from the Greek meta ta physika
("after the things of nature"); referring to an idea, doctrine, or
posited reality outside of human sense perception. In modern philosophical terminology,
metaphysics refers to the studies of what cannot be reached through objective
studies of material reality. Areas of metaphysical studies include ontology,
cosmology, and often, epistemology.
- Longer definition: Metaphysics is a type of philosophy or study that uses
broad concepts to help define reality and our understanding of it. Metaphysical
studies generally seek to explain inherent or universal elements of reality
which are not easily discovered or experienced in our everyday life. As such,
it is concerned with explaining the features of reality that exist beyond the
physical world and our immediate senses. Metaphysics, therefore, uses logic
based on the meaning of human terms, rather than on a logic tied to human sense
perception of the objective world. Metaphysics might include the study of the
nature of the human mind, the definition and meaning of existence, or the
nature of space, time, and/or causality.
origin of philosophy, beginning with the Pre-Socratics, was metaphysical in
nature. For example, the philosopher Plotinus held that the reason in the world
and in the rational human mind is only a reflection of a more universal and
perfect reality beyond our limited human reason. He termed this ordering power
in the universe "God."
ideas, because they are not based on direct experience with material reality,
are often in conflict with the modern sciences. Beginning with the
Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, experiments with, and observations
of, the world became the yardsticks for measuring truth and reality. Therefore,
our contemporary valuation of scientific knowledge over other forms of
knowledge helps explain the controversy and skepticism concerning metaphysical
claims, which are considered unverifiable by modern science.
matters of religion, the problem of validating metaphysical claims is most
readily seen in all of the "proofs" for the existence of God. 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.
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
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. Their criticisms are based on the cultural and
historical relativity of all knowledge. These two philosophical "schools"
deny any existence at all of an objective or universal knowledge. Thus,
metaphysical claims stand today between the absolutist claims of science
(scientism) and the complete relativism of postmodernism and deconstructionism.
Contributed by: CTNS
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