What is the philosophy of metaphysics

What is the Philosophy of Metaphysics


What is the philosophy of metaphysics. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy, and part of the answer to the question “What is Metaphysics” requires us to define the difference between science and philosophy. ‘Science’ is taken here as empirical sciences or non-empirical sciences. In physical science, it’s important for new explanations to make predictions that can be tested by experiments. But this is not a requirement of philosophy, specifically that of metaphysics. Instead, we reduce any philosophical statement to its ultimate concept or propositions. The ultimate concept of metaphysics is being while that of propositions is the principle of contradiction. In the case of the above statement that all things are made up of smaller things and so on to infinity, this explanation is clearly untestable because we’ll never have an instrument capable of detecting anything that is infinitely small. But then, metaphysically, one can be sure that it is impossible to have an infinite regression of materiality but must arrive at the ultimate or smallest particle of matter. But then, the philosopher can further ask : What is the ultimate composition of matter?” this time the answer cannot be anymore ‘the smallest particle of matter’ since the smallest particle of matter is matter also. Thus, Thales’ question: ‘What is the ultimate stuff?’ is a metaphysical question not an empirical one. His question separated physical science from philosophy. Aristotle offered an answer: his hylomorphic doctrine which states that any material reality is ultimately composed of prime matter (not the matter as we know it) and substantial form.

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 oeuvre 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.

Mind and Matter

Early debates on the nature of matter centered 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 mere aspects of each other, or derivatives of a neutral substance.

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