Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

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Veritas Aequitas
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Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Veritas Aequitas » Wed Jan 16, 2019 9:48 am

It is often claimed by many that 'metaphysics' = beyond physics.
As the SEP article explained, it is not the case;
The word ‘metaphysics’ is notoriously hard to define.
Twentieth-century coinages like ‘meta-language’ and ‘metaphilosophy’ encourage the impression that metaphysics is a study that somehow “goes beyond” physics, a study devoted to matters that transcend the mundane concerns of Newton and Einstein and Heisenberg.
This impression is mistaken.

The word ‘metaphysics’ is derived from a collective title of the fourteen books by Aristotle that we currently think of as making up Aristotle's Metaphysics. Aristotle himself did not know the word. (He had four names for the branch of philosophy that is the subject-matter of Metaphysics: ‘first philosophy’, ‘first science’, ‘wisdom’, and ‘theology’.)
At least one hundred years after Aristotle's death, an editor of his works (in all probability, Andronicus of Rhodes) titled those fourteen books “Ta meta ta phusika”—“the after the physicals” or “the ones after the physical ones”—the “physical ones” being the books contained in what we now call Aristotle's Physics.

The title was probably meant to warn students of Aristotle's philosophy that they should attempt Metaphysics only after they had mastered “the physical ones”, the books about nature or the natural world—that is to say, about change, for change is the defining feature of the natural world.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/metaphysics/
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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Logik » Wed Jan 16, 2019 4:18 pm

Metaphysics is symbol manipulation. The mastery of language.

Symbolic expression of one's concepts in a way that can be communicated to and understood by others.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by PeteJ » Fri May 10, 2019 11:28 am

The article claims that metaphysics is not beyond physics, but where is the argument?

What would you call the study of questions that are beyond physics?

Metaphysics takes physics for granted and extrapolates from there, so it certainly cannot be called physics.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Speakpigeon » Fri May 10, 2019 5:04 pm

Strictly speaking, metaphysics is about things you have no idea how you could possibly make sure whether they exist or not. The best example is infinity. And if you understand physics as about things you think you know how to make sure whether they exist or not, then metaphysics is indeed beyond physics.
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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by PeteJ » Mon May 13, 2019 7:21 am

Speakpigeon wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 5:04 pm
Strictly speaking, metaphysics is about things you have no idea how you could possibly make sure whether they exist or not. The best example is infinity. And if you understand physics as about things you think you know how to make sure whether they exist or not, then metaphysics is indeed beyond physics.
EB
Usually metaphysics is considered to be the study of what exists. As such it does its job. To dismiss metaphysics as useless is to do the same for the whole of philosophy, as we see from the current trend in academia to question the need for philosophy departments in our universities.

Few people study metaphysics beyond the philosophy department and the result is a very low opinion of philosophy. This is not a failure of metaphysics but of scholarship. The situation may be changing, however, now that we all have the internet.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Speakpigeon » Mon May 13, 2019 10:30 am

PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 7:21 am
Usually metaphysics is considered to be the study of what exists.
Not quite. It's the semantic analysis of our notion of being: No bachelor is a married man, therefore, no married man is a bachelor. That sorts of things.
Your expression "the study of what exists" makes metaphysics a kind of physics. To study what exists, you need to know something about it. Physics knows something about nature through observation. Metaphysics doesn't know anything about what it talks about. Or rather, since metaphysics only knows the notions we have, then metaphysics is about the notions we have.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 7:21 am
As such it does its job.
I don't have evidence of that but I'm not looking too hard.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 7:21 am
To dismiss metaphysics as useless is to do the same for the whole of philosophy, as we see from the current trend in academia to question the need for philosophy departments in our universities.
I'm not sure it's really useful but when I listen to physicists I change my mind and I'm suddenly certain it's useful.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 7:21 am
Few people study metaphysics beyond the philosophy department and the result is a very low opinion of philosophy. This is not a failure of metaphysics but of scholarship. The situation may be changing, however, now that we all have the internet.
I guess bad metaphysics is very easy and good metaphysics is very hard. I think all thinking involves some metaphysics. So, if your thinking is good, then it must be that you're a good metaphysician.
EB

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by PeteJ » Mon May 13, 2019 11:42 am

Speakpigeon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 10:30 am
Not quite. It's the semantic analysis of our notion of being: No bachelor is a married man, therefore, no married man is a bachelor. That sorts of things.
Your expression "the study of what exists" makes metaphysics a kind of physics. To study what exists, you need to know something about it. Physics knows something about nature through observation. Metaphysics doesn't know anything about what it talks about. Or rather, since metaphysics only knows the notions we have, then metaphysics is about the notions we have.
Perhaps you could look up the meaning of 'Ontology'. Physics cannot decide between naive realism and the perennial view of existence as a reducible phenomenon. This is why metaphysics exists. Your view is called 'scientism' and it's quite popular but it's just a reaction to the failure of modern university metaphysics, best described as footnotes to Plato. Please don't think I'm defending this.

I don't want to get into a complicated argument and go point-by-point because things tend to get tetchy. I'd just mention in response to your comment that in my view good metaphysics is a lot easier to do and to understand than bad metaphysics since it allows one to dispose of a thousand unworkable theories and focus on the one that works. Examples of good metaphysicians for me would be Lao Tsu, Nagarjuna, Spencer Brown, Bradley and others of their ilk, not philosophers who claim metaphysics is incomprehensible.

Do you not see that physics will never explain Existence, Time, Ethics, Origins, Consciousness, God and other such things? It must take these things for granted or leave them as a matter of speculation. This is not a contentious point as far as I'm aware. After all, metaphysicians also bump into tables and stub their toes on rocks so it's not as if they need scientists to tell them these things are in need of an explanation. And physicists also wonder about the nature of self, the possibility of freewill, the nature of time and so forth, at least on the weekends.

My feeling is that your view arises from your observation of the failure of European philosophy, not from a study of metaphysics. This is not a rude comment (honest) but a reference to a global problem that afflicts public perceptions of metaphysics.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Speakpigeon » Mon May 13, 2019 4:41 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 11:42 am
Speakpigeon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 10:30 am
Not quite. It's the semantic analysis of our notion of being: No bachelor is a married man, therefore, no married man is a bachelor. That sorts of things.
Your expression "the study of what exists" makes metaphysics a kind of physics. To study what exists, you need to know something about it. Physics knows something about nature through observation. Metaphysics doesn't know anything about what it talks about. Or rather, since metaphysics only knows the notions we have, then metaphysics is about the notions we have.
Perhaps you could look up the meaning of 'Ontology'. Physics cannot decide between naive realism and the perennial view of existence as a reducible phenomenon. This is why metaphysics exists. Your view is called 'scientism' and it's quite popular but it's just a reaction to the failure of modern university metaphysics, best described as footnotes to Plato. Please don't think I'm defending this.
I would agree that physics has its limitations and that therefore metaphysics cannot be dispensed with. However, we don't actually know that these limitations are inherent to physics or science. Still, I would agree that they probably are.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 11:42 am
I don't want to get into a complicated argument and go point-by-point because things tend to get tetchy. I'd just mention in response to your comment that in my view good metaphysics is a lot easier to do and to understand than bad metaphysics since it allows one to dispose of a thousand unworkable theories and focus on the one that works. Examples of good metaphysicians for me would be Lao Tsu, Nagarjuna, Spencer Brown, Bradley and others of their ilk, not philosophers who claim metaphysics is incomprehensible.

Thanks for the recommendations but if it was easy there would be more of it. What I see around me is mostly bad metaphysics.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 11:42 am
Do you not see that physics will never explain Existence, Time, Ethics, Origins, Consciousness, God and other such things? It must take these things for granted or leave them as a matter of speculation. This is not a contentious point as far as I'm aware. After all, metaphysicians also bump into tables and stub their toes on rocks so it's not as if they need scientists to tell them these things are in need of an explanation. And physicists also wonder about the nature of self, the possibility of freewill, the nature of time and so forth, at least on the weekends.
Sure, but metaphysics doesn't explain anything because it doesn't know reality beyond our subjective life. So, instead, it tries to work our intuitive notions into a logically coherent conception.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 11:42 am
My feeling is that your view arises from your observation of the failure of European philosophy, not from a study of metaphysics. This is not a rude comment (honest) but a reference to a global problem that afflicts public perceptions of metaphysics.
I don't have the time to study the great work of philosophers and metaphysicians. My position is that if the guy can't explain anything in a few pages, it's not worth the effort reading him. Some guy summed it up for me: He has studied Hegel all his life. He only recently realised he hadn't quite understood Hegel's notion of the Absolute. Turns out it's a rather trivial notion. I don't want to spend my life realising a notion is trivial.
Read Descartes' few pages leading up to the Cogito. It's clear, convincing, and to the point. I don't think most metaphysicians could have explained the same crucial point in less that an 800 pages book.
EB
Last edited by Speakpigeon on Mon May 13, 2019 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Speakpigeon » Mon May 13, 2019 4:53 pm

Nāgārjuna's major thematic focus is the concept of śūnyatā (translated into English as "emptiness") which brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anātman "not-self" and pratītyasamutpāda "dependent origination", to refute the metaphysics of some of his contemporaries. For Nāgārjuna, as for the Buddha in the early texts, it is not merely sentient beings that are "selfless" or non-substantial; all phenomena (dhammas) are without any svabhāva, literally "own-being", "self-nature", or "inherent existence" and thus without any underlying essence. They are empty of being independently existent; thus the heterodox theories of svabhāva circulating at the time were refuted on the basis of the doctrines of early Buddhism. This is so because all things arise always dependently: not by their own power, but by depending on conditions leading to their coming into existence, as opposed to being.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarjuna
As I understand it, Nāgārjuna's concept of śūnyatā is the same as the central concept that underpins most scientists' metaphysics. Reality is a totality.
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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Speakpigeon » Mon May 13, 2019 5:46 pm

If metaphysics is simple explain to me the Law of Identity.

Or the question in my other thread: If time doesn't exist, then what keeps two clocks, that have been properly synchronised at some point, synchronised over any period of time?
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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by PeteJ » Mon May 13, 2019 6:08 pm

Speakpigeon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:41 pm
I don't have the time to study the great work of philosophers and metaphysicians. My position is that if the guy can't explain anything in a few pages, it's not worth the effort reading him. Some guy summed it up for me: He has studied Hegel all his life. He only recently realised he hadn't quite understood Hegel's notion of the Absolute. Turns out it's a rather trivial notion. I don't want to spend my life realising a notion is trivial.
Read Descartes' few pages leading up to the Cogito. It's clear, convincing, and to the point. I don't think most metaphysicians could have explained the same crucial point in less that an 800 pages book.
EB
If you studied metaphysics beyond the interminable university curriculum you would know that Lao Tsu explains metaphysics in the four words, 'True words seem paradoxical'. Of course, to understand that this is an explanation of metaphysics would require reading a lot more words.

The problem is that our university philosophy studies only philosophers who claim that metaphysics is incomprehensible, It was while submitting an article for PN explaining this very problem that I stumbled across this forum and rather over-hastily waded in.

I must point out that you cannot argue that metaphysics is a waste of time on the grounds that you don't understand it, This is something you'd have to prove. To do this would mean proving that Lao Tsu did not understand it, and to do this you'd have to understand what he meant by his famous aphorism, and by the time you can do this you'll no longer believe that metaphysics is a waste of time.

You could look into this but to have any motivation,you'd have stop being so pessimistic about philosophy and concede that at this point you are not qualified to judge the usefulness of metaphysics. You're qualifies only to judge the metaphysics you've studied. Please believe that by disagreeing I'm trying be helpful and to persuade you that metaphysics is worth doing such that more optimism is justified.

I would completely agree with you about the wordiness of scholastic philosophy, the lengthy explanations that don't explain anything and the good example set by Descartes. But Descartes did not understand metaphysics so can be nowhere near as brief and to the point as Lao Tsu. It is actually very easy to summarise the results of metaphysics in a sentence, although four words is the briefest I've come across.
'
Last edited by PeteJ on Mon May 13, 2019 6:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by PeteJ » Mon May 13, 2019 6:23 pm

Speakpigeon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:53 pm
As I understand it, Nāgārjuna's concept of śūnyatā is the same as the central concept that underpins most scientists' metaphysics. Reality is a totality.
EB
The Unity spoken of in the Perennial philosophy is as little known in physics as it in European philosophy. Heidegger blames the early Greeks for its absence from Western thought and thus the banishment of the Perennial philosophy. It is easy to say 'totality' but this may be the most difficult word in the whole of philosophy.

If Reality is, in the final analysis, a Unity then the non-dual doctrine of the Perennial philosophy is true and I doubt many physicists intend to endorse this idea. Schrodinger did, but his generation of free thinkers is long gone.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by PeteJ » Mon May 13, 2019 6:43 pm

Speakpigeon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 5:46 pm
If metaphysics is simple explain to me the Law of Identity.

Or the question in my other thread: If time doesn't exist, then what keeps two clocks, that have been properly synchronised at some point, synchronised over any period of time?
EB
For an answer to the first question I'd need to know how you interpret the words. It can be explained as trivial, which is how I would explain it, but in ontology it can also be seen as very profound, in which case an answer would have to be a long one. What makes you think an explanation of this law is important to an understanding of metaphysics?

Your question about time reminds me of Berkeley kicking a rock in order to prove naive realism. Nobody claims that time does not exist. They claim that it does not exist in the way we usually think it does, and that for a fundamental view it must be reduced. Our usual view of existence and time does not make sense, as metaphysicians know only too well.

The best academic writer on time I've come across is Hermann Weyl and I probably share his view.

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Speakpigeon » Mon May 13, 2019 7:56 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:43 pm
Speakpigeon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 5:46 pm
If metaphysics is simple explain to me the Law of Identity.
Or the question in my other thread: If time doesn't exist, then what keeps two clocks, that have been properly synchronised at some point, synchronised over any period of time?
For an answer to the first question I'd need to know how you interpret the words.
Each thing is identical to itself.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:43 pm
It can be explained as trivial, which is how I would explain it, but in ontology it can also be seen as very profound, in which case an answer would have to be a long one.

So, no easy metaphysics now?
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:43 pm
What makes you think an explanation of this law is important to an understanding of metaphysics?
I see metaphysics essentially as logic + semantic. The Law of Identity is usually presented as one of the three laws of logic. So, at the very least, the law must have metaphysical import. But, obviously, this will depend on your own perspective.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:43 pm
Your question about time reminds me of Berkeley kicking a rock in order to prove naive realism. Nobody claims that time does not exist. They claim that it does not exist in the way we usually think it does, and that for a fundamental view it must be reduced. Our usual view of existence and time does not make sense, as metaphysicians know only too well.
Here is my first post on this topic:
Speakpigeon wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:49 pm
This is the most fundamental question concerning time: If time doesn't exist as such, if the only reality of time is to be a mere convention, a convenience to ensure the necessary synchronisation of our activities across society, including the synchronisation of our machines and of our scientific instruments, then how is it at all possible to durably synchronise different clocks, among other things. Assuming a number of clocks are set to read the same as some master clock, why would they stay synchronised with it if time doesn't exist?
I think the wording is clear enough. You say our usual view of time doesn't make sense. I take this as implying that time as we usually think of it doesn't exist. So, how come our clocks stay synchronised at all?
Well, I guess you have no easy answer or you would have given it already.
PeteJ wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:43 pm
The best academic writer on time I've come across is Hermann Weyl and I probably share his view.
Good, so you're as good as an expert on the subject so you should be able to answer my question, easily.
EB

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Re: Metaphysics is Not 'Beyond Physics'

Post by Harbal » Mon May 13, 2019 8:20 pm

Veritas Aequitas wrote:
Wed Jan 16, 2019 9:48 am
it is not the case;
There seem to be so many things in life that are not the case. Whenever anyone tells me something and I bother to check it, half of the time, what I have been told turns out not to be the case. So I am a great believer in things not being the case.

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