What is metaphysics in simple terms. The definitions and meanings of metaphysics and metaphysical keep changing. The study and science of metaphysics includes an almost unlimited number of subcategories. The most respected minds in academia, the sciences, and even in the general population are continually unable to reach an agreement as to the perfect meaning or definition. There are disputes as to what does and does not belong in the study or category of metaphysics and metaphysical.
One definition or meaning for metaphysics could be the sciences and non-sciences that cannot be put in another category are put into the category of metaphysics. However, this meaning or definition would not be complete; because there are sciences that are studied and categorized in other categories that are also included as a part of metaphysics and the metaphysical.
For certain disciplines, the discipline is a subset of metaphysics; and metaphysics is a What is metaphysics in simple termssubset of the discipline. In other words, each is a subset of the other depending on the context and/or the parameters used.
At this point I’ll like to clear a general misconception about Metaphysics and Physics. Physics is about matter, nature and its laws. Metaphysics is simply study of the unknown. I’ll give you an example that differentiates these two. According to De Broglie’s principle, scientists know that electron behaves like a wave.
Physics cannot and does not answer this question. Science, in contrast to the popular belief, answers “how?” instead of “why”. As a matter of fact, Metaphysics is about Philosophy. This question thus belong to the domain of Metaphysics.
Coming back to the question, what is metaphysics all about. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms.
Metaphysics is hard to define. The term itself can mean “beyond physics” but it’s tricky to get more precise without inviting controversy. Early use of the term simply referred to the topics covered by the work placed after (hence meta) the Physics in the traditional editing and not commentary of Aristotle’s works made by the Greek Peripatetic philosopher Andronicus Of Rhodes. Let’s look at what metaphysics is not. Newton’s theories about gravity, Einstein’s theories of relativity, and most of the work on quantum mechanics are clearly not metaphysics. These theories make specific predictions about observable phenomena. The theories are subject to being disproven because we can compare their predictions to actual results that we can get in the real world. For example, if we were to state that “for every atom in this universe, there is a corresponding atom in a parallel universe” then this is not physics because it cannot be disproven: we cannot presently detect the presence of atoms in parallel universes.
This brings up an interesting problem for metaphysics. The theory that all matter is composed of tiny particles called atoms was considered metaphysics at one time. When people began to invent instruments capable of detecting such tiny things, atomic theory moved out of metaphysics into physics. So metaphysics is always “at the frontier” and some of it may become physics in the future.
Religion is also not metaphysics. Religion is based on a set of convictions that may well make predictions about the world or explain why certain phenomena occur, but certain kinds of change are not allowed without disturbing the integrity of the religion. This is not to say that religions can’t change, but their overall integrity has to be preserved to some extent. For example, some religions (such as Greek Mythology) have explained that mysterious phenomena are caused by many different gods. Within the context of such a religion, it would be impossible to change this belief to say that all of the phenomena are caused by a single god. To do this would be essentially to invent a new and contradictory religion.
This raises another interesting problem for metaphysics. It may often tread on sacred ground and come into conflict with religion. Socrates was one casualty of this tendency.
These considerations give us some boundaries, and we can define metaphysics more readily inside those boundaries.
Metaphysics is concerned with explaining the way things “are” in the physical world. It is concerned primarily with ‘being as being’ i.e. with anything in so far as it has act of existence. However, metaphysics is not concerned with examining the physical properties of things that exist, but is, instead, the study of the underlying principles that give rise to the unified natural world. As such, the statement that “Evil does not exist” is metaphysical because it is a statement that deals with the object ‘evil’ as opposed to ‘good’ which is a metaphysical subject, whereas the statement that “all things are composed of atoms, which are in turn composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons” is definitely not metaphysics, utmost a concern of physical sciences.