• Wittgenstein
    170
    Main points on the problems faced.

    1.Most terms are misunderstood and they often lack substance on their own
    The field is too broad and l can only touch a few important topics and l think the best way to state your position is to use relevant examples. The discussion of time for instance is always confusing because the concept of eternity can mean two different things, it can either mean the non-existence of time or time going on forever without ending. There Is also another problem when we use phrases such as before the beginning of time because that changes the entire concept of cause and effect and l often hear theist debating God and saying he created time as if casuality existed before time. The second problem with the use of phrase is that we don't even know what we are speaking about. As we observe our world in 3 dimension and perhaps we can experience time but we cannot comprehend the higher dimensions, eternity or the non existence of time. There are also many other countless problems with the usage of time. We can mathematically understand the higher dimensions but as far as philosophy is concerned, their usage is never clear.We have not yet translated the mathematical statements to something empirical/intuitive as it appears to be impossible and also an unending source of confusion.

    The problem of existence is even in more mess. In my opinion the transition from non existence to existence will never be understood and our understanding will end there.
    There was an Arabian philosopher who suggested that there are relative existence to solve this problem. Basically he suggested that in comparison to God, we do not exist but in comparison to non existent things, we exist. He argued for that before descartes and the arguments are similar except that he believed that the knowledge of God can cause us to exist as it is out of time and our knowledge is in time and therefore of different nature. I wont really get into it but the way analytic philosophy has dealt with existence is terrible. They have tried to remove the meaningless terms with symbolic manipulations such as instead of saying there exists no sqaure circle we can say, there exists no such object that Is both sqaure and circle. We often confuse the limitations of our mind as the limitations of existence. Perhaps we cannot think in an illogical manner as Wittgenstein argued and therefore pose the limits on existence.

    The problem of free will and the soul are central to metaphysics and it is as if there are 100 different meanings of these 2 words. Most of the people who believe we have free will, often believe we have freedom of choice and they may think free will and freedom of choice are the same thing. On the other hand, determinist want free will to be taken in the absolute sense, l don't even if such a thing is even possible. Should we give up on these problems ?
  • fishfry
    719
    I don't mean for this to sound glib or cute. I am trying to understand your use of the term meaningful. Is discussing the upcoming American pro football season meaningful? Is eating lunch meaningful? Is being born, living a life, and dying meaningful? Is the universe meaningful?

    After I understand those things, I can attempt to ponder whether discussing metaphysics is meaningful. Ultimately it's something you can do to pass the time "between the forceps and the stone," as Joni Mitchell once sang. And discussing metaphysics is certainly less harmful than, say, shooting up a Walmart. But is either act meaningful? All those people were going to die anyway, as is everyone else who was at the mall that day, and all of us. What is meaningful?
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    Meaningful may not be the best word but in the context of philosophy, meaningful discussions use clear terms and the people have a common understanding of the usage of words. I don't think that is possible for a few reasons and examples given above.
  • fdrake
    2.5k
    If all you're discussing turns on the use of clear terms, you're discussing crap that doesn't mean anything.

    Alice: Do I have a broken leg?
    Bob: Well it depends how you define leg. We surely need a better understanding of legs before deciding something so important.

    Alice: It seems Pinochet was a tyrant.
    Bob: Well it depends how you define tyrant. So much of the atrocities depend on the nature of tyranny.

    Too much attention payed to the nature of words, not enough to the nature of the world.
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    Logical positivists were dumb ? :smile:
  • Magnus Anderson
    335
    Too much attention payed to the nature of words, not enough to the nature of the world.fdrake

    The world is full of obscurantists.
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    They were narrow minded and that led to their downfall but can you briefly explain what they got wrong ?
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    There was an Arabian philosopher who suggested that there are relative existence to solve this problem. Basically he suggested that in comparison to God, we do not exist but in comparison to non existent things, we exist. He argued for that before descartes and the arguments are similar except that he believed that the knowledge of God can cause us to exist as it is out of time and our knowledge is in time and therefore of different nature.Wittgenstein

    Avicenna? John Scotus Eriugena had a similar idea:

    An affirmation concerning the lower (order) is a negation concerning the higher, and so too a negation concerning the lower (order) is an affirmation concerning the higher. (Periphyseon, I.444a)


    According to this mode, the affirmation of man is the negation of angel and vice versa (affirmatio enim hominis negatio est angeli, negatio vero hominis affirmatio est angeli, I.444b).


    ... those things contemplated by the intellect alone (ea solummodo quae solo comprehenduntur intellectu) may be considered to be [real], whereas things caught up in generation and corruption, viz. matter, place and time, do not truly exist [are not real]. The assumption is that things graspable by intellect alone belong to a realm above the material, corporeal world and hence are timeless.

    SEP

    Metaphysics makes perfect sense within a domain of discourse. That is why for instance Thomism makes perfect sense for Christians. Of course if you're a logical positivist or member of the Vienna Circle, then it is all nonsensical; otherwise, you are ;-)
  • bongo fury
    77
    The world is full of obscurantists.Magnus Anderson

    What really lies beyond the constraints of my mind?
    Could it be the sea... or fate, mooning back at me?

    On a graph of urgency against feasibility, where do you plot the bard's question (or that of the nature of the world beyond the physics), relative to broken leg diagnosis and war trials conduct?
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    Avicenna? John Scotus Eriugena had a similar idea
    It was ibn Arabi and l am actually surprised on the similarities between john and ibn arabi. Ibn arabi would go on and establish man as a microcosm, standing between God and creation. It was sufism and philosophy put together. He was condemned by literalist.
    Metaphysics makes perfect sense within a domain of discourse. That is why for instance Thomism makes perfect sense for Christians.
    I have a problem with that. Most abrahamic religion believe that God can see but since God is unlike any other creation as a creator, he is above comprehension. He sees without eyes and hears without ears. He exists but unlike creation, he is above space and time. Do they really understand the words see, hear and exist ( as used in the their expression) ?
    Since how God does these things is unknown to them.
    The domain of discourse allows people to use words which lack meaning and they often end up creating a fuss out of nothing.

    Is it possible to resurrect the positivists from the 20th century. Did the positivist defeat themselves and do you agree with most of their ideas ?
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    The world is full of obscurantists.
    Especially philosophy.
  • fdrake
    2.5k


    Where did I mention logical positivism?
  • fdrake
    2.5k
    On a graph of urgency against feasibility, where do you plot the bard's question (or that of the nature of the world beyond the physics), relative to broken leg diagnosis and war trials conduct?bongo fury

    Having been unable to quantify the urgency of concepts or the feasibility of their implementation in the general case, I have no idea.

    | .
    |___

    There.
  • T Clark
    3.8k


    First, a small irony - "Is discussing metaphysics meaningful ?" is a metaphysical question.

    Rather than answer your specific examples, I'll make three comments. First - discussing metaphysics and epistemology has had a great influence on me intellectually. I'm an engineer. My job is to understand things and how I know what I know. Discussions here on the forum, including reading I've done at other members suggestion, have been enjoyable and eye-opening.

    Second - most issues typically considered part of metaphysics are not matters of fact and aren't true or false, they are matters of viewpoint, approach, usefulness. Examples - free will vs. determinism; the existence of objective reality; the meaning of "truth."

    Third - A lot of the issues you decry could be addressed if people would define their terms at the beginning of the discussion, preferably in the OP.
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    The confusion caused by language in philosophy was addressed by positivists. You stated that we should deal with problems rather than terms in which they are discussed. Like here below
    Too much attention payed to the nature of words, not enough to the nature of the world.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    The confusion caused by language in philosophy was addressed by positivists. You stated that we should deal with problems rather than terms in which they are discussed. Like here below
    Too much attention payed to the nature of words, not enough to the nature of the world.
    Wittgenstein

    I think that's probably unrealistic. In a very real (read "useful") way, the world is words.
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    First, a small irony - "Is discussing metaphysics meaningful ?" is a metaphysical question.

    I think the question is partly metaphysical and partly linguistic in nature, it sort of transcends metaphysics, as
    Kant asked a very similar question.
    Is metaphysics possible ?
    His answer was no.It is like Godels incompleteness theorem, it belongs to the logical system but at the same time comments on the nature of such systems and the limitations.

    Rather than answer your specific examples, I'll make three comments. First - discussing metaphysics and epistemology has had a great influence on me intellectually. I'm an engineer. My job is to understand things and how I know what I know. Discussions here on the forum, including reading I've done at other members suggestion, have been enjoyable and eye-opening.
    I am far from being an engineer but l think we all benefit from discussing philosophical problems and it certainly opens our mind.This question does not take into consideration the benefits derived from discussing metaphysical problems and l should have specified that, ironically l didn't. We usually argue for a certain theory when discussing a metaphysical problem and pretty much like a scientific theory, we try our best to improve it by giving relevant examples. Sometimes there is a fault with the topic we are discussing and if all approaches are equally right regarding the world, won't that be a contradiction as there is a single reality out there ?
    Second of all, if all approaches have their own merit, why do we adopt a certain position when tackling metaphysical problems and does that mean 1000 years of philosophy was simply based on misunderstanding.

    Second - most issues typically considered part of metaphysics are not matters of fact and aren't true or false, they are matters of viewpoint, approach, usefulness. Examples - free will vs. determinism; the existence of objective reality; the meaning of "truth."

    I agree with you on this point but that raises some problems as l have mentioned above.The most common approach in tackling metaphysical theories is to adopt a scientific strategy, especially in english philosophy lately and try to pinpoint each terms, have them defined and that causes problems precisely because metaphysical objects are either falsely constructed or they do not need to have an objective reality attached to them.

    Third - A lot of the issues you decry could be addressed if people would define their terms at the beginning of the discussion, preferably in the OP.
    It can be more than just defining terms in some cases like l have mentioned above, people may never even agree on the terms to begin with and there are countless other problems too.
  • NOS4A2
    249
    I think it is meaningful because it is the grounds upon which entire foundations are built. For instance determinists believe in causality and thats why we do not have free will. If you refute causality you effectively refute determinism.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    His answer was no.It is like Godels incompleteness theorem, it belongs to the logical system but at the same time comments on the nature of such systems and the limitations.Wittgenstein

    Maybe that would be true if metaphysical questions had true or false answers. They don't. Metaphysics is a matter of agreement, consensus. It's the rules we agree to play by.

    This question does not take into consideration the benefits derived from discussing metaphysical problems and l should have specified that,Wittgenstein

    Isn't this an example of the problem I noted - you did not define what you meant by "meaningful."

    Second of all, if all approaches have their own merit, why do we adopt a certain position when tackling metaphysical problems and does that mean 1000 years of philosophy was simply based on misunderstanding.Wittgenstein

    Specific metaphysical approaches may or may not be useful in specific situations, to address specific questions. There is no "one size fits all" metaphysical approach. The key word is "useful." Almost everything in the past 1,000 years of philosophy was simply based on misunderstanding. Yes...well... maybe that goes a little too far.

    I agree with you on this point but that raises some problems as l have mentioned above.The most common approach in tackling metaphysical theories is to adopt a scientific strategy, especially in english philosophy lately and try to pinpoint each terms, have them defined and that causes problems precisely because metaphysical objects are either falsely constructed or they do not need to have an objective reality attached to them.Wittgenstein

    As I indicated, the important thing about metaphysical issues is that we agree on an approach. You can't move on to deal with reality, whatever you think that means, until that is done.

    It can be more than just defining terms in some cases like l have mentioned above, people may never even agree on the terms to begin with and there are countless other problems too.Wittgenstein

    That's the advantage of setting the ground rules in the OP. You get to determine the terms of the discussion, including definitions. Others, if they want to play by the rules, either follow along or go elsewhere. Alternatively, you can make the definitions the point of the discussion.

    All of that is why it's important to respect the OP. As I've said before, I have not always done that successfully, but I try.
  • Mww
    866
    Kant asked a very similar question.
    Is metaphysics possible ?
    His answer was no.
    Wittgenstein

    It wasn’t just plain ol’ no, because that wasn’t the question he actually asked.

    “...Yet, in a certain sense, this kind of knowledge is to be looked upon as given; that is to say, metaphysics actually exists, if not as a science, yet still as a natural disposition of the human mind.....(...) And so we have the question: "How is metaphysics, as a natural disposition, possible?" That is, how, from the nature of universal human reason, do those questions arise which pure reason propounds to itself, and which it is impelled by its own need to answer as best as it can?...”
    (CPR, B21, in Kemp Smith, 1929)

    Metaphysics itself was never in doubt; metaphysics as a science, never was at all. The Critique’s whole raison d’etre was to determine under what conditions it could become one.

    For the record.........

    And yes, the discussion of metaphysics is meaningful, if kept within its proper domain.
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    It wasn’t just plain ol’ no, because that wasn’t the question he actually asked.
    Let's not split hairs over this. It wasn't a simple no, he reasoned it out.In the present philosophical literature, there are countless references linking whether metaphysics is possible with Kant. It Kant be a mistake.
    The question, whether metaphysics is possible did not end in how those questions arise but how it is impossible to find their solutions.
    “...Yet, in a certain sense, this kind of knowledge is to be looked upon as given; that is to say, metaphysics actually exists, if not as a science, yet still as a natural disposition of the human mind.....(...) And so we have the question: "How is metaphysics, as a natural disposition, possible?" That is, how, from the nature of universal human reason, do those questions arise which pure reason propounds to itself, and which it is impelled by its own need to answer as best as it can?...”
    No one here challenged its existence and Kant here is just beginning to answer why do we try to engage in metaphysics and how do we raise such questions and you haven't quoted his conclusion.

    Metaphysics itself was never in doubt; metaphysics as a science, never was at all. The Critique’s whole raison d’etre was to determine under what conditions it could become one.
    It could never become one due to limitations of human mind according to kant. You Kant deny that.

    And yes, the discussion of metaphysics is meaningful, if kept within its proper domain.
    It isn't really a problem of domain but the nature of questions, method and many other variables involved when discussing metaphysics.

    There is a branch of philosophy called meta metaphysics.
    It sounds funny but it is out there and really important.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    Metaphysics itself was never in doubt; metaphysics as a science, never was at all.Mww

    I think you're saying that metaphysics is clearly not a science. I agree that metaphysics is not a science by itself, but there are a lot of smart people who disagree with you. As I've said, I think it is an indispensable part of science.
  • Mww
    866


    The present dialogue is with respect to Kant, what he said and the perspective from which what he said, came. Hence, he is saying it never WAS a science, up to his time. Science, of course, having its strict Kantian connotation.

    The question remains....was he successful in giving metaphysics a scientifically-oriented credibility? Depends, in the positive, on one’s receptivity for his arguments, or in the negative, one’s ability to refute them, both of which presupposes they are sufficiently understood.

    In short, we already use it, might as well figure out how it is possible that we use it. If we figure that out, the meaningfulness of it should be given as a consequence.
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    Maybe that would be true if metaphysical questions had true or false answers. They don't. Metaphysics is a matter of agreement, consensus. It's the rules we agree to play by.
    If l am not mistaken, l think you are suggesting that discussions of metaphysics are language games. A lot of people would disagree with that stance and the scientific attitude usually adopted when discussing metaphysics explains that people do take certain answers as facts, for instance those people who believe that their soul exists besides their body and they believe in mind-body duality.
    Unlike the rules of football and cricket which are clear and easy to follow around. Setting up rules when discussing metaphysical problems may not help that much.
    Rules in of themselves are nothing. They can have different Interpretation and we cannot continue setting up rules on how to follow rules. Second of all, what kind of rules do you suggest and doesn't setting up rules restrict others to respond to you, as in some cases the rules are not justified with respect to the question. There are a lot of gaps to fill in the details. We should generalize this case and take it outside of the forum/OP stuff.

    I would like you to respond to my examples or give your own examples and see how setting rules would help solving such problems. You should try rules that you find acceptable and those which you don't. You can also discuss the different approaches. Ironically defining terms in metaphysics will create another discussion since those words are at the center point of most problems.
  • Wittgenstein
    170

    I think it is meaningful because it is the grounds upon which entire foundations are built. For instance determinists believe in causality and thats why we do not have
    It can serve as the ground for physics or psychology for example but can metaphysics provide answers that can be verified logically since their verification by empirical means are not possible. However l think physics can stand on it's own and other fields too without the need of metaphysics, as its role is not essential but helpful.

    For instance determinists believe in causality and thats why we do not have free will. If you refute causality you effectively refute determinism.
    Casaulity as in how the brain is structured or the external influence from the world ? l believe that we have free will and l also believe in casuality. I don't think our mind works in a linear manner, it can handle and link both our choice with the chains of events that impress upon our mind.
    Refuting causality is almost like trying to refute the existence of time, they are beyond our minds and we sort of need them as foundations for our mind to reason. It's like a computer trying to prove that software doesn't exist.

    Its really difficult to pinpoint these words to a single definition and their usage too. What really matters is how we use them.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    In response to your request for me to respond to your examples

    The discussion of time for instance is always confusing because the concept of eternity can mean two different things, it can either mean the non-existence of time or time going on forever without ending.Wittgenstein

    I've thought about time a lot. So, I guess the questions is - is it real. Yes, I think it makes sense to think of it as real. We measure it. Other properties and behavior of matter and energy depend on it. We can manipulate physical phenomena and affect time. Look up the arrow of time or the direction of time. Wikipedia has a good summary as do other places. Personally, I am most comfortable with the thermodynamic explanation of the direction of time, although, as you'll see, there are many explanations which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    The problem of existence is even in more mess. In my opinion the transition from non existence to existence will never be understood and our understanding will end there.Wittgenstein

    I would definitely say it's a metaphysical question. I personally like my understanding of the Taoist understanding of existence. See below. But there are lots of other valid ways of see existence, depending on the context.

    The tao that can be told
    is not the eternal Tao
    The name that can be named
    is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real.
    Naming is the origin
    of all particular things.

    Every being in the universe
    is an expression of the Tao.
    It springs into existence,
    unconscious, perfect, free,
    takes on a physical body,
    lets circumstances complete it. ...

    The Tao is like a well:
    used but never used up.
    It is like the eternal void:
    filled with infinite possibilities. It is hidden but always present.
    I don't know who gave birth to it.
    It is older than God....

    The problem of free will and the soulWittgenstein

    Whether or not there is free will is a metaphysical question. I've always thought it is a question whether or not it makes sense to hold ourselves and others responsible for our actions. Looking at my own life, I think it usually does. I recognize there are situations where it would make more sense not to.

    As for the soul and God - things brings up a fly in my ointment. Religious issues are usually lumped in with metaphysics when I think it often doesn't make sense, e.g the existence of a God that exists independent of ourselves and the universe. That seems to me to be a matter of fact, and therefore does not belong as a part of metaphysics. On the other hand, I think the general question of whether it makes sense in some situations to think of the universe as a living, perhaps conscious thing is metaphysical question. It's a way of looking, thinking, about things. It's not testable. Sometimes it may be useful.

    There, there's three.
  • T Clark
    3.8k
    If l am not mistaken, l think you are suggesting that discussions of metaphysics are language games.Wittgenstein

    Forgot to respond to this comment.

    I'm not familiar with the science or philosophy of language, so I don't really know what you mean by "language game." But in a general sense I think everything we know about the world is dependent on language.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k
    What makes anything meaningful is that someone thinks about it associatively. Some x is associated with some y, so that x suggests, implies, connotes or refers to y via thought. The meaning of x isn't y. The meaning is the association, which is a mental act that occurs on a particular occasion.

    In terms of definition or reference (which is the y in question), all terms have the ambiguity you refer to re "eternal" for example.
  • Janus
    7.9k
    Is discussing metaphysics meaningful ?

    What is it for anything to be meaningful? I would say that the meaningfulness of anything consists in its being able to be experienced and considered as such. On this view there is nothing which is not meaningful in one way, or set of ways, or another.
  • Marchesk
    2.8k
    One problem with the view that metaphysics is meaningless is that a lot of people, including philosophers, have found it meaningful enough to discuss at length. So then it's up to the anti-metaphysicians to argue that the people who do find metaphysics meaningful are somehow mistaken. And the best the skeptics can do is to say how they don't find metaphysics meaningful because of A,B,C. But the people who do find it meaningful won't accept reasons A,B,C, so then what?

    We end up with metaphysical topics being meaningful to some people and not others, depending upon one's philosophical perspective. Which doesn't resolve the matter for everyone. It just ends up being another metaphysical dispute lacking consensus, because people have different philosophical starting points. If one finds Wittgenstein or Carnap persuasive, then one is likely to be skeptical of metaphysical discussion in general. But if one doesn't, then one probably won't be ask skeptical.
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