What is it?
Metaphysics is one of the most difficult to understand topics in philosophy and perhaps one of the oldest. It is also one of the most interesting fields that you can come across because it deals with “the wild stuff,” as I like to call it.
Let me break this down.
The prefix “meta” means beyond. We can see then that the study of metaphysics means beyond physics, or that which could not be studied by means of biology, physics, geology etc…
So what does that mean?
Well, it’s hard to say. I know that’s not the answer you’d love to hear, but we’re dealing with a topic that essentially cannot be studied by the scientific method and isn’t really defined by one particular definition. For all intensive purposes, perhaps the best definition it could be given is
“The study of understanding the fundamental nature of all reality.”
Yes, The nature of reality. Metaphysics asks the tough questions like “What constitutes existence ” and the infamous, “What is the meaning of life.” These questions are impossible to study by means of science, so we classify it as metaphysics.
How do you go about studying that which cannot be studied?!
Good question guy. Arguments. That’s right, logical arguments. Philosophers form arguments based on what we already know using the most basic evidence to support their ideas. These ideas are then passed onto other philosophers who critique them – Much the same way all of philosophy is done :P.
Aristotle and his quaintly named work, “Metaphysics,” is where we first see it’s occurrence. Considered one of the greatest philosophical works of all time, Aristotle attempts to tackle the biggest questions that science could not explain such as: What is existence? How can things exist as they are in regards to changes we see in the natural world? and how can we understand this world? These questions are perplexing examples of what the first metaphysicians were wondering that no one has ever even though of asking before.
Though, Aristotle argues that others before him were studying the idea. According to him, Thales and his concept of the first principle (a theory developed by him in Ancient Greece) that named water the source of the creation of all things on this world. How is this metaphysics? At that time they had no way of figuring out what the earth had come from. That’s not to say that we really have any idea today, but Thales theorized based on rational thought that water was the essential source behind matter. He called it “the principle of all things.” To make this distinction he went beyond any field of science to discover, what he thought, was the source behind everything else things.
Problems in Metaphysics
There are many topics in metaphysics. Many I will eventually discuss in future posts. These topics are more often defined as problems. They are called that because, to the metaphysician, these ideas are all problems that need to be solved.
- Do we have free will or are we all subject to fate?
- Is there a soul or is consciousness just a result of biological processes?
- Does god exist? If so, are we doomed to nothingness after we cease to live?
These questions are all problems that metaphyicians work out through their arguments, like I stated earlier. Of course, when one philosopher creates an argument, you can count on another philosopher refuting it. Fortunately, All of this back and forth arguing is the only way things can get done. Every critique helps philosophers arrive at conclusions which, hopefully, can help solve these hard to grasp concepts.
We covered a good deal of information on what metaphysics actually is. We know that it can be defined as the study of understanding the nature of reality. We know that the idea of metaphysics dates back to Ancient Greece with the thoughts of philosophers such as Thales and Aristotle. And we know there are a wide variety of questions involved in the field — too much to contain in one post!
Metaphysics holds a plethora of very meaningful and important questions in our lives that we may one day have the answers to. All we can do is gather as much knowledge as possible about the world around us and maybe one day the answers will come. Until then…
keep thinking my friends!