Everything You Need to Know About Metaphysics

I am against the notion that it is possible to know anything about ultimate reality. I might even go further and say the concept of “ultimate reality” is incoherent. The same can be said for the concepts of “matter” and “mind’. I am speaking in a absolute sense in making those statements. However, the concepts of “matter” and “mind” might be useful in a relative sense and a pragmatic sense.

Let me present you the Hammer Test.

Imagine you are holding a hammer in your right hand. Take some time to sense how heavy it is and how the wood handle feels in your hand. Now put your left hand on a table with palm up. Now bring your right hand with the hammer down on your left hand so the hammer strikes the palm. Try that a few times with increasing force to get the feel for it.

Now repeat the same exercise with an actual hammer. If you only do it once, that’s fine.

This one exercise may tell you everything you need to know about metaphysics. And you don’t really need to understand any special jargon.

This entry was posted in Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Everything You Need to Know About Metaphysics

  1. Steve Ruis says:

    Brilliant! I just read (part of) a post that explains why science isn’t applicable to the god which was in question, because, well, the god is supernatural, so science is the wrong tool.

    Right.

    The supernatural and the metaphysical realm was designed to be a place to hide things that people do not want found. Like perfect objects or perfect people or all-powerful gods. There is no discussion on their side of the fence as to how things get back and forth to this realm or why some things are there rather than here. It is just a catch-all, where you cannot find what you are looking for, neener, neener, neener.

    Brandolini’s law is running rampant, of course.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. James,
    It seems to me that here you’re getting into the observations of Descartes. He famously fell into despair when he realized that everything he supposed was real, seemed unknowable in an absolute sense. But then he realized that there was one thing which could not possibly be false, or the fact that he was indeed experiencing his existence. Since I happen to be an experiencer of existence, and regardless of whether or not anyone else ever has or ever will, to me this metaphysical position seems like a perfectly solid platform from which to build more.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hmmm. Not being particularly interested in pure metaphysics, and liking the use of my hand, I think I’ll just keep this as a thought experiment. It does seem similar to Samuel Johnson’s famous, “I refute it thus,” striking his foot against a stone to refute metaphysical idealism.

    Liked by 2 people

    • James Cross says:

      Of course I don’t expect anyone to do the second part of the exercise but that is the point. We treat the “real” hammer differently from the imagined one. No matter what absolute reality is practically we treat it as having dual aspects.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. jjhiii24 says:

    In the collected works of C.G. Jung, he writes:

    “All the most powerful ideas in history go back to the archetypes. This is particularly true of religious ideas, but the central concepts of science, philosophy, and ethics are no exception to this rule. In their present form they are variants of archetypal ideas, created by consciously applying and adapting these ideas to reality. For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us.” 96:342

    Absent any personal experience with the metaphysical aspects of existence, often invoked by philosophers and mystics, it must seem as though the hammer test expresses a hard, practical truth about reality. Imagining the hammer hitting your palm, conjuring the temporal aspects of the physical object in your hand, just enough to provide a reasonable basis for comparison, doesn’t really tell us much about the metaphysical part of the equation, except that it is of a completely different nature altogether than that of physical reality.

    That we cannot express the intangible or ineffable aspects of existence in a way that would satisfy the empiricists amongst us only seems to re-enforce the notion that we must approach our understanding of such aspects from a different direction altogether. Many established scientific ideas began with speculation and by invoking imagination and intuition at the start, and your suggestion that the hammer test tells us allwe need to know about metaphysics seems to me woefully inadequate and short-sighted.

    But it is a lovely starting place for a conversation on the subject, and in that sense it is at least worth engaging with your fellow bloggers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • James Cross says:

      I’m sure you like almost everyone else will never do the second part of the test. Pragmatically you will treat the “real” hammer differently from the imagined one. I’m not denying either the “real” one or the imagined one. They are both “real” but obviously “real” in different senses. To explain that should be the starting point.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. shajanm says:

    I would agree ultimate reality is not knowable, but not so sure about it being incoherent. This is has troubled me for a long time – Is knowability a necessary condition for something to be real?

    Liked by 2 people

    • James Cross says:

      It comes down to whether it can be reduced to one thing or two things. Practically we treat it primarily as two things, mind and matter. Some of us will argue it is only one thing and force us to pick. But it could be there is no bottom. It’s turtles all the way down.

      Like

  6. James Cross says:

    One other note.

    The so-called hard problem is deriving mind from matter, but deriving matter from mind is an equally hard problem in more than just the figurative sense.

    Like

  7. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    “I’m not denying either the “real” one or the imagined one. They are both “real” but obviously “real” in different senses. To explain that should be the starting point.”

    The only thing I know with certainty is that the explanation of what is real in the context of “different senses” is not possible utilizing our current form of reasoning, a logic that is so elegantly expressed by the subject/object paradigm. But hey, let’s not give it up now. Let’s keep trying to pack that ten pounds of shit into a five pound box. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years, no sense in stopping now right?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alright Lee, I’ll give that a try and you can tell me if it seems senseless or not.

      Apparently all that I perceive is subjective rather than objective. As a naturalist I believe that this is because a brain creates the subjective experience by which I perceive my existence. Otherwise “I” should no longer exist, and even if you were to subjectively perceive my body. Perhaps I’d be dead or merely anesthetized, but the point is that clearly I’m not my body. Instead I’m an entirely subjective dynamic that my body sometimes creates.

      You can theorize that the brain uses quantum mechanics to create subjectivity if you like, while I suspect that this exists by means of neuron produced electromagnetic radiation. It’s the same difference in the end though at least I theorize how to empirically determine if I’m wrong. Observe that the vast majority of consciousness proposals are instead unfalsifiable. I consider the most popular of them to depend upon otherworldly dynamics. Regardless naturalism holds that either an objective brain/body creates something with subjective experience, or things get spooky.

      Is this perspective senseless?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        Eric,
        “Regardless naturalism holds that either an objective brain/body creates something with subjective experience, or things get spooky.”

        Agreed. And do not neglect to acknowledge the following: what makes the experience subjective is the “fact” that our experience is a conceptual experience, an experience of representations, which for all practical purposes is an indirect experience in contrast to a direct experience like electromagnetism or gravity for example.

        “Observe that the vast majority of consciousness proposals are instead unfalsifiable.”

        Disagree. Any proposal that does not hold universally “is” falsifiable. The final arbiter for falsifiability is whether a proposal or theory holds universally, contains no contradictions or paradoxes. That’s pretty straight forward. And going even further, empiricism itself is an abstraction. Empiricism is helpful because it gives us something “tangible” to contrast against but empiricism is not the final arbiter. The ability to reason correctly is the final arbiter, because at the end of the day does not our adjudication of the empirical evidence determine what that evidence “means”?

        Case in point: General relativity is supposedly an empirical theory, a theory that reflects the true nature of reality. Whereas, the fact of the matter is that GR is an analogy at best, a useful abstraction and nothing more. And why is this the case? Because GR does not hold universally. Like I said, it’s all pretty straight forward…..

        Going back to Jim’s bitch; the proposal that a fundamental reality has to be either mind or matter is falsifiable because neither theory holds universally. The straw man claim that no idea is falsifiable is unfounded.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Actually Lee I wasn’t using the “falsifiable” term as a synonym for “false”. I was using it in terms of there being any potential for something to be empirically dismissed. Proposals which are falsifiable belong in science whereas proposals that are unfalsifiable do not belong in science, or at least need more work to legitimately stay there. For example it should be possible to demonstrate the existence of the Christian God in a number of ways, such us seeing this entity do all sorts of things that seem otherwise unexplainable. At some point even I’d follow his demands in the quest for me to achieve heaven and avoid hell in an afterlife. It shouldn’t be possible to demonstrate that this hypothetical being doesn’t exist however, and this is because theoretically magic lies beyond the realm of causality and so can never be explained away in a normal sense. Therefore the Christian god is inherently unfalsifiable. Furthermore I admire that Christians formally depend upon faith rather than reason here since that’s the right way to think about magic in an otherwise apparently natural world.

          My point about popular consciousness proposals also being unfalsifiable references their dependence upon subjective experience by means of non mechanism specific algorithms. Observe that theoretically one could demonstrate the truth of this idea by creating something that does apparently feel its existence by means of certain generic information properly converted into certain other information, and hopefully through a host of mediums. Conversely it should never be possible to demonstrate that this notion is false since failure could always be explained as not yet attaining the right generic information conversion. So this proposal is effectively unfalsifiable and therefore does not belong in science as such. Given its popularity however I suspect that the only way for progress to be made on a natural solution will be for a falsifiable proposal such as McFadden’s to become experimentally validated. Only then should it generally be grasped that algorithms, from genetic code to the code which animates your computer screen, can only exist naturally in respect to some sort of mechanism that renders it as such.

          Then regarding the rest, I suspect that neither you nor I will ever change. I’m satisfied with effective empirical theories, and even though all should merely be approximations. I look forward to the day that psychology will develop a field of approximations which puts it in league with Newtonian physics. And until various accepted principles of metaphysics, epistemology, or axiology exist to better found the field, I doubt that such an achievement will be realized. Conversely you seem to see a potential that I do not see, or for humanity to realize Kant’s noumena. It feels good to have dreams I suppose.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          Eric,

          I disagree that the notion of a God is not falsifiable and this is how it is done. The notion of a God is nothing more than a projection of our own experience onto a fundamental reality. It can be empirically demonstrated that this “fact of matter” holds universally because you will not find two people on the face of the earth who share the exact same image of that God with a 100% precision.
          .

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Doesn’t this require a particular and somewhat peculiar definition of God? I doubt many people would agree with that definition. What ever happened to First Cause?

          Like

        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          God is an abstraction Jim, an abstract “idea”; any subsequent definition of that idea is irrelevant to the “fact of the matter” that this abstraction can be falsified.

          First Cause doesn’t blog much. Looks like Bernard shut down his forum blog site, eh?

          Like

    • James Cross says:

      I’m suggesting that dualism – subject/object, mind/body – is a useful and pragmatic way of describing reality but that doesn’t make it “true” in the biggest sense. It may be just part of the relationalism of the world.

      Like

  8. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    I agree Jim. I also agree with your assessment below.

    “They are both “real” but obviously “real” in different senses. To explain that should be the starting point.”

    To explain what “real” means should be the starting point. But I also feel that our natural patterns of thought and how we as a species reason and rationalize is insufficient. It’s not so much that the intellect is incapable of reasoning correctly as such because it is, it’s just that the entire locus of the reasoning process is centered around the self and the self’s need for a “sense” of control. That’s precisely why we choose to believe in abstractions like General Relativity, because GR gives us a “sense” of control.

    I also think that Rovelli’s take on relationalism and that reality as we experience it is a flash ontology or a flash realism is a correct synthesis. Oddly enough, relational quantum mechanics fits perfectly with reality/appearance metaphysics (RAM).

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      And QM requires imaginary numbers. I’ve never quite known what to make out of that.

      Maybe unreal can never exist because whatever you can know or feel already exists in some form.

      Like

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        “Maybe unreal can never exist because whatever you can know or feel already exists in some form.”

        Sure, I think that’s a good way of articulating it. And I think that notion would hold universally regardless of the context of a given reality since reality itself is a context.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s