appeal to a special faculty of ontological intuition (they tend to be frowned upon by their tougher-minded laboratory-centered ontological colleagues). Aristotle understands his enterprise as differing from that of other ontologists merely in respect of generality. Where the physicist investigates substances of one kind—physical substances—the philosophical ontologist investigates the general category or substance. Where the chemist looks for the cause of particular chemical reactions, the philosopher looks at the nature of causation in general. These restricted ontologists want to know the nature of particular physical and chemical substances and causes; the philosophical ontologist wants to know the nature of substances and causation in general. They are both studying the same thing—being, reality—but they study it at different levels of generality. Thus philosophical metaphysics is fundamentally the same kind of enterprise as scientific metaphysics—though, of course, there are differences of method and scope. All are correctly classified as metaphysics (not episteinology or axiology). That is the right descriptive nomenclature to adopt.

I therefore invite my colleagues in the sciences to share the label 'metaphysician' with the philosophers, as well as the safer-sounding 'ontologist'. The label simply serves to classify them more generally than their field-specific labels, and also than the term 'scientist' (itself a recent invention). We are all metaphysicians (including mathematicians, who are interested in mathematical being—numhers, sets, geometrical forms). For we are all students of what is. I hope the scientists welcome the label,with all its resonance and impressiveness (yes, humble botanists, you too are metaphysicians!). Perhaps, too, this taxonomic unification will bridge certain gaps, break down certain barriers, and foster mutual respect. If I were running a university, I would have a Faculty of Metaphysics that included all the sciences as well as philosophy (but not sports or medicine or law or English literature). Faculty and students would be required to know the origins of the word 'metaphysics', as well as its contemporary philosophical sense. They would be encouraged to converse with one another using the term. we would all be members of one big happy intellectual family. World peace would assuredly soon follow.

(Footnote 2:) I also hope that bookshop managers take my strictures to heart: the 'metaphysics' section would then have a quite different content, including science, but excluding mysticism, new ageism, astrology, and so on. This latter section might he relabeled 'antiphysics' or 'alternative physics'."


(McGinn, Colin. "Science as Metaphysics." In Philosophical Provocations: 55 Short Essays, 215–218. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017.)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by NickGaspar » October 14th, 2019, 5:01 pm

h_k_s wrote:
October 14th, 2019, 2:48 pm
NickGaspar wrote:
October 14th, 2019, 4:37 am


The definition of the concept of metaphysics is in the etymology of the word its self!
Meta(from Greek μετα/after) and Physics(from Greek φυσικα/science). Aristotle's work on "metaphysics" (as it was labeled afterwards by Andronicus of Rhodes)was exactly that: Aristotle's philosophical pondring taking place after he was done with his physics(science). It is the attempt to puzzle current epistemology with new data provided by "science" and come up with philosophical narratives capable to produce knowledge and be used in the rest of the philosophical process. (ethics,politics,aesthetics, new epistemology).

There is a important reason why most people mean "weird stuff" when they use metaphysics as a label....and that is "Free Inquiry" in Philosophy.
The fact that many philosophers are free to skip "their science" or reject science's auxiliary principles(methodological naturalism) , in order to avoid all limitations in their philosophy, allow them to come up with really weird metaphysical ideas and far more weird Worldviews ! (e.g.Theism, Occasionalism, Idealism,Solipsism, Relativism etc).

Those ideas which are not based on Methodological Naturalism(Science's auxiliary principles) or don't take in to account our previous epistemology or skip the basic step of science, tend to produce unfalsifiable metaphysics about the ontology of the world and the phenomena in it. This explains why we still deal with the same old metaphysical questions on Theism, idealism, Relativism etc. while Natural Philosophy (science) has had a huge run away success in its epistemology the last 500 years.
This shows that Philosophical practices which include science and its principles have the ability to produce meaningful metaphysics.

The main problem is that we use our reason to do Metaphysics and makes it acceptable to the GIGO effect (garbage in garbage out) which is a huge problem in logic.
Metaphysics is an essential tool but only under specific rules and principles can be useful or meaningful.
You have a severe anachronism @NickGaspar in your definition.

It is the way you interpret ancient Greek.

Science was not invented until 18 centuries after Aristotle, when Galileo first poked his eye into a telescope.

Ergo, "metaphysics" means "the chapter after physics" as was said earlier.
Let me clarify. First of all, it's not a case of "sever anachronism" and there is nothing wrong in my interpretation of ancient Greek.
Physics(Φυσικα) was the precursor of Natural Philosophy(philosophia naturalis) which was the precursor of modern Science. So my claim was never about Aristotle "promoting modern science" but the empirical study of Nature as he describes in his 8 book "Πραγματείες περί Φυσικής".

As I already mentioned, Aristotle's Physicae Auscultationes (Πραγματείες περί Φυσικής)was an 8 book record of his empirical observations on Natural phenomena! In his efforts to Systematize Philosophy, he placed the empirical study of the world as the second most important step before metaphysics (only after Epistemology) in a Philosophical Inquiry.

So physics (or Φυσικά in Greek, Natural in English) was the study of Nature (or Φύση in Greek). Later the empirical study of nature was renamed to"philosophia naturalis"(Latin)and eventually it became modern Science. None of our fields of study ever came out from thin air but they all evolved from previous practices. e.g.We didn't "invent" Chemistry through a single event. There was Alchemy which evolved to modern Chemistry. The same is true for the Empirical Nature of Science.

Again metaphysics (μέτα meaning after and Φυσικα( physics) meaning what we currently recognize as e science) is nothing more than our philosophical speculations taking place after we are finished with our empirical investigation.
Andronicus of Rhodes (100+ years after Aristotle's death) coined the term Metaphysics while studying Aristotle work of 14 books which was his philosophical pondering on his previous work "Physicae Auscultationes".

The definition you presented (the chapter after physics") doesn't really clarify the term! What chapter is that and according to what aspect? If you mean the philosophical chapter following our empirical observations, then we are in agreement. If you are assuming beyond the physical world then that is factually wrong, since Aristotle was a hardcore materialist...with some weird ideas I suppose.

My parents are Greek, we moved in Greece in late 80's, I speak Greek and I studied Ancient Greek language and History of Philosophy for more than 4 years in Greek Schools apart for my current philosophical readings, so I am pretty confident about the meaning of those words and the concepts they represent.

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Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by NickGaspar » October 14th, 2019, 5:12 pm

Consul wrote:
October 14th, 2019, 3:04 pm
"Nomenclature matters. It shapes the way we think. The word 'metaphysics' continues to trouble and flummox.

[N]ow a new question is raised, and a very reasonable one: if 'ontology' just means 'the study of what exists' or 'the study of things', as opposed to the study of knowledge, don't the sciences qualify for that label? Doesn't the physicist study the existing things of the physical world? And similarly for all the other sciences: don't they all study a certain class of existing things—biology, astronomy, psychology, and so on? There are various entities in reality and the various sciences study the nature of those entities—planets, organisms, subjects of consciousness, and so on. Isn't a scientist by definition an ontologist? The answer must surely be yes: the scientist studies the order of being, or a certain category of beings. He or she wants to know what kinds of being exist, how they should be classified, how they work, what laws or principles govern them. Science is therefore a kind of ontology—a systematic study of what is, why it is, and what it is. Science is the study of being (not the study of nonbeing). But, then, granted the synonymy of 'ontology' and 'metaphysics' (as that term is now understood), science is also metaphysics. There is no contrast between science and metaphysics; science is a special case of metaphysics. The physicist is a metaphysician (= ontologist), quite literally, even when his concerns are thoroughly of this world. Theories of motion, say, are metaphysical theories—because they are ontological theories (not epistemological theories). Darwin had a metaphysical theory of life on Earth. There are metaphysical facts, like the rotation of the Earth or the boiling point of water. Philosophers also do metaphysics, of course, but they do so in the company of scientists: we are all practicing metaphysicians, for we all study being. We all do what Aristotle was doing in the book he wrote after writing the Physics. We study objective reality in a rigorous and systematic way, aiming to produce a general picture of things, seeking to keep bias and human idiosyncrasy out of it.

(Footnote 1:) Scientists until recently were called 'philosophers'—lovers of wisdom. Their kinship with the people narrowly called philosophers today was recognized. Latterly, the designation attracted the qualifier 'natural', so that we had 'natural philosophers' as well as their colleagues, the plain old 'philosophers'. There is really nothing wrong with calling contemporary scientists 'philosophers', despite obvious differences between the fields. I am suggesting that it is the same with 'ontologist' and 'metaphysician': these terms also apply quite broadly, semantically speaking, and there is good reason to allow them their full scope. There will be plenty of time later to note divisions and distinctions within the broad category. We all can be said to pursue wisdom ('philosophy') about being ('ontology') in the manner of Aristotle ('metaphysics'). Some of us do it 'scientifically', others do it 'philosophically'; but we are all concerned with what is. (I also hold that philosophy can be described as a science, so that ontology and metaphysics count as science. Thus philosophers are scientists and scientists are philosophers, i.e., ontologists and metaphysicians. This way of dividing disciplines up strikes me as much healthier and more revealing than the usual exclusive divisions. To mark distinctions we can speak of 'empirical philosophy/ontology/metaphysics' and 'conceptual philosophy/ontology/metaphysics'—or any terminology that fits your view about the nature of the disciplines so labeled.)

This is not to deny any distinction between the kind of metaphysics (ontology) that philosophers do and the kind that scientists do. There are all sorts of distinctions between the kinds of metaphysics the various students of the world engage in—physicists or biologists, chemists or philosophers. No doubt every field differs from all the others in some way. There are many ways to be an ontologist, i.e. metaphysician, though that is what we all are. It is a matter of controversy what constitutes the philosophical kind of ontologist—especially what kind of methodology he or she adopts. Some see themselves as continuous with the scientific ontologists, perhaps arranging their several results into a big perspicuous ontological map. Some rely on the method of conceptual analysis to further their ontological goals. Others appeal to a special faculty of ontological intuition (they tend to be frowned upon by their tougher-minded laboratory-centered ontological colleagues). Aristotle understands his enterprise as differing from that of other ontologists merely in respect of generality. Where the physicist investigates substances of one kind—physical substances—the philosophical ontologist investigates the general category or substance. Where the chemist looks for the cause of particular chemical reactions, the philosopher looks at the nature of causation in general. These restricted ontologists want to know the nature of particular physical and chemical substances and causes; the philosophical ontologist wants to know the nature of substances and causation in general. They are both studying the same thing—being, reality—but they study it at different levels of generality. Thus philosophical metaphysics is fundamentally the same kind of enterprise as scientific metaphysics—though, of course, there are differences of method and scope. All are correctly classified as metaphysics (not episteinology or axiology). That is the right descriptive nomenclature to adopt.

I therefore invite my colleagues in the sciences to share the label 'metaphysician' with the philosophers, as well as the safer-sounding 'ontologist'. The label simply serves to classify them more generally than their field-specific labels, and also than the term 'scientist' (itself a recent invention). We are all metaphysicians (including mathematicians, who are interested in mathematical being—numhers, sets, geometrical forms). For we are all students of what is. I hope the scientists welcome the label,with all its resonance and impressiveness (yes, humble botanists, you too are metaphysicians!). Perhaps, too, this taxonomic unification will bridge certain gaps, break down certain barriers, and foster mutual respect. If I were running a university, I would have a Faculty of Metaphysics that included all the sciences as well as philosophy (but not sports or medicine or law or English literature). Faculty and students would be required to know the origins of the word 'metaphysics', as well as its contemporary philosophical sense. They would be encouraged to converse with one another using the term. we would all be members of one big happy intellectual family. World peace would assuredly soon follow.

(Footnote 2:) I also hope that bookshop managers take my strictures to heart: the 'metaphysics' section would then have a quite different content, including science, but excluding mysticism, new ageism, astrology, and so on. This latter section might he relabeled 'antiphysics' or 'alternative physics'."


(McGinn, Colin. "Science as Metaphysics." In Philosophical Provocations: 55 Short Essays, 215–218. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017.)
Science is the ultimate tool for the evaluation of ontological claims. The reason why science doesn't want to share this "label" is ...again, because of the Philosophical practice of "free inquiry".
This unmonitored process in Philosophy tends to include countless unfalsifiable ontological claims about substances, entities, agents.(transcended minds and consciousness, intention and purpose in nature, theistic arguments etc).
This gave a really bad name to Ontology and history has shown us that science always avoids undesirable links to such foul practices. (this is exactly why Science got rid of the name Natural Philosophy).

GE Morton
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Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by GE Morton » October 14th, 2019, 11:33 pm

NickGaspar wrote:
October 14th, 2019, 5:12 pm

Where the physicist investigates substances of one kind—physical substances—the philosophical ontologist investigates the general category or substance. Where the chemist looks for the cause of particular chemical reactions, the philosopher looks at the nature of causation in general. These restricted ontologists want to know the nature of particular physical and chemical substances and causes; the philosophical ontologist wants to know the nature of substances and causation in general. They are both studying the same thing—being, reality—but they study it at different levels of generality.
McGinn's suggestion above comes close to the meaning I attach to "metaphysics": it is the inquiry into the underlying assumptions of science, and especially the elucidation of assumptions we may not realize we are making. As with the underlying assumptions --- the axioms --- of any theory or systematic, they may not be directly verifiable or falsifiable experimentally. Yet they can be evaluated, by the degree to which they render empirical theories and explanations more coherent and comprehensive. Cause and effect is such an assumption. Science proceeds from the assumption that all observable phenomena have causes, and explanation consists in finding the causes of those "effects." But whether that assumption holds universally can never be confirmed or falsified empirically. It seems indispensable, yet it is unconfirmable.

Ontology is not the "study of what exists." It is the study of what it makes sense for us to claim exists, what categorization of substances deepens our understanding of our experiences. As Quine observed, "To be is to be the value of a bound variable." As with the cause and effect assumption, we adopt the ontology that best facilitates explanation of experience. If a postulated entity does no explanatory work, we banish it from the ontology.

I'd quibble with McGinn's exclusion of epistemology from metaphysics. I take ontology and epistemology to be the two sides of the metaphysical coin. They are interdependent --- what we can claim exists depends upon what we know, or can know, and what we can know depends upon what we claim exists. The two inquiries have to be pursued simultaneously.

NickGaspar
Posts: 43
Joined: October 8th, 2019, 5:45 am

Re: Metaphysics topics are boring and a waste of time

Post by NickGaspar » October 15th, 2019, 2:33 am

GE Morton wrote:
October 14th, 2019, 11:33 pm
NickGaspar wrote:
October 14th, 2019, 5:12 pm

Where the physicist investigates substances of one kind—physical substances—the philosophical ontologist investigates the general category or substance. Where the chemist looks for the cause of particular chemical reactions, the philosopher looks at the nature of causation in general. These restricted ontologists want to know the nature of particular physical and chemical substances and causes; the philosophical ontologist wants to know the nature of substances and causation in general. They are both studying the same thing—being, reality—but they study it at different levels of generality.
I think you are confusing Normative Science (Philosophy of Science), the study, evaluation and critique of the "underlying assumptions" of science with the general type of philosophy we do after we have collected new scientific data and that is Metaphysics. Sure, this critique is metaphysical by nature , but that is not what Metaphysics is all about.
Metaphysics has being a philosophical branch well before those modern "assumptions" of science and even in science we use metaphysics to construct new hypotheses on new data. (String Theory , Quantum Interpretations,Emergent Gravity are all Metaphysics). Most of our accepted theories were metaphysical , before they were empirically verified.(e.g. Evolution, Big Bang Theory, Germ Theory etc).
So in my opinion, this meaning you are attacing to "metaphysics" is wrongly limiting Metaphysics to a really small subject and we know that is not the case, plus its a useless endeavor to question science's assumptions without any empirical indications and I will explain why!

Science's assumptions are not some kind of a "choice" based, lets say, on an arbitrary set of Philosophical principles.
These assumptions are descriptions based on Pragmatic Necessity NOT on a Philosophical bias. They are products of our observations which reveal Empirical Regularities in the relations between physical processes.
e.g. Cause and effect is not just an assumption, but a theoretical framework which can be investigated in really simple systems and can be safely assumed for far more complex systems and still produce accurate Descriptions, Explanations,Predictions and Technical Applications.(the main 4 products of science). Does this mean that Cause and effect is an absolute true claim about the world? Of course not since Science doesn't deal with absolute truth. In science we produce knowledge claims not truth claims. (def. Knowledge: Instrumental valuable propositions that are in agreement with current facts about the world). Cause and effect is a theoretical framework based on our observations and empirical verification that constantly manages to deliver knowledge!

I understand that this "objection" is based on the "problems" of induction. Induction may not be risk free but is the best tool we have to produce knowledge. (Deduction doesn't produce knowledge, it only produces tautologies).

These is a well known critique by relativists and idealists about the foundations of science. It is documented in the Normative models of Science but that hasn't affected science to deliver complex knowledge that really works.
As Philosopher Paul Hoyningen (philosopher of science and critic of Normative Science and Kuh's ideas). " Its not that easy to send men to Moon and back on wrong descriptions of reality".

The fact is that those ideas criticizing the Auxiliary "assumptions" of Science, Logic, and Objectivity have nothing to show beyond their critique. They don't have any philosophical advances or breakthroughs and they have zero empirical results in their favor....while science, logic and Objectivism are fueling our epistemic run away success for more than 500 years. Yes we do see the issues behind the acceptance of an auxiliary theory and we understand the risks of induction, but there is no way out from a position which is a Pragmatic Necessity. We are stuck in this Framework and we prefer to produce valuable "goods'' than to lift our hands up and whine about the "risks" in our methods!
We can not be sure about the truth value of our picture about the world but we can not also be sure that this picture is wrong. As long as we are receivers of empirical confirmations we are forced to keep following this path and put aside all these "objections" until we discover sufficient indications for us being wrong. This is what reason "Demands".(default position/Null Hypothesis saying: THere ISN'T a connection between A(our observations) and B(being wrong) until this rejection is falsified!)
Ontology is not the "study of what exists." It is the study of what it makes sense for us to claim exists, what categorization of substances deepens our understanding of our experiences.
Sure but that is an unnecessary clarification in my opinion. Since we are the observers and we set our own standards, we can only make claims of what exists in relations to the limitations of our observations and our man made standards! Nobody in Methodological Naturalism (Science) makes absolute, ideal claims about what we can know beyond our observations.That is a strawman or better, a valid critique for the assumptions of Materialism or Physicalism or Philosophical Naturalism.
In science we study what exists based on short list of observable physical manifestations. We identify existence in the form of fundamental particles, of forces, of processes(phenomena/agents/entities) and of emergent properties under a temporal framework. When a claim doesn't click one of those four categories, then it is not accepted as a knowledge claim.That's all, we don't assume absolute truth in this standard. Any claim that lies beyond our observations is irrelevant to our scientific endeavors and irrational to even speculate about it.
Accepting ontological claims that are not supported by our observations(science) our epistemology or logic is a pseudo philosophical practice.
So yes we banish any particles or forces or entities or phenomena,substances(process) etc from the ontological list until we are empirically justified to included them. (Again Logic/ Null hypothesis(No connection between existence and an entity until we falsify this rejection). We need to accept those limitations in our nature and our epistemology.
I'd quibble with McGinn's exclusion of epistemology from metaphysics. I take ontology and epistemology to be the two sides of the metaphysical coin. They are interdependent --- what we can claim exists depends upon what we know, or can know, and what we can know depends upon what we claim exists. The two inquiries have to be pursued simultaneously.
Well again, Metaphysics are our philosophical "projections" BEYOND our current epistemology. Yes we need our current epistemology, our latest scientific data and credible methodological principles to do meaningful Metaphysics but that doesn't mean that all Metaphysical claims have epistemic value by default.
Our Metaphysical claims have the potential to become part of our epistemology, but only after they are empirical verified(scientific evaluation).
So we must not conflate those two terms. Interdependence doesn't render all metaphysical claims as part of our epistemology. There is a good reason why we demarcate those different Branches of Philosophy!.

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