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Like trying to prove the existence of a "soul" or "spirit" in the human, attempts to scientifically prove the existence of God and other nonobjective, nonhuman realities is seemingly impossible. The difficulty arises out of the attempt to scientifically study and objectify something which, by its very nature, cannot become an object of our scientific studies.

This reigning belief that everything can be explained scientifically in terms of natural causes - referred to as naturalism - compels many to think that only what is seen or sensed, only what can be hypothesized and tested can be true, and therefore, meaningful to us as humans. Recently, however, even as metaphysics has come under attack for its apparent lack of access to real knowledge, so has science begun to have its own difficulties in claiming absolute knowledge.

Continual developments in our understanding of the human thought process reveals that science cannot solely be relied upon to explain reality, for the human mind cannot be seen as simply a mirror of the natural world. For example, since the act of scientific observation itself tends to produce the reality it hopes to explain, the so-called "truths" of science cannot be considered as final or objective. This fact manifests itself over and over again, as scientific truths and laws continue to break down or yield to new and better explanations of reality.

What becomes apparent, therefore, is that the process of human interpretation in the sciences, as elsewhere, is both variable and relative to the observer's viewpoint. Under the skeptical analyses of the philosophical movements known as postmodernism and deconstructionism , all of these facts have resulted in a modern repudiation of both metaphysics and science.

However, the focus of analytical philosophy generally is away from the construction of all-encompassing systems and toward close analysis of individual ideas. Among the developments that led to the revival of metaphysical theorizing were Quine's attack on the analytic—synthetic distinction , which was generally taken to undermine Carnap's distinction between existence questions internal to a framework and those external to it.

The philosophy of fiction , the problem of empty names, and the debate over existence's status as a property have all come of relative obscurity into the limelight, while perennial issues such as free will, possible worlds, and the philosophy of time have had new life breathed into them. The analytic view is of metaphysics as studying phenomenal human concepts rather than making claims about the noumenal world, so its style often blurs into philosophy of language and introspective psychology.

Compared to system-building, it can seem very dry, stylistically similar to computer programming, mathematics or even accountancy as a common stated goal is to "account for" entities in the world. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality. For other uses, see Metaphysics disambiguation. Plato Kant Nietzsche. Buddha Confucius Averroes. This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources.

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. October Learn how and when to remove this template message. Further information: Epistemology. See also: Ontology. See also: Identity philosophy and Philosophy of space and time.

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See also: Cosmology metaphysics. See also: Philosophy of mind. See also: Determinism and Free will. Main article: Philosophy of mathematics. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. Main article: Rationalism. Further information: Process philosophy. London: pp. Retrieved 24 November Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 14 November Hall, Ned In Edward N. Zalta ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Fall ed. Retrieved 5 October Metaphysics and Measurement. Harvard University Press. Watkins Epistemology and Politics.

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. Nijhoff International Philosophy Series. Watkins 1 July Stuart Brown ed. Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Philosophers.

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London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Social Service Review. Cambridge University Press. British Journal for the History of Science. Foundations of Science. Retrieved 2 September The Algebra of Metaphysics. Chemical Reviews. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Major Works: Selected Philosophical Writings. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, Philosophy and Logical Syntax. Archived from the original on 14 January Bibcode : Natur. Der Logische Aufbau der Welt. George as The Logical Structure of the World.

University of California Press. Routledge History of Philosophy. Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction. Oxford University Press. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. This should not be confused with Idealism , as presented by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant : as Platonic abstractions are not spatial, temporal, or mental they are not compatible with the later Idealism's emphasis on mental existence. Other translations including Latin and alternative Greek terms are sometimes used in scholarly work on the subject. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In The Basic Works of Aristotle p. New York: Random House. Self-Reference and Self-awareness. John Benjamins Publishing Co. Pippin Hegel's Concept of Self-Consciousness. Uitgeverij Van Gorcum. Max Muller The Upanishads. Wordsworth Editions. Kessinger Publishing Co. Sacred Books of the East. Cosimo Inc. The constructive survey of Upanishadic philosophy. Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. World Religions. Cengage Learning. Living in Amida's Universal Vow. World Wisdom Inc. Retrieved 24 March Theoretical Philosophy".

University of California, Davis , Department of Philosophy. Retrieved 11 March The Word 'Metaphysics' and the Concept of Metaphysics". Retrieved 12 March Michel Weber ed. Yablo and A. Gallois, "Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake? Strawson R. Quine G. Axiology Cosmology Epistemology Feminist metaphysics Interpretations of quantum mechanics Meta- Ontology Philosophy of mind Philosophy of psychology Philosophy of self Philosophy of space and time Teleology Theoretical physics.

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This simple question--why do I exist? Metaphysics raises a number of other questions, however. One of the more interesting ones is that of Martin Heidegger who began his work with the question: "Why are there essents existences, things that are rather than nothing? Obviously, if nothing existed there would be no one to know it, but just why is there something at all? Before we turn to the selected issues of metaphysics, the student should note that the reputation of metaphysics has sagged during the last several centuries.

This is particularly true on the modern scene. Metaphysics is now sometimes associated with the occult, or the far eastern fads, and there is nothing so damning as to criticize an author's work as "too metaphysical" which means that it lacks scientific verification. But this is quite a superfluous way of considering metaphysics, for the rejector of metaphysics is merely playing a sleight-of-hand trick in supporting metaphysical systems in a "non-metaphysical" way. Where metaphysical issues are rejected as useless or irrelevant, the rejection generally means a substitute form of metaphysics.

A beginning definition of metaphysics involves the word itself. Meta-physics is Greek for "after-nature. For example, we do see part of the world before us. Is this all there is to it? Is there more that we cannot see? If so, how can we know about it? Metaphysics is far more complicated than asking the question of what exists beyond nature. It is interested in the nature of nature, space, time, number of basic elements in the world, motion, change, causality, and other issues.

There is a science which investigates being qua being and what belongs essentially to it. This science is not the same as any of the so-called "special sciences"; for none of these sciences examine universally being qua being, but, cutting off some part of it, each of them investigates the attributes of that part, as in the case of the mathematical sciences.


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Aristotle proceeds to talk about being as distinct from various disciplines. Similarly, metaphysics has been called "the science of sciences" 4 because it is not merely interested in the accumulation of facts only, but in systematic reflection on these facts uncovered by various scientific disciplines. The inadequacy of traditional discipline lines is indicated by the crossing of the lines such as biochemistry, biophysics, astro-physics, and others.

Metaphysics has overtones of another discipline, religion. Religion is also interested in what it means to be, and whether there is reality beyond the natural world. However, religion suffers severe criticism from a number of modern metaphysicians. Taylor, who is quite sympathetic to religion in many ways, claims that metaphysics deals with ultimate questions "in a purely scientific spirit; its object is intellectual satisfaction, and its method is not one to appeal to immediate intuition or unanalyzed feeling, but of the critical and systematic analysis of our conceptions.

Heidegger similarly rules out an appeal to the God of the Bible, because "a believer cannot question without ceasing to be a believer. In both Taylor and Heidegger there is the feeling or presumption that believers are not thinkers. But what about the atheist who begins his thought with only nature and after examining the alternatives concludes that the God of the Bible makes more sense in his attempt to understand the metaphysical issues?

Neither Taylor nor Heidegger are true to the spirit of metaphysics. They rule out beforehand a possible answer that might be of great help. One of the traditional criticisms against metaphysics is that it demands too many presuppositions to begin. The ideal is always to begin without presuppositions. Can metaphysics be systematic and conclusive if it omits an area of investigation for help? Metaphysics is not religion, but if metaphysics is to seek an understanding of the totality of nature, it would seem that it should not deliberately ignore religion.

If metaphysics is to be the science of the sciences, or the science of being, then nothing should be ruled out and everything will be examined with equal fervor. Men in the past who were perceptive came to different conclusions about the basic building elements in the world. Thales 6th cent.

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Pythagoras reasoned that all is number. Others concluded that being is composed of air, or fire, and Heraclitus was so impressed with the changing elements in the world that he concluded that all things flow and nothing is constant. Democritus concluded that the world is composed of atoms, while others reasoned that nous or reason was the integrating element. Later it was fashionable to believe that some mysterious "substance" lay behind what is visible.

The answers given to what is being? Thus a general outline may be useful. Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason , made two points that are important in maintaining that being is unknowable. First, reason can never tell us anything about the ultimate world. Reason has no way of getting to the outside world, that is, the world beyond the mind. Reason is dependent on the senses for its information.

If the senses give information to the mind, then reason can work with it, but essentially reason is captured within the framework of man's being and cannot get out to do investigation apart from the senses. Kant gives a resume of the Critique in "that reason by all its a priori principles never teaches us anything more than objects of possible experience, and even of these nothing more than can be recognized in experience.

The second point is that the senses provide only representations or images of the world in which man lives. Thus the images or representations are one step removed from the real objects. On Kant's ground one can never compare images to know if one is seeing correctly. Since one is only dealing with representations, then one is really in ignorance about the real world.

Thus Kant concludes that all we know is about phenomena, and that is not very secure knowledge, while we can never get behind phenomena to what Kant called Noumena. This leaves a measure of skepticism around the world. This part of Kant's view has come to be called phenomenalism. It has been subjected to various criticisms 8 and there is no need to rehash them here, but two points may be remembered. Whenever a philosopher asserts that we cannot know being or reality, he is still asserting a knowledge about it. He is saying that it cannot be known because. It may not be much, but it is information about why this or that is not reality or being, and why we cannot know it.

The claim that being is knowable involves diverse theories of being. The only common element is the claim that knowledge of being is possible and that we can know something about being. Since the knowledge of being and the definition of being are quite related we will turn to the different definitions of being and involve the questions of how being is known also. Men who hold a philosophy of naturalism, in its various forms, argue that the visible world is all there is. What can be seen, touched, etc.

This way of looking at nature may be called monism , or a monism of matter, in which all reality is reducible to nature, or atoms. This is a "nothing-but" philosophy. Reality is "nothing-but" matter, or atoms, or cause-effect mechanisms. Whatever the form of naturalism it is limited to and by sense verification. Questions may be raised about this definition of being.


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  • The appearance of mind in a naturalistic world is as difficult to explain as the appearance of life. Laws are interpretative, but non-existence devices for explaining events and happenings in nature. Laws are a key to understanding and scientific progress. Thus science would not exist without mind and reason, and these should take precedence in importance in explaining the physical.

    Can it be that there are other ways of knowing reality that can take one beyond the merely visible? Is there more than the physical world? Our next view presumes so. The term, "two-world's" was first introduced into philosophy by Lask 11 and refers to two different theories. The first type of the two-world's theory is that there is a higher world than the visible and the visible is not the real world.

    It is only an appearance. Man is essentially a unitary part of the world. This identity of man and the world or man and the world-soul--the Spirit back of the appearances--makes it possible for man to claim that when he knows himself he knows being. This view is accepted in various degrees by idealists such as Plato, Whitehead, Taylor, Browne, Hegel and forms of Hindu thought associated with transcendental meditation, and Christian Science, to mention only a few.

    We can look briefly at a philosophy on the contemporary scene who incorporates some of these ideas. Karl Jaspers is a philosopher who believes that being is manifested in objects, but is not defined by means of the objects. There are two kinds of beings in the world--subjects and objects. But being is bigger than both of these. The cliche that the Whole is greater than the parts is true here. Jaspers calls it the Comprehensive. Hence one cannot, by means of philosophy, get to Being. This can be done only indirectly.

    The Metaphysics of Modern Existence

    Then how can being be known? Jaspers points to mysticism as the answers. The mystic is the person who transcends "the subject-object dichotomy and achieves a total union of subject and object, in which all the objectness vanishes and the I is extinguished. Then authentic being opens up to us, leaving behind it as we awaken from our trance a consciousness of profound and inexhaustible meaning. But he claims that "the mystic is immersed in the Comprehensive. All of this sounds very romantic and appealing, but it doesn't give us much information about being.

    The true mystic cannot communicate and being cannot be seen. How then can we describe being? How can we know about it? What does the mystic really see? Can we say that Being or the Comprehensive is related to God? Jaspers does this in some sense, but says that "God is reality, absolute, and cannot be encompassed by any of the historical manifestations through which he speaks to men. Thus, if we cannot regard the knowledge of God in philosophy or theology as meaningful, how can we know that the mystic's is? How does one know when one has found Being?

    The introduction of a mystic's path to being needs further comment for the mystic is not an easy person to define. The mystic comes in two breeds. The first mystic claims that the journey inward through meditation leads to oneness with Being. Being is found within. It is claimed that I am one with the World-Soul.

    Since there is a union between me and the world soul, the only obstacle to knowing Being, is in me. If I transcend my personal identity in meditation, I come to Being. Rooting out the ego leads to the depth of internal being. The second breed of mystic is the one who seeks a union with God which is outside himself. By means of meditation, purgation of the soul, and prayer, the mystic seeks to achieve a union with God who is outside or external to man's being.

    The mystic's path to Being is questionable. Neither of these two forms asks the obvious question: why is Being God hidden? We don't see "Being" as we see the truth, neither do we see God in the same way. If we equate man and God and seek a knowledge of Being or God inwardly, then we change theology knowledge about God into anthropology, or a knowledge about man. The distinctions between man and God are blurred and probably meaningless.

    If we follow the second mystics route of trying to achieve union with a God who is outside of himself, then what is the basis of our trying to achieve this? This is the better model of mysticism, but who calls for this type of practice and can man by searching, find the hidden God? Man can certainly suspicion, or intuit that God is about, but can you know a Being Person who does not allow Himself to be known? On the other hand, granting that God does reveal Himself, the "means" of the mystic then are superfluous. A competing theory of being comes from the influence of religious thought.

    This form of the two-world's theory is described as a contingent dualism: i. The previous view was essentially a spiritual monism in which the physical world is a secondary part of the theory. Man must transcend the physical and live in the Spirit alone. While it advances beyond naturalism to include the Spirit, it has little use for the physical ultimately. This two-world theory now combines the visible and the invisible.

    Augustine' City of God develops something of this. Part of the differences between these two-world theories can be seen in the following contrasts:. God is identified with the God creates the world, but world. Nature and God are God is eternal; nature is external. Nature is created. This form of the two-world's theory involves the following.

    God is creator. The material world exists because He spoke it into existence. Its continued existence is dependent upon his will. Thus, we have a contingent dualism in which matter is dependent upon Spirit, but is not the same as Spirit. Matter has its being or existence in God, but is not a part of God, or a manifestation of God. How does man get to know Being?

    He can know one part by means of the senses, the physical part. How can he know the other part? Ultimately, God cannot be known unless God is Personal and reveals himself and his nature. At best there may be hints of this expressed in nature, but as it stands, the world does not have perfection. Even if by means of nature the conclusion is reached that God is, there is no means of bridging the gulf separating man from God.

    It is at this point that Being or God must be viewed as personal. Anything less than personal could not communicate with man, nor man with it. Christians claim that the Incarnation event gives a way in which man can come to know Being. God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. He was true-God and true-man. He was the embodiment of the visible and invisible. He combines the temporal and the eternal. Granting this view as an explanation, one is able to have a knowledge about God who seeks, who reveals himself.

    In summary, man's search for being has lead to various conclusions. Philosophers with a restricted scientific outlook have been satisfied to stop at nature. Others have found this empty and have sought a spiritual dimension to the world. Yet others in the Christian tradition have not only argued for a spiritual dimension, but have felt that ultimate reality can be known only in the way of Incarnation. There is no single book to which you can point as you do to Euclid, and say: This is metaphysics; here you can find the noblest object of this science, the knowledge of a highest Being, and of a future existence, proved from principles of pure reason.

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    The influence of Kant has been strong in dissuading metaphysical activity. But the last phrase would be inapplicable to those who seek a religious metaphysics. The Bible does not attempt to "prove from principles of pure reason. Here is where you find out about the Highest Being and a future Existence. If it is not in the last alternative, then philosophy per se has not taught it, nor has it the tools to do so. We seem to be shut up to some alternative: either we know Being by means of self-revelation, or we are pushed toward meager or skeptical knowledge about being.

    If I could come to the edge of space, would I be able to stick my arm through it or not? If I could not, what would prevent my doing it? If I could, then, have I come to the end of space. This question was raised in antiquity by Archytas, a Pythagorean. His questions are profound since it is quite difficult to view space as either finite or infinite.

    Equally difficult is the question of the nature of space. Is space something? Filled space obviously has something in it, but what is empty space. Space as a term refers to several meanings. Conceptual space is the space of geometry. It exists when man thinks about it, and ceases when he stops thinking. Perceptual space is related to our sense of touch and sight. A man sees a new car parked by the curb and then walks over and views it closely.

    In the process he traverses space and experiences a three-dimensional perception of an object in space. Physical space is the space dealt within astronomy and physics. It is described as public space which can be measured by all observers. Absolute space is a Newtonian concept that there are unmovable measuring points on the edge of the universe. The appearance and acceptance of Einstein's theory of relativity made absolute space an obsolete idea.