Hello zefloid13. Like Khethil, I think you bring up a valid point. I like how he has put together his response to this thread and I will make some comments on this topic as I go through some of what he's said.
from Merriam-Webster: "...a division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and often epistemology"
I always find it useful to define important terms. Sometimes people have different ideas about what is meant by certain words (particularly philosophical terms), so defining the terms help us make sure everyone is one the same page.
In regards to the definition Khethil has provided, I will say that although epistemology (branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity
) has often been associated with metaphysics, I personally see it as a sufficiently distinct and productive enterprise as to warrant it being considered it's own field of thought, rather than as a subfield of metaphysics. Also, I'm not sure that cosmology (astrophysical study of the history, structure, and constituent dynamics of the universe
) should at this point be considered a subfield of metaphysics. Cosmology has gone scientific
, and now, at least, seems to focus on the physical
, measurable aspects of the universe, which to me seems to make it, by definition, not a philosophical
physical field of study. These are, of course, just my personal thoughts based on what I know about the topics at hand at the current time.
I'd also like to introduce a defintion of "metaphysics" from Wikipedia now.
When put this way, and considering that the sciences deal with aspects of the physical universe, I have to ask how can one know
anything about that which may transcend the physical universe. Maybe this is my empiricist mindset talking here, but my answer has to be that one cannot know
anything about those things, but can only form guesses about them that are in no way confirmable or falsifiable. Metaphysics, when thought of this way, appears to possibly be amusing to think about, but not particularly useful.
My opinion: Exploring different concepts of reality and being have worth; but very little on a practical level.[INDENT]To the Negative: The lion's share of what metaphysics comprises consists of people "postulating" many aspects of which there is no resolution (in terms of anything we can reasonably know). These are often the areas that frustrate any empiricist-type minds in that very little metaphysical content can ever be observed and doesn't appear to improve, solve or correct our questions or problems.[/INDENT]
I'm not sure I see the worth of exploring such concepts, except perhaps as mental exercises, or simply to recognize the utter futility of them. As humans, certain questions tend to occur to us, and often bother us. (i.e. Why are we here?) IMO all metaphysics tell us is that either these questions have no answers, or, if they do, that there is no way for us to rationally know them.
I agree about the "postulating", the empiricist frustration, and that metaphysics doesn't appear to improve, solve or correct our questions or problems.
Wikipedia's page on metaphysics also describes some of the criticisms of metaphysics. I'll copy and paste some excerpts from it below.
Metaphysics - "Criticism" section - Wikipedia
Metaphysics has been attacked, at different times in history, as being futile and overly vague (or even meaningless), or of no use entirely.
If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
-- An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
A.J. Ayer is famous for leading a "revolt against metaphysics," where he claimed that its propositions were meaningless in his book "Language, Truth and Logic". Ayer was a defender of verifiability theory of meaning. British universities became less concerned with the area for much of the mid 20th century.
Another angle on meaningfulness/meaninglessness, independent of verifiability, is that some portions of metaphysics constitute the taking of simple everyday phrases (for example "exists") normally used to describe spatiotemporal affairs (for example the existence and location of physical objects in space), and naively attempting to apply them elsewhere, without questioning whether this makes any sense or not.
Another view is that metaphysical statements are not meaningless statements, but rather that they are generally not fallible, testable or provable statements (see Karl Popper). That is to say, there is no valid set of empirical observations nor a valid set of logical arguments, which could definitively prove metaphysical statements to be true or false. Hence, a metaphysical statement usually implies an idea about the world or about the universe, which may seem reasonable but is ultimately not empirically verifiable. That idea could be changed in a non-arbitrary way, based on experience or argument, yet there exists no evidence or argument so compelling that it could rationally force a change in that idea, in the sense of definitely proving it false.
[INDENT]To the Positive
: One's personal views - the ideals to which one holds - in terms of the nature of being and what reality is, often lie close to their foundation of other postulates. In other words, how you define reality plays a big role in how you behave, plan, etc. Epistemology
is extremely important, in any practical evaluation; what can be known and what is the nature of knowledge. How might one say this is not
I don't think most people really consciously "define reality", and I disagree that this is something that plays a big role in how they behave, plan, etc. I think their inherent traits, upbringing, and personality as a whole is what defines this and I don't see it being directly tied to their concept of reality. I agree about the practicality of epistemology for critical, philosophical thinkers, but unfortunately, I don't think the average person even knows what the word means, much less applies concepts from it for their formulation and consideration of ideas. (Hopefully online philosophy forums are changing this a bit though! :bigsmile:)
So I dunno. I find myself often frustrated by certain aspects of metaphysics that - to me - seem to have no relevance to what we can collectively discuss towards mutual betterment for the human animal. For example, how exactly might we discuss the nature of the universe without devolving into a soup-bowl of mixed, subjective postulates? And even if we could stay on the same track, the pragmatic in me wants to ask: So what?
Yep, I'm with you, Khethil. If one is ok with just taking things on faith with a minimum of logical consideration and grounding, then metaphysics might be right up their alley. Otherwise, it just seem to be an exercise in frustration and futility to me.