• T Clark
    4.2k
    Two things I try to work in to every post – 1) a quote from Lao Tzu and 2) a statement along the lines of “metaphysical questions cannot be addressed with yes or no answers. They’re not issues of right or wrong, what matters is usefulness.”

    As for the T Clark theory of metaphysics, everyone always ignores what I say and goes on with the conversation without me. Which I guess means they think what I say is wrong, or at least not very useful. I’m hoping that starting up a separate thread on the subject will get people to at least pay attention a bit.

    So, what is metaphysics. Here are some definitions from the web:

    • The branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.
    • Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy exploring the fundamental questions, including the nature of concepts like being, existence, and reality.
    • A division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and often epistemology
    • The philosophical study whose object is to determine the real nature of things—to determine the meaning, structure, and principles of whatever is insofar as it is.

    As noted, epistemology is not always included in metaphysics. To me it belongs, but maybe that’s because epistemology is what I am most interested in.

    For a minute, let’s discuss what I want metaphysics to be, but which it probably isn’t. At least not entirely – I want it to be the set of rules, assumptions we agree on to allow discussion, reason, to proceed, e.g. there is a knowable external, objective reality; truth represents a correspondence between external reality and some representation of it; it’s turtles all the way down; the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. Ha! I think I’ll work on a list of examples of what I think is and what is not a metaphysical statement. Maybe I'll put it in this discussion if I get it done in a timely manner.

    Now, let’s discuss what I don’t want metaphysics to be, but which it probably is. I discussed this briefly in a couple of other posts recently. I don’t think metaphysics should include a discussion of the existence of a particular God or the substance of particular religions. At least as it’s often considered, the existence of God is a matter of fact – he does or he does not. To me, matters of fact are not metaphysics. On the other hand, I think there is a discussion about god that is appropriately metaphysical.

    So, anyway - Metaphysical questions cannot be addressed with yes or no answers. They’re not issues of right or wrong, what matters is usefulness.
  • tim wood
    5.5k
    R. G. Collingwood argued that metaphysics is figuring out the absolute presuppositions held at different times by different people. He wrote a (good) book about it, An Essay on Metaphysics,

    https://www.amazon.com/Essay-Metaphysics-R-G-Collingwood/dp/1614276153
  • Moliere
    1.8k
    So, anyway - Metaphysical questions cannot be addressed with yes or no answers. They’re not issues of right or wrong, what matters is usefulness.T Clark

    On the face this seems false, just considered in a historical way. So I guess I'd ask -- Why do you want metaphysics to be one way, and not another way?

    It seems to me that "Metaphysics" is a name for a category of philosophy which includes such and such. The division I had introduced to me in class was between Metaphysics-Epistemology-Axiology, and those were the broad categories which philosophy fell within.
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    Intelligent post. I can only hazard a couple of points as duty calls.

    One point is that the specifically Aristotelian nature of 'metaphysics' ought not to be forgotten. The term was coined (as is well known) by a later editor of Aristotle's corpus, who applied it to the body of A's texts that were 'after physics'. I say that because often 'metaphysics' is interpreted to mean 'general spiritual philosophy' whereas in the formal sense, it has quite a definite lexicon and set of concerns.

    But then, the one reference given in the OP is not Aristotelian at all, but Taoist. And I think the quote you're probably referring to - it's not actually stated - is 'the Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao'. I suppose that is a metaphysical claim in the second sense of being 'generally spiritual', but not in the Aristotelian sense, which was most concerned with 'saying', as precisely as possible. (One of its drawbacks, perhaps!)

    But one useful consequence of thinking of metaphysics in the context of Aristotle and formal Western metaphysics generally, is that it can then be discussed in terms of the Western philosophical tradition. One fundamental source for that discussion is philosophical theology, Thomism (and neo-Thomism) in particular. And that's useful because it is still a living philosophical tradition with numerous, well-educated exponents, and because it provides a conceptual framework and lexicon, which is actually quite compatible with your bullet points.

    But that leads to the issue of God: can you consider metaphysics in isolation from God? I find Thomist philosophy intellectually appealing, but it doesn't make me feel as though I ought to convert to Catholicism, even though it's the main philosophy of Catholicism. (Furthermore my own spiritual orientation is Buddhist, which is ostensibly not about God at all.)


    I don’t think metaphysics should include a discussion of the existence of a particular God or the substance of particular religions. At least as it’s often considered, the existence of God is a matter of fact – he does or he does not.T Clark

    I think a huge amount hinges on the assertion of the belief in the existence of God. After all, one either believes, with all that this entails, or not. But my feeling is that, culturally, this dichotomy between belief and unbelief is very much a product of the Protestant insistence on 'salvation by faith alone'. So everything hinges on a choice: either you buy it, and simply accept it, or you reject it, and take your chances (to simplify it rather brutally).

    HOWEVER, I think in much earlier philosophical theology, there was a much deeper and more nuanced understanding of the nature of the Divine, which was essentially dialectical, and the subject of metaphysical argument. It provided for a much more nuanced understanding of the whole subject of metaphysics, which got 'flattened out' by Protestantism and the scientific revolution. That is the direction in which I think the topic should be explored.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    R. G. Collingwood argued that metaphysics is figuring out the absolute presuppositions held at different times by different people. He wrote a (good) book about it, An Essay on Metaphysics,tim wood

    Not sure, but that sounds like it may be what I'm talking about. I'll take a look.
  • darthbarracuda
    3.1k
    Yes! I'm glad there is someone familiar with Collingwood!
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    On the face this seems false, just considered in a historical way. So I guess I'd ask -- Why do you want metaphysics to be one way, and not another way?Moliere

    I very much want there to be a place to go to discuss the underpinnings of reason. Where we can agree on the rules, or at least argue about the rules, before we start the substantive discussion. The closest thing we have to that place I can think of is what we call metaphysics. If that's not what metaphysics is, then what is it - seems to me it's just a junk drawer where we throw unrelated stuff we can't figure out how to resolve.

    It seems to me that "Metaphysics" is a name for a category of philosophy which includes such and such. The division I had introduced to me in class was between Metaphysics-Epistemology-Axiology, and those were the broad categories which philosophy fell within.Moliere

    I read the "Metaphysics" entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia. It sort of sounds the way you describe it. It really does make it sound like my junk drawer analogy.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    One point is that the specifically Aristotelian nature of 'metaphysics' ought not to be forgotten. The term was coined (as is well known) by a later editor of Aristotle's corpus, who applied it to the body of A's texts that were 'after physics'. I say that because often 'metaphysics' is interpreted to mean 'general spiritual philosophy' whereas in the formal sense, it has quite a definite lexicon and set of concerns.Wayfarer

    This is a helpful post, but I think it underlines what I was suggesting - that what we call metaphysics is not what I want it to be. Poor T Clark. What is the word for what I want? Where is the place we go to discuss the foundations of reason? The talking we have to do before we can talk.

    But then, the one reference given in the OP is not Aristotelian at all, but Taoist. And I think the quote you're probably referring to - it's not actually stated - is 'the Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao'. I suppose that is a metaphysical claim in the second sense of being 'generally spiritual', but not in the Aristotelian sense, which was most concerned with 'saying', as precisely as possible.Wayfarer

    To me, Taoist philosophy is not "generally spiritual" at all. It provides the most concrete vision of the fundamental basis of existence I can imagine. If that's not metaphysical, I can't imagine what is. It's what filled the gap when my youthful materialism frayed around the edges.

    But one useful consequence of thinking of metaphysics in the context of Aristotle and formal Western metaphysics generally, is that it can then be discussed in terms of the Western philosophical tradition.Wayfarer

    Ever since I took my first philosophy course - The Mind-Body Identity Problem - more than 40 years ago, I have not been able to put myself in the state of mind which allows me to discuss things in the manner Western philosophy requires. It all seems so convoluted, misleading, alien. Tangled up in it's own processes. That inability on my part has led to difficulties on this forum before and it probably has a lot to do with the issues I am having that we are discussing here. I just want to talk about reality the way I talk about everything else - Hey, looks like snow; Sox are in spring training, how do you think they'll do this year?; What is the nature of existence?

    I'm not complaining (well, maybe I am). I recognize I have to play by the rules of the game set up by the people I want to play with. I guess I'm looking for common ground without abandoning my vision.

    Thanks. Really helpful, as usual.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    I recognize I have to play by the rules of the game set up by the people I want to play with.T Clark

    Why play if the rules are faulty?
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Why play if the rules are faulty?Noble Dust

    In line with my metaphysics, rules are not faulty. It's just a matter of preference and usefulness. Also - I like it here. I want to play with the people on this forum. I need to make allowances for how things are done here.
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    Ever since I took my first philosophy course - The Mind-Body Identity Problem - more than 40 years ago, I have not been able to put myself in the state of mind which allows me to discuss things in the manner Western philosophy requires.T Clark

    I first studied philosophy about then, too. I enrolled as an adult entrant, in philosophy, anthropology, comparative religion, psychology and history. The long holiday before I started, I read pretty well all of History of Western Philosophy. Then I studied units in Descartes (as 'the first modern'), philosophy of science, logical positivism, David Hume and various other subjects. Two years worth. I passed, but I was a difficult student, and was accused of tendentiousness (with some justification). But ultimately I majored in Comparative Religion (not divinity or theology - important distinction.)

    I came to the view, which I still have, that there is a gnostic element in religion, which had been driven out because of the way Western religions developed. It continued to exist in some streams of thought, often underground, but has mainly been forgotten or suppressed. The main thrust of gnosticism is, of course, knowledge - it is about attaining insight, not about simply believing what you're told. I discovered some writers, like Elaine Pagels, who wrote on the basis of the re-discovered gnostic scriptures from Nag Hammadi. She too argued that there was originally a much stronger gnostic orientation in the early Church, but that it was driven underground by the emerging Latin orthodoxy.

    In fact there's a lot of tension in Christian thought between right belief (ortho-doxa) and spiritual insight. I think that was what drove many people like myself to Eastern religions, as they too put an emphasis on experiential insight, on learning by doing. (Of course, I now understand that in some ways these can also co-exist in Christian thought, although I don't think I ever would have reached that understanding had I stayed in the Church.)

    There is a point to all of this. And that is, that in our culture, 'religion' is regarded as a matter of belief, almost by definition. Because of that, it is regarded as subjective and private. In liberal cultures we have freedom of conscience (and a good thing it is, too), and on this account respect is accorded to beliefs - but only on the basis that one is entitled to believe, not that the content of belief is worthy of respect (and in secular circles, it is mostly deprecated).

    By contrast, scientific knowledge is by definition public (even if large subject areas are technically impenetrable for the lay reader). So implicitly here, the Platonic distinction between 'mere opinion' and 'true knowledge' turns up again - this time, however, in the sense that religious and metaphysical ideas are generally regarded as a matter of belief, therefore private, and contrasted with public, scientific knowledge. (Hence the interminable arguments about whether there can be an objective moral order.)

    And that, I say, is a major factor in modern Western philosophy. It's a 'don't mention the war' kind of situation. Actually a really useful essay on that is Thomas Nagel's Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (something which I have discovered I have, it turns out.)
  • Moliere
    1.8k
    I very much want there to be a place to go to discuss the underpinnings of reason. Where we can agree on the rules, or at least argue about the rules, before we start the substantive discussion.T Clark

    Sounds to me like epistemology. But it doesn't matter what we call it, I'd say. What's more important is the question you're asking.

    Though, this being philosophy, discussing the underpinnings of reason might actually be a substantive discussion :D.

    The closest thing we have to that place I can think of is what we call metaphysics. If that's not what metaphysics is, then what is it - seems to me it's just a junk drawer where we throw unrelated stuff we can't figure out how to resolve.

    I don't think that's too far off. I tend to think of metaphysics as being about being, or being about ontology -- questions about what exists, if it exists, and if there is some characterization about what exists what that characterization is.

    As a historical category It's a bit eclectic, but from there I'd say it's just a category for dividing up philosophy and understanding it as a whole -- not something to invest too deeply into, overall. Almost like it's not-epistemology, and it's not-ethics, so it's all the other philosophy stuff.

    The actual question at hand is more important than what category it might fall into.


    Like discussing the underpinnings of reason, for instance. That's an interesting discussion, to me.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Sounds to me like epistemology. But it doesn't matter what we call it, I'd say. What's more important is the question you're asking.Moliere

    Except most definitions of metaphysics, I found 6 out of 10 once, include epistemology in metaphysics. I'm not arguing with you, I just want more order. The split that I'm interested in is between things that are matters of fact and those that are matters of preference e.g. is there an objective reality which human knowledge approaches or is there the Tao, which disappears when you describe it and transforms into - comes into being as, the 10,000 things - lipstick, hot dogs, and Australia.

    I don't think that's too far off. I tend to think of metaphysics as being about being, or being about ontology -- questions about what exists, if it exists, and if there is some characterization about what exists what that characterization is.Moliere

    Except that's not how it's defined and it's not what I want. As I said, those two things are not the same either. I'm not really arguing, I'm just frustrated. Philosophy makes up silly words for phenomena and explanatory systems all the time, why haven't they got one for this?

    The actual question at hand is more important than what category it might fall into.Moliere

    For me it's not. The existence of procedural, foundational concepts that set the terms of all discussions is central to my idea of what philosophy is. I want to be able to talk about it. It's not fair!! Oops, where did that come from?
  • Moliere
    1.8k
    I just want more order.T Clark

    Consider this: Most philosophers we study aren't what you'd call all on the same page, making one single project which coheres well together. So even words like "Metaphysics" is going to differ from philosopher to philosopher -- consider how Kant and Heidegger use the word. While there is a kind of resonance between what they're talking about, the essay What is Metaphysics? makes clear that they also have very different things in mind.

    So as categorizers of a field of knowledge, historians of philosophy, the boundaries aren't going to be exactly crisp. A word is going to gain more or less prominence through different historical periods, and it's not going to be used exactly the same between philosophers even within the same period.

    What's important for us is just to be clear what we mean -- we can set the rules within our conversation, and communicate that way.


    So when you say...

    For me it's not. The existence of procedural, foundational concepts that set the terms of all discussions is central to my idea of what philosophy is. I want to be able to talk about it. It's not fair!! Oops, where did that come from?T Clark


    I would say that you can set the terms of the discussion yourself. Other philosophers may disagree with you, and I can offer you what I tend to think about as a starting point, but in order to proceed all you need do is say "this is what I mean" -- and we can go from there to talk about the underpinnings of reason, or whether there are matters of fact vs. matters of preference, or if there is an objective reality.

    Does that make sense?
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    I would say that you can set the terms of the discussion yourself. Other philosophers may disagree with you, and I can offer you what I tend to think about as a starting point, but in order to proceed all you need do is say "this is what I mean" -- and we can go from there to talk about the underpinnings of reason, or whether there are matters of fact vs. matters of preference, or if there is an objective reality.

    Does that make sense?
    Moliere

    Well, of course it makes sense - but it's not what I want. I want a cudgel of metaphysics I can take out and beat my opponents with. (stomps feet, pounds table, face turns red). All you big boys and girls get to say "Kant said this" and "Aristotle wrote that," while all I get to say is "seems to me." I'm going to think about this some more.

    Thanks to you and @wayfarer
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    And that, I say, is a major factor in modern Western philosophy. It's a 'don't mention the war' kind of situation. Actually a really useful essay on that is Thomas Nagel's Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (something which I have discovered I have, it turns out.)Wayfarer

    I've never thought of it in these terms. I've saved the Nagle essay to my Kindle. If I have any thoughts I'll get back to you.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    In line with my metaphysics, rules are not faulty. It's just a matter of preference and usefulness. Also - I like it here. I want to play with the people on this forum. I need to make allowances for how things are done here.T Clark

    You probably score higher on "agreeableness" than I do on most personality tests, then. Good on ya'.

    So if rules (no rules, no matter what?) are not faulty, then what's the issue? It seems like you have some issues with some rules, contrary to what you replied to me here. Preference and usefulness could be applied to...anything, without dragging out the corpses of obvious moral dilemmas. When it comes to metaphysics, I would think something more than preference, and perhaps something more precise than usefulness, would be in play.
  • PossibleAaran
    243
    Hi,

    For a minute, let’s discuss what I want metaphysics to be, but which it probably isn’t. At least not entirely – I want it to be the set of rules, assumptions we agree on to allow discussion, reason, to proceed e.g. there is a knowable external, objective reality; truth represents a correspondence between external reality and some representation of it; it’s turtles all the way down; the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal TaoT Clark

    Most of these theses would be classified as metaphysical ones by tradition. The idea of an objective reality is usually called Realism. The idea of a correspondence between the world and thoughts is also metaphysical (although the debate about whether that's what "truth" is, is semantic). The Tao is much the same. They are all ideas that moderns would have called "special metaphysics". Modern philosophers would have added the existence of God, the nature of the mind, abstract objects and such. You say you don't want to include God because his existence is "a matter of fact" but then, the existence of an objective world is a matter of fact too, as is whether there is any correspondence between thoughts and the world; so would be the suggestion that "its turtles all the way down" if this refers to the myth about what holds up the earth. So I can't see how God's existence is different to any of those on your list.

    So, anyway - Metaphysical questions cannot be addressed with yes or no answers. They’re not issues of right or wrong, what matters is usefulness.T Clark

    Why can't the question whether there is an objective world be answered "yes" or "no"? Why not the question whether there is any correspondence between thoughts and the world? You say in a reply to Moliere that these things are issues of "preference", but I don't see how they are issues of preference in any special sense which doesn't apply equally to any more mundane matter of fact.

    For me it's not. The existence of procedural, foundational concepts that set the terms of all discussions is central to my idea of what philosophy is. I want to be able to talk about itT Clark
    ...
    I want a cudgel of metaphysics I can take out and beat my opponents with. (stomps feet, pounds table, face turns red). All you big boys and girls get to say "Kant said this" and "Aristotle wrote that," while all I get to say is "seems to me."T Clark

    You can talk about it, can't you? Several people here have mentioned Collingwood. If you want a philosopher you can quote in discussion who shares your perspective, he would likely be your man. He thinks there are these assumptions of any area of discourse, absolute presuppositions, which can't be proven or disproven, but they make the discourse possible, and he thinks of Metaphysics as the task of describing these for different areas of discourse.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    So if rules (no rules, no matter what?) are not faulty, then what's the issue?Noble Dust

    There are two issues. The first, which is the primary subject of this thread, is that seeing metaphysical rules as true or false is misleading. Choosing one approach over another, e.g. belief in objective reality vs. belief in the Tao, leads in a particular intellectual direction and cuts off access to another while either might be helpful in a particular situation. The second issue, or type of issue, deals with which approach is the most appropriate in a particular situation.

    When it comes to metaphysics, I would think something more than preference, and perhaps something more precise than usefulness, would be in play.Noble Dust

    Not in my view, which I acknowledge is metaphysical, or meta-metaphysical, and, for that reason is not true or false.
  • Moliere
    1.8k
    Haha. Cool. Thinking is always good :D

    Just don't worry about what I say, at least, about whatever somebody IMPORTANT said. I'm just interpreting the words that went through by head. You can say the same as long as you've read the words.

    But at the end of the day if you have unique thoughts sometimes that's a lot better than arguing over interpretation. (though I do love arguments over interpretation) We're just some folks discussing some ideas.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    the existence of an objective world is a matter of fact too, as is whether there is any correspondence between thoughts and the world; so would be the suggestion that "its turtles all the way down" if this refers to the myth about what holds up the earth. So I can't see how God's existence is different to any of those on your list.PossibleAaran

    I disagree that the existence of objective reality is a matter of fact. To me it's a matter of viewpoint. Sometimes it's useful, sometimes it's misleading. If it's true, then the Tao doesn't exist, which of course it doesn't. That's what I like about Lao Tzu - he acknowledges the unspeakability of reality. The view that there is no such thing as objective reality is not an uncommon one. I've participated in several such discussions here on the forum.

    Why can't the question whether there is an objective world be answered "yes" or "no"? Why not the question whether there is any correspondence between thoughts and the world? You say in a reply to Moliere that these things are issues of "preference", but I don't see how they are issues of preference in any special sense which doesn't apply equally to any more mundane matter of fact.PossibleAaran

      Good question. Let's see - here are some matters of fact:
    • Protons and neutrons are made up of smaller particles known as quarks
    • All living organisms on Earth are genetically related to all other organisms
    • The capital of Azerbaijan is Baku. Not sure about that. I'm sure it's a matter of fact, but not whether it's true or false.
    • I had cottage cheese for breakfast this morning.
    • I am a 17-year old boy.

    Those are matters of fact within a particular metaphysical system.

    You can talk about it, can't you? Several people here have mentioned Collingwood. If you want a philosopher you can quote in discussion who shares your perspective, he would likely be your man. He thinks there are these assumptions of any area of discourse, absolute presuppositions, which can't be proven or disproven, but they make the discourse possible, and he thinks of Metaphysics as the task of describing these for different areas of discourse.PossibleAaran

    Sounds like he's up my alley. I'll take a look.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    But at the end of the day if you have unique thoughts sometimes that's a lot better than arguing over interpretation. (though I do love arguments over interpretation) We're just some folks discussing some ideas.Moliere

    I came to the forum disagreeing with most of what I had read in Western philosophy. Not just disagreeing with it, but rejecting its value. Since I've been here, almost a year now, I've come to question that belief. Sometimes "seems to me" doesn't feel adequate, although as Emerson said?

    To believe our own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, -- that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,--and our first thought, is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    I want to take a shot at laying out some questions/issues that are metaphysical and don’t have yes or no, this or that, true or false resolutions:

    • Is there an objective reality?
    • Does human life have value?
    • Is the world good or bad?
    • Is there an objective morality?
    • Is the mind the same as the physical organs and mechanisms of thought?
    • Do I exist?
    • Do past processes act in the same manner as current processes? Not sure about this one.
    • Are there certain unalienable human rights?
    • Is truth correspondence between a proposition and actual facts?
    • The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.
    • How many pins can you stick in the head of a dancing angel?
    • In the state of nature, life was nasty, brutish, and short. Maybe not.
    • Man is naturally evil.
    • Is the universe made of information? Mathematics? Ideas? Do we live in a simulation being run on a computer?
    • Do we live in a multiverse? Not sure about this one.
  • PossibleAaran
    243
    I disagree that the existence of objective reality is a matter of fact. To me it's a matter of viewpoint. Sometimes it's useful, sometimes it's misleading. If it's true, then the Tao doesn't exist, which of course it doesn't. That's what I like about Lao Tzu - he acknowledges the unspeakability of reality. The view that there is no such thing as objective reality is not an uncommon one. I've participated in several such discussions here on the forum.T Clark

    Do you hold that there is no such thing as objective reality or do you hold that there is no fact of the matter whether there is such a thing or not? The two aren't equivalent.

    Incidentally, a debate about the existence of objective reality is exactly what I would call a metaphysical debate.

    Those are matters of fact within a particular metaphysical system.T Clark

    In which metaphysical system do the facts which you listed belong?

    Our disagreement is fundamentally this. I hold the modern conception of philosophy on which it is continuous with science and ordinary enquiry. Questions about objective reality and correspondence and such are the same kind of question as questions about protons and Julius Ceasar. They are just more straightforward questions about how things stand. By contrast, you hold that these "metaphysical" questions are completely different: they are questions about how it is useful to think, or about how we want to think about ordinary matters of fact. Is this an accurate portrayal of your side?
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Do you hold that there is no such thing as objective reality or do you hold that there is no fact of the matter whether there is such a thing or not? The two aren't equivalent.PossibleAaran

    I don't think I understand the difference. I believe that the concept of objective reality is one way, not the only way, and not the only good way, to think about our perceptions, knowledge, and understanding of how the world works.

    Incidentally, a debate about the existence of objective reality is exactly what I would call a metaphysical debate.PossibleAaran

    Exactly.

    In which metaphysical system do the facts which you listed belong?PossibleAaran

    One in which there something outside of myself which has an independent existence. One where I can use evidence of the current status of the world to understand past events. One where I can have reasonable, or at least verifiable, confidence in the information reported to me by other people. One where I can trust the results of my own observations.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Our disagreement is fundamentally this. I hold the modern conception of philosophy on which it is continuous with science and ordinary enquiry. Questions about objective reality and correspondence and such are the same kind of question as questions about protons and Julius Ceasar. They are just more straightforward questions about how things stand. By contrast, you hold that these "metaphysical" questions are completely different: they are questions about how it is useful to think, or about how we want to think about ordinary matters of fact. Is this an accurate portrayal of your side?PossibleAaran

    Yes, it's a pretty good summary. Now the question is whether your approach is true while mine is false or whether mine is just more useful than yours.
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    The idea of an objective reality is usually called Realism.PossibleAaran

    Important to note that it is 'realism' in the scientific or modern sense, rather than the 'realism' of scholastic philosophy. There, the subject of realism was universals. And this lead to an entirely different epistemological framework than the modern one - different in ways that are probably very difficult to articulate or comprehend.

    here are some matters of fact:
    Protons and neutrons are made up of smaller particles known as quarks
    T Clark

    Questionable. As is well-known, the nature of sub-atomic matter is inherently ambiguous - hence the 'wave-particle duality', the observer problem, and the uncertainty principle. All of which is actually germane to the discussion.

    How many pins can you stick in the head of a dancing angel?T Clark

    The apocryphal question 'how many angels can dance on the head of a pin' was actually a reference to the medieval debate about whether two incorporeal beings could occupy the same spatio-temporal location. When expressed like that, it doesn't sound quite so silly.

    **
    A note from Buddhist philosophy - in early Mahāyāna, there is an idea called 'the doctrine of two truths'. By this is meant that 'truth' can be expressed on two levels - that of convention (saṃvṛti-satya) which roughly speaking includes all of what we would understand to be empirical observation and scientific analysis; and ultimate truth (paramārtha satya) which is the domain of the ultimate truths perceived by the Buddha (i.e. the actual teaching of the Buddha. However it should be added that part of this understanding is that these two domains are not finally different domains, because everything is ultimately part of one domain. This is like an heuristic or working distinction - it is, as I say, dialectical in nature.)

    But this type of approach is able to capture the dialectical nature of metaphysics, which is is something that is generally utterly forgotten in a lot of modern and analytical philosophy. But by analysing questions with this in mind, some clarity can be found. For example, the questions regarding the status of 'objectivity' - the Buddhist analysis would be that there is not an 'ultimately objective reality', because objects and subjects 'co-arise' or are mutually conditioning and dependent. But that doesn't mean that on the level of conventional reality, there are not objective facts; there certainly are, and they can be extremely important to know, even if they have no ultimate meaning or applicability.

    What's confused nowadays, is that it is thought on the one hand that scientific analysis (which exists in the domain of conventional truth) might reveal some ultimately-existing reality - which it can't, as it is inherently limited the level of conditioned perception. But that doesn't mean that 'nothing is ultimately real', which then falls into the error of nihilism or out-and-out relativism (which you see on this forum all the time.)

    So the Buddhist view is dialectical or perspectival, meaning that different kinds of things are true on different levels; something which is true one on level might be false on another. This is expressed in the well-known Zen koan: 'First, there is a mountain [i.e. conventional truth]; then there is no mountain [i.e. perception of emptiness]; then there is [i.e. insight into the conditioned nature of all objects of perception]'.

    Buddhism however does preserve a relationship with the domain of the transcendent, which has generally dropped out of secular Western thought. That is what enables it to make sense of metaphysical ideas. Corresponding schemas exist in classical Western philosophy also. But that is a subject for a different post.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Questionable. As is well-known, the nature of sub-atomic matter is inherently ambiguous - hence the 'wave-particle duality', the observer problem, and the uncertainty principle. All of which is actually germane to the discussion.Wayfarer

    In my fairly lazy understanding, quantum mechanics makes us make all our facts a bit conditional, but it doesn't stop us from treating them as facts.

    The apocryphal question 'how many angels can dance on the head of a pin' was actually a reference to the medieval debate about whether two incorporeal beings could occupy the same spatio-temporal location. When expressed like that, it doesn't sound quite so silly.Wayfarer

    It had been my understanding that the angels/pins thing was something of a joke even in medieval times. I wasn't making any serious comment. I don't know if you've noticed, but I like to try to be funny sometimes. Sorry - can't help it.

    Buddhism however does preserve a relationship with the domain of the transcendent, which has generally dropped out of secular Western thought. That is what enables it to make sense of metaphysical ideas. Corresponding schemas exist in classical Western philosophy also. But that is a subject for a different post.Wayfarer

    I like it when you participate in discussions. There's no one on this forum who has the perspective you do. I think my general understanding is similar to what you have written, without the depth, clarity, and understanding of history. I'm going to reread it a couple more times.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    But by analysing questions with this in mind, some clarity can be found. For example, the questions regarding the status of 'objectivity' - the Buddhist analysis would be that there is not an 'ultimately objective reality', because objects and subjects 'co-arise' or are mutually conditioning and dependent. But that doesn't mean that on the level of conventional reality, there are not objective facts; there certainly are, and they can be extremely important to know, even if they have no ultimate meaning or applicability.Wayfarer

    This in particular rings bells with me.
  • Banno
    9.5k
    Metaphysical questions cannot be addressed with yes or no answers. They’re not issues of right or wrong, what matters is usefulness.T Clark

    A tempting position.

    A question, though - is being useful the very same as being true?

    I don't think it is. What's your opinion?
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    There's no one on this forum who has the perspective you do.T Clark

    Thank you, very kind of you to say so.
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