Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of existence, being, and the world. Arguably, metaphysics is the foundation of philosophy: Aristotle calls it "first philosophy" (or sometimes just "wisdom"), and says it is the subject that deals with "first causes and the principles of things."
The science of metaphysics, like all science is a journey of exploration. It requires observation, replication, and conclusions drawn of studious investigations and trials to determine a postulation of something close to an accurate statement of probable events, that may or may not have taken place at some indeterminate point in our collective past. All based on not a shred of tangible proof.
The overriding question is that of consciousness, its meaning, its application and the fact that there is no consensus to its constitutional composition, it would be easy for me to quote other’s works and thoughts on the matter, but that is not what the scientific process requires or even demands, it states clearly that one must postulate one’s own theories and ideas and they must stand and fall on their own merits or lack thereof.
Man, and therefore man’s Gods require a base understanding of what consciousness means, at what point does a sentient thought become consciousness? At what point does that consciousness infiltrate the mind and therefore the actions of mankind? And who is to say that is right anyway? All postulations of a semi-scientific kind that cannot be answered by the usual means at man’s disposal.
Not because man is not capable of such thoughts, the opposite is, in fact, the truth, no because man in his entire history has not yet developed an agreed-upon consensus of what consciousness is, much less what is it good for.
Here then we come to the crux of the matter what is consciousness and who can have it, is it restricted to man, or is it found in all living, animate or all inanimate objects and forms of life upon and off the planet earth?
These questions are sacrosanct to the apostlisations of all devotees of the Sciences of Man. Even if Metaphysics can be described as the process of the examination of those parts of man that have hitherto been the sole and guarded institutional property of Faith.
The guardians of faith, the sentinels of the hallowed portals of venerable human institutions dating back since before the decent, from or through the trees, of man, have held a protective conclave around the merest of expressions of what or who the Gods were, and what did they want from man anyway.
Just as physics deals with the laws that govern the physical world, such as those of gravity or the properties of waves, metaphysics describes what is beyond physics, the nature and origin of reality itself, the immortal soul, and the existence of a supreme being?
Opinions about these metaphysical topics vary widely since what's being discussed can't be observed or measured or even truly known to exist. So most metaphysical questions are still as far from a final answer as they were when Plato and Aristotle were asking them. Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.
A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to one another. There are two broad conceptions about what "world" is studied by metaphysics. The strong, classical view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist independently of any observer so that the subject is the most fundamental of all sciences.
The modern view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist inside the mind of an observer, so the subject becomes a form of introspection and conceptual analysis. Some philosophers, notably Kant, discuss both of these "worlds" and what can be inferred about each one.
Some philosophers, such as the logical positivists, and many scientists reject the entire subject of metaphysics as meaningless and unverifiable, while others disagree and think that it is legitimate. Some of the primary metaphysical questions concerning religious philosophy are, whether there is a god (monotheism), many gods (polytheism), or no gods (atheism), or whether it is unknown or unknowable if any gods exist (agnosticism and apophatic theology).
Whether a divine entity directly intervenes in the world (theism) or its sole function is to be the first cause of the universe (deism); and whether a god or gods and the world are different (as in panentheism and dualism) or are identical (as in pantheism).
Stances on these questions can form the foundation for philosophy of religion and theology, but the metaphysical questions are prior to these disciplines. The existence of God is sometimes assumed or required by ontologies in order to avoid problems of subjectivity and relativism.
If each subject can perceive the world in different ways and has no access to perception of any independent reality, then how can it make sense to discuss or assume any such independent reality, for example, as the basis for philosophy of science?
Some philosophers, beginning with Descartes, extend the concept of mind and phenomenal perception to a single all-encompassing God-mind which perceives everything at every time. This allows them to claim that there is a single objective reality, which the task of science is to learn about.
Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. Originally, the term "science" simply meant "knowledge".
The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment, unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called "science" to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.
Metaphysics continues asking "why" where science leaves off. For example, any theory of fundamental physics is based on some set of axioms, which may postulate the existence of entities such as atoms, particles, forces, charges, mass, or fields.
Stating such postulates are considered to be the "end" of a science theory. Metaphysics takes these postulates and explores what they mean as human concepts.
For example, do all theories of physics require the existence of space and time, objects, and properties? Or can they be expressed using only objects, or only properties? Do the objects have to retain their identity over time or do they change?
If they change, then are they still the same object? Can theories be reformulated by converting properties or predicates (such as "red") into entities (such as redness or redness fields). Is the distinction between objects and properties fundamental to the physical world or to our perception of it?
Traditionally, the word Metaphysics comes to us from Ancient Greece, where it was a combination of two words Meta, meaning over or beyond, and physics. Thus, the combination means over or beyond physics.
In the definition found in most dictionaries, metaphysics is referred to as a branch of philosophy that deals with first cause and the nature of being. It is taught as a branch of philosophy in most academic universities under the label of “Speculative Philosophy.”
In today’s world, however, the word metaphysics has become a description of many fields of interest. When one expresses an interest in metaphysics, that interest may be in any one or a combination of the following subjects:
Philosophy, Religion, Parapsychology, Mysticism, Yoga, ESP, Dreams, Jungian Psychology, Transpersonal and Theocentric Psychology, Astrology, Meditation, Self-Help Studies, Positive Thinking, Life After Death, Transcendentalism, Mysticism, or Reincarnation.
The common denominator of these and all similar subjects, of course, deals with an exploration of reality, and in the idealistic sense, how such knowledge may benefit human life on this earth, both individually and collectively.
If then, this is the aim of such interests, it is why most professional metaphysical practitioners regard metaphysics as a spiritual philosophy or way of life. All but a very few practitioners in metaphysics today have a pivotal point of some sort of spiritual philosophy in whatever system or teaching of metaphysics they are engaged.
It is important to understand this, especially when reviewing the legal technicalities of being in metaphysics professionally.
If we were to travel from one metaphysical teacher or organisation to another, we would find people engaging in different things, all under the label of metaphysics. This could be a wide range, such as yogis, mystics, astrologers, positive thinking teachers, meditation teachers, spiritual healers, graphoanalysts, self-help teachers, counsellors, coaches, and so on.
The range is wide, but again the basic denominator is the search for truth, purpose, and meaning in life, which cannot be isolated from basic spiritual questions.
It is not the position of the herein stated, to take one phase of study over another, as it is the belief that there are many paths humans may travel on the way to finding truth. There is an old proverb which states that God claimed, “No matter what path a human may travel, it is My Path; no matter where they walk, it leads to Me.”
In a more absolute sense, we like to think of metaphysics as dealing with the basic questions of life, such as the relationship of man, mind, and the Universe, which leads to answers to the age-old questions of anyone who has truly paused to reflect on life, by asking the most fundamental questions of all – “who am I, what am I, where have I been, and where am I going?”
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of existence, being, and the world. Arguably, metaphysics is the foundation of philosophy: Aristotle calls it "first philosophy" (or sometimes just "wisdom"), and says it is the subject that deals with "first causes and the principles of things".
It asks questions like: "What is the nature of reality?", "How does the world exist, and what is its origin or source of creation?", "Does the world exist outside the mind?", "How can the incorporeal mind affect the physical body?", "If things exist, what is their objective nature?", "Is there a God or many gods, or no god at all?"
Originally, the Greek word "metaphysika" (literally "after physics") merely indicated that part of Aristotle's work which came, in its sequence, after those chapters which dealt with physics. Later, it was misinterpreted by Medieval commentators on the classical texts as that which is above or beyond the physical, and so over time metaphysics has effectively become the study of that which transcends physics.
Aristotle originally split his metaphysics into three main sections, and these remain the main branches of metaphysics:
- Ontology (the study of being and existence, including the definition and classification of entities, physical or mental, the nature of their properties, and the nature of change)
- Natural Theology (the study of God, including the nature of religion and the world, the existence of the divine, questions about the creation, and the various other religious or spiritual issues)
- Universal Science (the study of first principles of logic and reasoning, such as the law of noncontradiction)
Metaphysics has been attacked, at different times in history, as being futile and overly vague, particularly by David Hume, Immanuel Kant and A.J. Ayer. It may be more useful to say that a metaphysical statement usually implies an idea about the world or the universe, which may seem reasonable but is ultimately not empirically verifiable, testable, or provable.
Existence, the fact or state of continued being, is axiomatic, meaning that it does not rest upon anything in order to be valid, and it cannot be proven by any "more basic" premises, because it is necessary for all knowledge and it cannot be denied without conceding its truth, a denial of something is only possible if existence exists. "Existence exists" is, therefore, an axiom, which states that there is something, as opposed to nothing.
Consciousness is the faculty which perceives and identifies things that exist.
In his famous formulation "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think therefore I am"), René Descartes argued that consciousness is axiomatic, because you cannot logically deny your mind's existence at the same time as using your mind to do the denying.
However, what Descartes did not make clear is that consciousness is the faculty that perceives that which exists, so it requires something outside of itself, in order to function. It requires and is dependent upon, existence.
The primacy of existence states that existence is primary, and consciousness is secondary because there can be no consciousness without something existing to perceive. Existence is independent of, makes possible, and is a prerequisite of consciousness. Consciousness is not responsible for creating reality, it is completely dependent upon reality.
Early debates on the nature of matter centred on identifying a single underlying principle (Monism): water was claimed by Thales, air by Anaximenes, Apeiron (meaning "the undefined infinite") by Anaximander, and fire by Heraclitus. Democritus conceived an atomic theory (Atomism) many centuries before it was accepted by modern science.
The nature of the mind and its relation to the body has also exercised the best brains for millennia. There is a large overlap here with Philosophy of Mind, which is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties and consciousness, and their relationship to the physical body.
In the 17th Century, Descartes proposed a Dualist solution called Substance Dualism (or Cartesian Dualism) whereby the mind and body are totally separate and different, the mental does not have extension in space, and the material cannot think.
Idealists, like Bishop George Berkeley and the German Idealist school, claim that material objects do not exist unless perceived (Idealism is essentially a Monist, rather than Dualist, theory in that there is a single universal, substance, or principle).
Baruch Spinoza and Bertrand Russell both adopted, in different ways, a dual-aspect theory called Neutral Monism, which claims that existence consists of a single substance, which in itself, is neither mental nor physical but is capable of mental and physical aspects or attributes.
In the last century, science particularly atomic theory, evolution, computer technology and neuroscience, has demonstrated many ways in which mind and brain interact in a physical way, but the exact nature of the relationship is still open to debate.
The dominant metaphysics in the 20th Century has therefore been various versions of Physicalism (or Materialism), a Monist solution which explains matter and mind as merely aspects of each other, or derivatives of a neutral substance.
The world contains many individual things (objects or particulars), both physical and abstract, and what these things have in common with each other are called universals or properties. Metaphysicians are interested in the nature of objects and their properties, and the relationship between the two.
The problem of universals arises when people start to consider in what sense it is possible for a property to exist in more than one place at the same time (e.g. a red car and a red rose). It seems clear that there are many red things, for example, but is there an existing property of 'redness'? And if there is such a thing as 'redness', what kind of thing is it?
Any object or entity is the sum of its parts. The identity of an entity composed of other entities can be explained by reference to the identity of the building blocks, and how they are interacting. A house can be explained by reference to the wood, metal, and glass that are combined in that particular way to form the house, or it could be explained in terms of the atoms that form it.
Aristotle's Law of Identity (or the Axiom of Identity) states that to exist, an existent (i.e. an entity that exists) must have a particular identity. A thing cannot exist without existing as something, otherwise, it would be nothing, and it would not exist.
Also, to have an identity means to have a single identity, an object cannot have two identities at the same time or in the same respect. The concept of identity is important because it makes explicit that reality has a definite nature, which makes it knowable and since it exists in a particular way, it has no contradictions (when two ideas each make the other impossible).
Change is the alteration of identities, whether it be a stone falling to earth or a log burning to ash. For something to change (which is an effect), it needs to be acted on (caused) by a previous action. Causality is the law that states that each cause has a specific effect and that this effect is dependent on the initial identities of the agents involved.
We are intuitively aware of change occurring over time (e.g. a tree loses its leaves). The Ancient Greeks took some extreme positions on the nature of change:
Parmenides denied that change occurs at all, while Heraclitus thought change was ubiquitous.
Currently, there are three main theories which deal with the problem of change:
- Mereological Essentialism assumes that an object's parts are essential to it, and therefore that an object cannot persist through any change of its parts.
- Perdurantism holds that objects are effectively 4-dimensional entities made up of a series of temporal parts like the frames of a movie (it treats the tree, then, as a series of tree-stages).
- Endurantism, on the other hand, holds that a whole object - and the same object - exists at each moment of its history, (so that the same tree persists regardless of how many leaves it loses).
A traditional Realist position is that time and space have an existence independent from the human mind. Idealists, however, claim that space and time are mental constructs used to organise perceptions, or are otherwise unreal.
Descartes and Leibniz believed that, without physical objects, "space" would be meaningless because space is the framework upon which we understand how physical objects are related to each other.
Sir Isaac Newton, on the other hand, argued for an absolute space ("container space"), which can continue to exist in the absence of matter.
With the work of Albert Einstein, the pendulum swung back to relational space in which space is composed of relations between objects, with the implication that it cannot exist in the absence of matter.
Although Parmenides denied the flow of time completely in ancient times, echoed more recently by the British Idealist J.M.E. McTaggart (1866 - 1925), much debate in both philosophy and physics has centred on the direction of time (“time's arrow”), and whether it is reversible or symmetrical. As for whether objects persist over time, then the Endurantism / Perdurantism dichotomy described above applies.
So, within the field of Metaphysics, we have multiple disciplines of study, and we have many opinions as to the validity of any of it, suffice it to say that some think it is all nonsense and yet others think it is the pre-eminent science.
Whichever your standpoint or opinion, or whether you have an opinion on the matter or not, it does not change the fact that mankind has in all of its history on this planet failed to answer the basic notions of existence.
Where do we come from? What is the point to all of this? Where are we going after it is all over? Who is in charge of making this place? And what is my relationship to the creator force if there be one?
In this study I shall attempt to answer these questions not so much for you, but for me, this is at the end of the day a selfish endeavour, performed not for the science of matter, not because of a driving social or moral force behind the concept, but because I am curious and in that state things that demand my attention tend towards the abstract, irrelevant, or the obscure.
That, however, does not diminish the value of their study, it in no way relegates the entire subject to wishful, or wistful thinking, and it is certainly not, as some have claimed a non-scientific process. It is alas also not above science, even if it is beyond physics because by definition physics imposes limitations and restrictions on what can be, Metaphysics suffers no such delusions.
Metaphysics is such a diverse subject matter that it encompasses many other disciplines and sciences, some based in fact, some in imagination, and yet others completely off the tree, but that does not diminish their relevance to mankind or the thinking process.
Just because your mind cannot grasp a concept of an idea that does not by a long shot mean that someone’s mind cannot. To denigrate someone’s study or subject of choice because you do not understand it, or can’t grasp the fundamentals or the principles, relegates your own opinion into irrelevance, scientifically speaking.
It is better to say that I do not understand, it is not my subject of study, and I cannot see how it is of any use, but I accept that the problem lies with me, and not the subject matter. I am fully cognisant of the fact that any limitation in this subject is placed squarely in me.
It does not matter how painful these revelations are they are personal anyway and not generally for outside consumption unless and until you make an asinine statement of denying the validity of this as a science.
Or perhaps degrade the practitioners of Metaphysics by calling them by obtuse and slanderous names. Or even to vilify them for having the temerity to think about a subject matter that is so complex and so expansive that in your humble opinion no human mind can get to grips with it.
And even if you were right, which you are not, they still have or should have the right to think about these things and publish the results of their studies, just like you or regular scientist demand to have the right to do.
So, this then is the pursuit of a study period into a subject that in and of itself, does not have a physical limitation placed upon it, and having no physical limitations or boundaries it also does not have any borders either and so the systems of measure or checks and balances that the purest of scientific research demands are not applicable in Metaphysics, because as the name of the subject implies this is beyond physics.
It is beyond the realm of normal thinking, it requires a suspension of credulity, it demands the bonds of time and space to be removed, it screams out for exploration into dimensions beyond our current understanding. In short, it is science-fiction wrapped up in sciences-fact, it is the exploration of the possible, not the probable, sans frontier as it were.
Remember most of the technical developments of the physical world we now take so for granted came from the world of sci-fi just a few decades ago. What was thought by science to be an impossibility in one time becomes commonplace in the next.
The academy of science in London put forward the considered scientific proof that any person travelling at speeds faster than a horse, would cause effects in the body as to kill the person, and so for them to be travelling in an automobile without horse they constitute a major public safety threat.
Because of this known science fact, cars were by law required to have a man walking out in front of them with a red flag to warn others of the impending disaster, even though this proved itself to be utter and complete nonsense it was held at the time, with such force that the scientific community affected a change in the laws of the land based solely on their own limited opinions. And no scientific evidence what-so-ever.
Because of the giant proportion of Metaphysics and the myriad of possible avenues to explore I shall restrict this study to Time & Space, the Creator Force of the Universe, and What are the Origins of Man. In the previous 5 books in the series, we have discussed Religion, God and man’s position to these things.