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Metaphysics & Epistemology

Recommended Posts


note: As I hardly ever visit the D&D section, it's rather difficult for me to acknowledge whether these subjects have been discussed in said section of the forums, and if they have, how specifically exactly have they been discussed. A brief search, however, proved that the following topics have been discussed very briefly every now and then, and this topic is merely an attempt to bring them thematically together so that they can be properly discussed and debated



Metaphysics & Epistemology

the world as you perceive it




Metaphysics (meta ta fysika, Greek for "after physics" as used originally to describe Aristotle's works on the nature of the world after his book "Physics") is a branch of philosophy aiming to describe the nature of existing and the world. A metaphysician attempts to provide answers for questions such as "what exists" and "what is it like" and clarify the nature of things such as existence, causality, space and time, chance, and objects. Ontology, theology and cosmology have traditionally been considered as branches of metaphysics but have since been separated from metaphysics although ontology, "the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other" is still considered a central part of metaphysics.


Starting your journey as a metaphysicist, you may start by pondering the following: is reality an objective entity completely independent of the human mind or a subjective experience that exists only as we perceive (or perhaps only in our minds (solipsism)?). Depending on your answer, you may define yourself either as a philosophical realist who believes in an objective reality or an antirealist (an idealist) who believes in a reality that not only appears to us as perceived but exists in said way. From there you can do some introspective inquiries about whether you believe that the only thing that exists is matter and all that is immaterial is but a result of material interactions and can thus be reducted into matter, the only substance that exists, or whether you perceive reality as an immaterial concept, mentally constructed, OR whether you are in fact a dualist or a radical pluralist believing in a reality which's substances are larger than one (monism) in number.


Feel numb in the brain yet? Hope not, for we have only covered a small number of things that metaphysics address (and most likely only will). A central problem known as that of universals in metaphysics wonders whether attributes such as color, size, shape and location exist by themselves or only in the objects in which they are present, realism and nominalism representing the opposite views. You may also have been wondering about the existence of free will and destiny. A philosophical doctrine known as determinism teaches that everything eventually leads to a specific destiny and the course of said thing happening cannot be interfered with, for the outcome of the process has always been predetermined. Sound unfair? Find comfort in the fact that we will most likely never acknowledge the true nature of these things or at least can enjoy the illusion of a free will until proven false.


Or can we truly acknowledge something in the first place? Though it may seem somewhat metaphysical, the branch of philosophy attempting to provide this question an answer is known as epistemology.





Epistemology (study of knowledge/understanding) is especially concerned with the nature and limitations of knowledge.


Plato defined knowing something as having a belief well argued. From there, numerous philosophers have attempted to continue in the search of knowledge. Epistemologist schools of thought include relativism which is represented by those believe that all knowledge is relative (pre-Socratic philosopher Protagoras became famous for the phrase "homo mensura", "man is the measure of all things") and skepticism, represented by those don't believe in believing (or, in other words, believe in not believing, making skeptism quite a paradoxal school of thought).


Another central point in epistemology is the tension between empirists (those who emphasize the role of experiencing in the process of acquiring knowledge) and rationalists (who, in contrast to empirists, priorize rational thought as a central way of acquiring knowledge). Both have their ups and downs, but I'd like to personally bring up the fact that some form of empirical knowledge is essential to any sort of rational thought, for instance, the experience of existing. Cogito, ergo sum, "I think, therefore I am", famously said René Descartes.


One of the world's most famous empistemologists (and metaphysicians), Immanuel Kant worked hard to depict how does one acquire knowledge and emphasized the disctinction between analytic and synthetic propositions. Analytic knowledge is considered something that is, for it cannot not be (such as "My father's brother is my uncle) and synthetic knowledge is knowledge related to something that is by chance and could very well not be. Closely related to the analytic-synthetic distinction, Kant distincted empirical information gathered by experience (a posteriori) and reasoned before it (a priori).


It's challenging to try and narrow down the questions in metaphysics and epistemology into one forum post, but I suggest those of you who feel even the smallest interest in these subjects to check out the Wikipedia articles on Metaphysics and Epistemology and check out names such as Plato, Aristotle, David Hume, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, G.W.F Hegel, George Berkeley, G.W Leibniz, Ludwig Wittgenstein, René Descartes, Arthur Schopenhauer and Baruch Spinoza. I'll also list some questions below that could be debated:


• What is the purpose of life?

• How can I know that things I can't observe, exist?/How can I know that things I observe exist?

• Is life but a dream of somebody else's?

• Does free will exist?

• Can I know that I know?

• Is metaphysics a waste of time?/Is physics a waste of time?

• Does time exist?

• Does everyone see colors in a similar way?

• Is there a God?


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Clem Fandango

There's something I've been thinking about. If there's someone reading this topic who believes in a sentient god, could I pose you a question? And if you believe in a non-sentient, but still comprehensible god, could you explain how that works?

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Ive actually wondered whether Leibniz believed in a sort of non-sentinent God. In his mind, God was the creator of everything but did not intervene with anything after creation. So, you could argue that God was the seed, whose only purpose was the creation of everything in this world.


Furthermore, according to Leibniz, everything we see around us is exactly as it was intended. Which then leaves me wondering... was God deterministic in Leibnizs eyes as well? Sort of like picking a random first piece of the puzzle but still ending up with the same picture.


EDIT: Also, Im aware that Leibniz thought of God as a separate and intelligent entity. What Im wondering is whether the way he believed in it implied a God with limited free will.

Edited by 3niX

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And if you believe in a non-sentient, but still comprehensible god, could you explain how that works?

Observe the Big Bang theory. To summarize it, it suggests that from nothing came everything during a very brief moment known as the Planck epoch. The state before the epoch is known to physics as a singularity, a location in spacetime in which "the quantities that are used to measure the gravitational field become infinite in a way that does not depend on the coordinate system". Now, if causality exists (like it must in order for thought and knowledge to), this would mean that there should be a cause for the birth of the universe (the effect), and as long as science cannot properly observe this singularity before the epoch, we can only theorize upon the cause, and this is where Christians say that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". Thus, the Christian belief holds with it that God is the scientifically unprovable and unobservable cause for the birth of the universe. I'd suggest you read this article, seems quite interesting and thematically connected.


Though I am in fact a Christian who even goes to church every now and then, I neither believe in or attempt to argue against the existence of a God in a religious sense, but believe in a Spinozist god, a Deus sive natura. Why I believe it is such a logical way of perceiving the symbolic monist force known generally as "a god" is simply because for as long as science cannot properly discuss the causes for the birth of the universe, a causa sui god is, at least for me, the only possible way to perceive the great forces behind the universe.


As far as Leibniz goes, I've never read any of his works but am somewhat familiar with his pluralist "monadology" and I think that it shares great similarities to Baruch Spinoza's thoughts. Whereas Spinoza was a neutral monist who believed that every object and entity can be reduced into the previously mentioned Deus sive natura (God or Nature), Leibniz's philosophy suggested that these objects and entities are in fact monads that separately count as substances instead of contributing together into one larger substance (God or Nature). The main difference between Spinoza's philosophy and Leibniz's philosophy, imo, lies in the fact that Leibniz counted God, too, as a monad, thus making it comparable and equal to the rest of the substances, whereas Spinoza's philosophy positioned God above all.


Leibniz however positioned the monad which is God in a more valuable position than the rest. He stated that all monads only affect theirselves but are able to interact because God had pre-programmed them thus. I don't really see how should this make the world determinist but it does cause minor problems on free will. If the human mind, for example, only affects itself and is responsible for it's own actions but is at the same time able to interact with monads like objects in space and time, aren't these objects able to affect the way the human mind behaves? So the world may not be, according to Leibniz, determinist but more like in a state of infinite unity in which everything is related to eachother in a carefully programmed way. Distantly reminds me of Parmenides.

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