• 180 Proof
    13.8k
    So what about my very brief sketch of "negative ontology" gave you reason to remind me that "metaphysics" ... "must be dialectical"?
  • Manuel
    3.9k
    Metaphysics as traditionally understood is essentially the question, what is the (fundamental) nature of the world. Of course, we have achieved considerable feats in our knowledge of the world since Aristotle.

    But we've also comes to realize that what we can know of the world, is substantially reduced from what we would like to know about it. So now, if we want to engage in metaphysics, it must be done through an epistemological lens.

    So, the question shifts somewhat from what is the nature of the world to: "what is it that can we say, given the creatures we are, about the nature of the world."
  • Joshs
    5.1k
    If Grug tells Ugg not to eat the last mammoth ribs, goes to get fire wood, comes back, finds the mammoth ribs gone and mammoth grease and bits of ribs hanging from Ugg's beard, and Ugg tells him "I did leave the ribs," Grugg's judgement that this is false doesn't rely on metaphysics. I would say rather than truth appears to be one of the things metaphysics and epistemology must explain. That statements might be true or false is a basic fact of the world to be explained.Count Timothy von Icarus

    What is it that makes a state of affairs true or false, that makes basic facts of the world what they are to us? Is it something separable from language , or is it only within the premises set up by language games that what is or is not the case can reveal its sense to us? What must already be understood between Ugg and Gregg, and in what way, in order for them to share the notion of violation of trust that applies here? And is not this understanding formed on the basis of contextual interactions between the two actors, rather than the facts pre-existing their co-determination of what is at issue and at stake?
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    Metaphysics [ ... ] the question shifts somewhat from what is the nature of the world to: "what is it that can we say, given the creatures we are, about the nature of the world."Manuel
    :up:
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.8k


    The issue of betrayed trust is sort of besides the point. A person can utter an obvious falsehood without intending any deception, and our senses can also deceive us. The point is that notions of truth and falsity are prephilosophical. Obviously, such things are context dependent. One cannot be told false statements outside of some sort of social contact, but that broad context is also universal to the human experience.

    But again, I'd ask:

    So the truth of what you just wrote only holds within the context of taken-for-granted, unquestioned presuppositions?
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.8k


    It's just a comment on methodology in the field writ large. I was thinking this makes it, in certain respects, quite different from apophatic theology, since there will still be a focus on the definite and empirical sense data. Placing "a cloud of forgetting," and a "cloud of unknowing," between the soul and all things might be a strategy for contemplating the truly infinite and divine, but it won't seem to do for giving an accounting of metaphysics. The methodology of the apophatic theologians, such as Saint John of the Cross, tends to focus on separating from all sense data and concepts, whereas, in some respects, metaphysics seems to require these even if the goal is of the discipline would be defined in negative terms.
  • Lionino
    849
    Metaphysics is the study of the metaphysical. The metaphysical encompasses entities (purported to be) beyond the physical.LuckyR

    Metaphysics is the study of everything beyond what physics explains, that is a satisfying enough answer for many people, especially laymen. After all, when we talk about possibility, the modality of metaphysics encompasses the modality of physics.

    figure.svg

    So as a separate subject from physics, metaphysics would have to talk about whatever is inside the circle of metaphysics and outside the circle of physics.

    That opens the questions: for physicalists, is there such a thing as metaphysics as a separate discipline?

    And empirical observation isnt grounded in any kind of presuppositionsJoshs

    For sure, but so are the alternatives.

    The hammer as a persisting thing with attributes and properties is secondary to, because derived deom our actual use of the hammer in goal oriented activities.Joshs

    That is funny, because some time (a few years) ago I briefly wrote exactly about "what is a hammer?". The conclusion was overall the same — to put it in Aristotelian terms, the definition of 'hammer' is in nothing but its final cause, though the definition of 'steel' we would all agree is in its material cause (iron and carbon).
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    Again, this venn diagram subsuming everything within logic isn't accurate.

    Modal metaphysics concerns the metaphysical underpinning of our modal statements. These are statements about what is possible or what is necessarily so.

    Metaphysics underpins modal logic. Which, if you had to venn it, would make metaphysics the containing set. Which is logical.
  • Lionino
    849
    I would suggest you send an e-mail to the SEP and cc Antonella Mallozzi, Anand Vaidya, and Michael Wallner, who wrote https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/modality-epistemology/
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    But that is an article on epistemology and modality, not metaphysics and modality. There are myriad considerations and presuppositions involved in relating epistemology to metaphysics. But the most salient is that metaphysics is about what is real. I don't consider modal statements to be in themselves fundamentally real, only symptomatic of features of what is real. Anyway, you continue to discuss what might be possible in a thread concerning the nature of metaphysics. I'll continue to focus on what is real.

    It's pretty straightforward. Human beings exist and are not merely logical. Therefore logic does not subsume metaphysics. Logic does not in any way supersede, condition, or determine existence; rather the reverse. As an epistemological construct, maybe logic is fundamental; probably not. But this is about metaphysics.
  • Joshs
    5.1k


    So as a separate subject from physics, metaphysics would have to talk about whatever is inside the circle of metaphysics and outside the circle of physicsLionino

    What do you think about the placement of logic outside the circle of metaphysics? What kind of logic are we talking about here ( Continentals use the term in a much broader way than Analytic philosophers) , and what aspect of logic could be considered superordinate to metaphysics? There has been much written in recent years on the dependence of formal logic on certain kinds of metaphysics presuppositions.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    'Metaphysics', by my lights, is the study of that which is beyond the possibility of all experience, but is necessary to understand that experience.
  • Joshs
    5.1k


    Only within a taken-for-granted , unquestioned set of normative presuppositions concerning the nature of the real can empiricist notions like proof and validation be considered as definitive. A metaphysics is the basis of the intelligibility of truth and falsity, not the product of empirical ascertainment of truth and falsity.

    So the truth of what you just wrote only holds within the context of taken-for-granted, unquestioned presuppositions?
    Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yes , if I were to claim what I wrote as a truth , rather than as an invitation to try on for size a particular way of thinking about matters.

    First principles seem eminently questionable. It also seems eminently possible to put forth first principles that can clash with realityCount Timothy von Icarus

    But the reality they clash with is already contaminated and interwoven with the schemes of understanding represented by the principles themselves. We will only ever know reality as constraints and affordances that are responsive to our schemes.


    The issue of betrayed trust is sort of besides the point. A person can utter an obvious falsehood without intending any deception, and our senses can also deceive us. The point is that notions of truth and falsity are prephilosophical. Obviously, such things are context dependent. One cannot be told false statements outside of some sort of social contact, but that broad context is also universal to the human experience.[/quote

    You seem to be thinking of truth in terms of correctness , a match between what seems to be the case and what is really the case. This assumes that what is the case maintains its sense over time such that we can compare the ‘real’ with the seeming. Formal logic is based on putting into symbolic form this assumption concerning objects that they retain their original sense independent of the continually changing ways we are interacting with them and with each other. In the case of a lie, the breakdown of trust is not peripheral to the ascertainment of truth. What is perceived as a deliberate falsehood by one party may be the result of a difference of interpretation. And in the case of a deliberate lie, it is assumed by the lying party that that they will not be understood as they wish to be understood. In other words, the lie is an attempt to compensate for a breakdown in shared values, goals and understandings. You might counter that i. the case of Grug and Ugg, their breakdown in trust doesn’t negate that there is a basic fact at stake, but I would argue that even the seemingly simplest and most straightforward example of a factual situation involves a change of the sense of meaning of what is at stake , and thus a change in the interpretation of what is the case. This is what the later Wittgenstein was trying to teach us about how language doesn’t just act as a connector better subject and object, but always refreshes the sense of what an object is in the very act of using words.
    Count Timothy von Icarus
  • Joshs
    5.1k
    But the most salient is that metaphysics is about what is real.Pantagruel

    You don’t think the history of metaphysics has to do with the changing ways we think about the sense of meaning of what is real? In other words, isn’t metaphysics more about sense than reality? For instance, if one can claim that the change in physics from Newton to Heisenberg is a change in metaphsical presuppositions, then this involves a subtle transformation in the sense of meaning of terms like mass and energy, rather than whether mass and energy are real.
  • Lionino
    849
    What do you think about the placement of logic outside the circle of metaphysics?Joshs

    Valid, no metaphysics can make a married man a bachelor.
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    You don’t think the history of metaphysics has to do with the changing ways we think about the sense of meaning of what is real? In other words, isn’t metaphysics more about sense than reality? For instance, if one can claim that the change in physics from Newton to Heisenberg is a change in metaphsical presuppositions, then this involves a subtle transformation in the sense of meaning of terms like mass and energy, rather than whether mass and energy are real.Joshs

    I guess we are asking whether metaphysics is better characterized by the theory, or what the theory is about. Like we assume any viewpoint has metaphysical presuppositions, but then the validity of those presuppositions is ultimately borne out...in a metaphysical sense. In other words, a metaphysical theory is consequential. So if your metaphysical theory is the substantially dual, and metaphysics exists as a theory in your head, material metaphysics is completely completely disconnected from the noumenal metaphysics, then you are left with idealism.

    Which doesn't seem to be the case. Rather (and intuitively) having a theory about the nature of reality (if it is accurate) ought to prove useful in some way, or lead in some direction. So I'd say metaphysics is about the relationship between our understanding of reality and reality. And if reality impinges on understanding, then understanding must in some sense impinge on reality. Either there is a connection and a contact - which has to then be mutual - or there is not. People ask metaphysical questions in order to effect fundamental reorientations, not so much of what specifically they do, but the way in which they do things. If I come to believe in the transcendence of the spirit, perhaps I change the way I perceive, think, and act.
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    Valid, no metaphysics can make a married man a bachelor.Lionino

    Which would have no sense or meaning were there not extant men, both married and unmarried. So yes, logic is unconstrained by metaphysics, just so long as it is meaningless.
  • Lionino
    849
    It is a fact that we need to have an idea of what these things are to talk about them productively. That is the point that all our knowledge begins with experience, we have acknowledged that since Kant (introduction KrV B). But logic is not semantics, it is syntax. Is mathematics metaphysics now too?
  • Fire Ologist
    65
    what is your best description of Metaphysics?Rob J Kennedy

    How about, it is an objectified version of subjective experience.

    the notion that reality can be understood is a metaphysical presuppositionTom Storm

    I agree. Although I would change "presupposition" to simply "assertion." And would add that the notion that reality cannot be understood is also a metaphysical assertion.

    Despite how impossible it seems (or is) to prove a metaphysical assertion is accurate, by being a subject, a metaphysic of that subjective being (whether it is ever discovered or accurately asserted) is also there. If I assert "I am" I am simultaneously asserting "The world is" and now the subjective is seen objectively or metaphysically.

    I don't see how we can assert anything and not simultaneously assert a metaphysic of the world where the original assertion has been asserted. Doesn't mean the assertion had any true content or even identifiable content. Doesn't mean you know something accurate about the metaphysical, but it does mean there is some content, and with it, some metaphysics of a content-laden world.
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    Is mathematics metaphysics now too?Lionino

    Well, certainly the Pythagoreans went in that direction. Mathematics is definitely a very powerful thing, as things go.
  • Joshs
    5.1k


    What do you think about the placement of logic outside the circle of metaphysics?
    — Joshs

    Valid, no metaphysics can make a married man a bachelor.
    Lionino

    Metaphysics can’t put into question the law of non-contradiction?
  • Joshs
    5.1k


    Like we assume any viewpoint has metaphysical presuppositions, but then the validity of those presuppositions is ultimately borne out...in a metaphysical sense. In other words, a metaphysical theory is consequential… having a theory about the nature of reality (if it is accurate) ought to prove useful in some way, or lead in some direction. So I'd say metaphysics is about the relationship between our understanding of reality and reality.Pantagruel

    Doesn’t any viewpoint or theory implicitly lead us in certain directions and prove useful in the sense that it organizes our world in some fashion? What does it mean to ask if a metaphysics is ‘accurate’ in its depiction of the real? Can’t different metaphysical systems be ‘accurate’ in very different ways?
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    Doesn’t any viewpoint or theory implicitly lead us in certain directions and prove useful in the sense that it organizes our world in some fashion? What does it mean to ask if a metaphysics is ‘accurate’ in its depiction of the real? Can’t different metaphysical systems be ‘accurate’ in very different ways?Joshs

    I don't know if metaphysics is so much of a system as it is a question. Science makes metaphysical assumptions, within which it does its thing. The assertion that those particular assumptions constitute the answer to the totality of the metaphysical question is where the issue arises. Does scientific information do justice to the totality of of what it means to be a thinking, caring, acting human being in a universe that both yields to and supports and memorializes our thoughts and deeds? There are a variety of competing paradigms in civilization, religion, science, art, history, philosophy. Each of which can try to lay claim to being the ultimate metaphysical truth. It would seem to be a synthesis. Is any of these disposable?
  • Rob J Kennedy
    21
    After reading all the replies to this subject, it's clear that metaphysics means different things to different people. With something that is "non-physical", I understand why this would be so.

    The reason I asked the question, "what is your best description of Metaphysics?", was because I wanted to see how other saw metaphysics, and now, I've got that.

    However, I'm still captured by the English philosopher and historian R. G. Collingwood's description. One, because as someone pointed out, it is poetic, and two, obviously for Collingwood, his description best expressed metaphysics for him, and it fits my description of metaphysics.

    I feel we have expanded on the description and hopefully, for others, and myself, it has made the subject clearer.

    Here's Collingwood's description again, just for the sake of clarity.

    “I write these words sitting on the deck of a ship’; his pen moves across the page. ‘I lift my eyes and see a piece of string – a line, I must call it at sea – stretched more or less horizontally above me. I find myself thinking “that is a clothes-line”.’ But this single proposition, ‘that is a clothes-line’, cannot be verified by observation. A minute examination of the string, a scientific investigation of its parts, cannot reveal its truth, because ‘that is a clothes-line’ means, in part: ‘it was put there to hang washing on. And this at once situates the object against a vast, rationally structured background of human life and history – a background that contains clothes and baths and soap, hygiene and standards of taste, ideas about cleanliness and smell and beauty, and reasons and motives and desires.

    This transcendent background, the reality that surrounds us, is the subject matter of metaphysics, and without it Ayer’s favoured propositions are left, like the clothes-line, hanging in the air.“
  • Janus
    15.3k
    Science makes metaphysical assumptions, within which it does its thing.Pantagruel

    It seems more accurate to say that science makes pragmatic, that is methodologically determined, assumptions.
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    :up:

    Like Collingwood, are you an 'absolute idealist' (& historicist)?
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    It seems more accurate to say that science makes pragmatic, that is methodologically determined, assumptionsJanus

    It is a commonly held view that science makes metaphysical presuppositions. I personally believe that our metaphysical presuppositions underly our basic orientation with respect to reality, and that everyone has them, whether they are aware of what they are or not.

    Metaphysical assumptions of science
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.8k


    You seem to be missing my point, which is that experiences of truth and falsity are (initially) prephilosophical. Every human has some conception of truth or falsity, even if they have never spent much time pondering metaphysics. There is a naive sense of true and false that is endemic to the human experience.

    So, you might consider that this...

    You might counter that i. the case of Grug and Ugg, their breakdown in trust doesn’t negate that there is a basic fact at stake, but I would argue that even the seemingly simplest and most straightforward example of a factual situation involves a change of the sense of meaning of what is at stake , and thus a change in the interpretation of what is the case. This is what the later Wittgenstein was trying to teach us about how language doesn’t just act as a connector better subject and object, but always refreshes the sense of what an object is in the very act of using words.

    ...is a particular theory of truth, grounded in metaphysical assumptions. It is an attempt to explain something we already know to exist in experience. But you could as well argue that the truth and falsity are best explained by the ways our language instantiates propositions (eternal, abstract objects). These propositions are "made true," iff a truth maker exists for them in the world, and a statement is true when it expresses a true proposition.

    These are competing narratives of truth, attempts to explain what is already before us. But how are we to compare between these if they are essentially based on unquestioned (and thus unquestionable/arbitrary?) presuppositions? That you advance one theory of truth over another seems to presuppose that they are not all equally arbitrary, equally grounded in nothing.

    We will only ever know reality as constraints and affordances that are responsive to our schemes

    This is, likewise, a particular claim about metaphysics, anthropology, and epistemology. Is this true? It seems to me you could as well claim that this is simply a flawed paradigm. It seems to make it so that we can only know things about our cognitive schemes, and yet no human being actually lives like their assertions of veracity only refer to their individual cognitive schemes. At the very least, they think their claims apply to other's cognitive schemes, else there would be no point in communicating.

    The flaw in the paradigm would be to see cognitive schemes as a barrier between man and the world, as opposed to "the means by which the world is grasped." That is, it would be akin to arguing that man cannot see because he needs eyes to do so, or cannot write because he needs something to write with.

    But again, these are attempts to explain basic facets of the human experience. And the question returns: by what metric are these explanations judged? Why assert one over the other?

    If such explanations aren't said to be true, but are rather "invitations to try on for size a particular way of thinking about matters," why should anyone accept such invitations? If such explanations are always grounded in what is unquestionable, then it seems like any way of "thinking about things," is arbitrary, in which case, why care about how others think about things? Appeals to creativity, avoiding fascism, pragmatism, etc. all presuppose that, in point of fact, there is some external metric by which these explanations can truly be said to be more or less (insert criteria here).

    This seems in a similar vein to your assertion that every scholar "reads different Nietzsches." If, when we read a text, everyone reads a different text, and no one's version of the text is subject to correction, then it seems like communication will become impossible. If my version of Nietzsche is totally divorced from others' interpretation of Nietzsche, if there is no grounds for judging between them re veracity, then we are left with each text having an infinite number of valid meanings, and no message is truly communicated.

    This seems mistaken to me. We can allow that there is no "one objective reading" of a text, and yet still allow that interpretations can be inaccurate. If someone were to claim that their reading of Plato reveals that he is a nominalist philosopher who thinks that the apparently shared traits of different objects are just names we have come up with for similar phenomena in sense perception, they would simply be reading Plato backwards. A sign that says "closed," on a store cannot be rightly interpreted as the merchant inviting people to come in.

    To my mind, the mistake here is to think that, because ideas of truth are bound up in conceptual schemes, that it reduces to nothing else. Further, it's a mistake to think conceptual schemes are arbitrary. If this were the case, knowledge would be impossible. We would live in entirely different worlds if there was not something external to us to make our conceptual schemes synch up (and thus something to judge such schemes by). More importantly, our reasons for thinking we are correct about this even being the case would be equally arbitrary.

    Edit: you might also consider that people can voice propositions about other people's mental states. But it seems impossible to deny some sort of non-arbitrary, prephilosophical reality that obtains as respects statements like "you aren't in pain," or "you think this tastes wonderful." To say that these are completely malleable statements, that "we can both be right depending on our starting principles," as to whether something causes you to experience pain, is essentially to erase the truth of other minds.
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    science makes metaphysical presuppositions.Pantagruel
    Scientists "make" working or methodological assumptions which themselves presuppose "metaphysical" commitments; changing such assumptions can also change what those assumptions presuppose (e.g. Newtonian absolute space & absolute time vs Einsteinian relativistic spacetime vs (background-dependent) string theory vs (background-independent) loop quantum gravity ...)
  • Pantagruel
    3.2k
    Scientists "make" working or methodological assumptions which themselves presuppose "metaphysical" commitments180 Proof

    The degree to which any given scientist may believe in the provisionality or scope of said metaphysical commitments of course can vary. Which is why science can find itself in its metaphysically exaggerated form as scientism. The danger of course being people who lean in this direction without acknowledging that they are so doing. Which is why I hold that our metaphysical beliefs underpin the way we actually live our lives.
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