In these days of omniscience, when everybody is a member of some intellectual, commercial or social elite, metaphysics is hardly fashionable. After all, it’s only about principles and working logic. Who needs them, for god’s sake? It’s quite easy to be pompous without such things.
Metaphysics is sneered at on a routine basis, particularly by people who don’t know a damn thing about it. This is one of the least forgivable of this insane world’s chronic anti-intellectual dogmas, and I’d like to castrate it permanently, right here, right now.
This is Google’s definition of metaphysics, which I’ve broken up into numbered sections:
- the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, identity, time, and space.
- “they would regard the question of the initial conditions for the universe as belonging to the realm of metaphysics or religion”
- abstract theory with no basis in reality.
- “his concept of society as an organic entity is, for market liberals, simply metaphysics”
First principles are where physics and other sciences usually come unstuck. “Being” is simply the basis of existence. How relevant could it be? Something is or isn’t. It has a nature which is understood or not. What’s “abstract” about being, knowing, identity, time or space? Absolutely nothing. They’re as real as you are.
The “initial conditions for the universe” (great phrase, guys, or would be if it was given some traction by more definitions) just happen to be major issues for understanding the place. Gosh, there’s a universe? You don’t say. How does it work? How do we coexist with it? Why does it work the way it does? What don’t we know about how it works? Irrelevant, or necessary questions? Note the use of the words metaphysics and religion in the same breath. These two things have absolutely nothing in common. One is based on logic, the other on belief, respectively.
…Abstract theory with no basis in reality – Define reality. One “philosopher” decided that reality was only what someone perceives. Therefore, the rest of reality doesn’t effectively exist? It’s only comparatively recently that humans have been able to actually perceive much of the universe at all. The usual pattern is that the old theories are totally wrong, or very much in need of some panel beating. So perception = reality, does it? Not like that, it doesn’t.
Subjective reality is a combination of perception, anticipation, and analysis of its elements. That said, subjective reality, like macro reality, changes. Meta, for those who’ve forgotten, means change. Physics and physical phenomena are about processes.
Objective reality, (the external thing with all the galaxies, etc.) also changes, whether it’s perceived or not. Your most recent case of flu wasn’t perceived until you got the symptoms, and it so happens that that unperceived thing came from this uncooperative reality. You only perceive gravity because you’re attached to it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist elsewhere, even without you. There’s nothing abstract about these things.
Fire, powered flight, electricity, the wheel, mathematics, all the sciences, and other things originally had “no basis in reality”, either. The principles were explored and developed based on the idea of using these things. Metaphysics, in this sense, is the most practical of all the disciplines. The demand of metaphysics is for actual thought, not mere pronouncements from some obsolete old dogma.
“…Concept of society as an organic entity is for market liberals, simply metaphysics”. What’s simple about that theory? Organic entities tend to be complex, with multiple dynamics, often in an ecological environment. Who the hell are market liberals to dismiss an interesting idea, particularly when they spend whole generations proving they have no ideas of their own?
OK, that’s the trash removed. Now let’s get serious.
Can you have any process without a working principle?
Principles in metaphysics are simply non-mathematical formulas.
The kind of logic to form a principle in metaphysics may involve disparate elements, combinations of elements, etc. Metaphysics demands a lot of thought, observation, verification and understanding, like all the sciences.
The Greeks deduced the existence of the atom on principle, without the aid of so much as a magnifying glass. That principle, particularly that of the smallest indivisible particle, is still very much part of science. Quantum science is its current generation precocious, if verbose, offspring, a few thousand years later.
The hatred of metaphysics
If philosophy means love of knowledge, the hatred of metaphysics is the antithesis of philosophy. How can you hate the very basis of knowledge, i.e., logical thinking and observation? This hatred behaves more like fear. A lot of the less impressive academics and pseudo-intellectuals default to the “here and now/ real world” aka “plodder” mindset rather than deal with the really hard stuff about actually understanding first causes and the entire structure of physical and other processes.
This is just intellectual cowardice and grovelling to peer groups. “Well, yeah, I’m a 50-year-old teenage rapper, too. Who cares about all those facts and all the hard thinking required to understand them? After all, we don’t go to college to learn stuff like that.” The fact is that the usually very tough logic of dealing with these very big subjects isn’t for the weak. It’s certainly not for snivelling little nobodies with inflated opinions of themselves and not much else.
Put it this way – Something goes bang, creates a universe, and you don’t want to know how or why it happened, or what it’s doing because it has “no basis in reality”? You don’t feel any need, let alone obligation as a scientist, to understand it?
I’ve said this so often I’m getting tired of saying it – Science is about what we don’t know, not what we do know. If it was just about what we know, any fool could be a pedagogue demigod, strutting around the intellectual barnyard like a megalomaniac rooster, clucking authoritatively.
Occasional thinkers are just as bad, particularly at expert level. A few pieces of knowledge are put in a death grip by your soggy mind. All principles, according to these people, unlike the universe, are immutable and immovable. One is therefore an expert, so there, Nyah.
Meanwhile, having fully embraced the basic principles of metaphysics on the subject of principles and built your shanty of reputation on your expertise in these areas, you denigrate the idea of studying principles.
No, you’re not. You’re just lazy, and not doing a lot of real thinking. You haven’t even bothered to understand the basic idea of having working principles, or the need to analyse those principles and see inconsistencies. Grow up. Intellectual puberty awaits, if not breathlessly, your arrival.
Metaphysics and futurism
The other, unholy and utterly unforgivable, inexcusable, element in metaphysics is the constant, endless denigration of futurism, aka forward thinking. This is also metaphysics, “not based on reality”, according to the trudging masses of pedantic thinking. It’s “speculation” according to some whose vocabularies have apparently committed suicide, understandably enough.
Metaphysics has to explore alternatives and options, by definition. If you build a colony on Mars, what happens? What are the possibilities? What principles and ideas will you use to make it viable?
Listen, morons – Why do you do anything? Because you think you have a future. You may need or want something tomorrow. How does refusing to consider future issues stack up to this ongoing bit of naivete of yours? Why do you refuse to consider the future, when it’s the practical working basis of your whole existence?
Future science isn’t “real” in the sense of a can of baked beans on a grocery shelf. It’s real in terms of emerging facts, ideas, and principles.
Your choice is between the reassuring thud of a can of baked beans which you can prove exists so nobody will think you’re insane and the terrifying facts of the undefined future. That’s a metaphysical perspective, in case you’re wondering.
Get your lazy arses in gear and respect metaphysics for what it actually is, not some sloppy 5 second attention span definition. Use these methods. Use your bloody brains for a change and stop pretending to be omniscient. Mental constipation is both theoretical and factual; both are equally fatal. Point made?