Does the question of what is reality ever crossed your mind? Have you thought about the existence beyond the physical attributes of something? Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with such kinds of questions. It is concerned with the existence and interpretation of an ultimate reality that exists outside the physical or apparent universe.
Metaphysics is arguably the cornerstone of philosophy. Aristotle refers to it as “first philosophy” and claims it deals with “first causes and concepts of things.” It aims to describe fundamental terms such as life, being, causality, substance, time, and space. When the question arises of what is reality, the nature of the answer remains the same. But the definition may change because of the different beliefs and perceptions of how people know about it.
Origin of the term ‘Metaphysics’
The word metaphysics comes from the Greek phrase Ta Meta ta Physika, which translates to “the books after the books on nature.” The term “metaphysics” comes from the collective title of Aristotle’s fourteen books, which we now refer to as Aristotle’s Metaphysics. The term was new to Aristotle. He gave this branch of philosophy four different names: first philosophy, first science, wisdom, and theology.
At least a century after Aristotle’s death, an editor of his works (likely Andronicus of Rhodes) dubbed those fourteen books “Ta meta ta physika”. It means the “ones after the physical ones” where physical ones are the books on what we now call Aristotle’s Physics. Aristotle’s master, ‘Plato’, considers abstract ideas to be more “absolute” than physical reality. For him, the ideas are more stable, while material objects are continuously evolving.
However, metaphysics has developed into the study of immaterial objects, such as the mind, which is said to “supervene” on the physical brain. In contrast to materialism, metaphysics is a type of idealism. In today’s world, the term “metaphysics” has come to include a wide range of topics. Though the common nature of all the similar subjects deals with the exploration of reality in the idealistic sense.
Branches of Metaphysics
The book of Aristotle describes the ‘First Philosophy’ in the following: Ontology – the science of being, Cosmology – the origin of physical things, and Theology – God as a cause.
The study of existence is known as ontology. Ontology is concerned with issues such as whether truth is physical, spiritual, or both. Ontology deals with what exists and can range from asking what it means to exist, to asking “what is there” or looking for relationships between existing things.
Cosmology represents a study of the universe through its start, evolution, broad structure, and far-far-after theory and observation. A cosmological philosophy aims at discerning ways to know the origin of the universe because we only have one data point of a universe. It takes into account the relationships among the physical laws and the nature of life. Also, emphasizes our knowledge of early universe physics and the non-physical nature of certainly claimed infinities.
It addresses the nature of being as such, the first causes, the new beginnings and genesis, and, therefore, God’s existence. Theology is the study of God’s existence, and it has a major influence on all of philosophy. Atheists persuade that there is no God. The support of science, therefore, is primarily a way of understanding reality for them. Whereas, theists believe that there is a God or gods, which affects how they view realities.
Is Metaphysics important or a waste of time?
Many philosophers have challenged whether metaphysics makes any sense, even though it has existed for as long as philosophy itself. Even though metaphysics aims to provide answers to the more intriguing metaphysical issues that physics and general science are unable to address. The empirical image of the natural world around us is severely lacking and eerily silent on some aspects of the universe. Some argue that philosophical claims on those subjects are complicated and meaningless.
Maybe, as some thinkers have argued, there is no such thing as a true or false philosophical assertion or theory. Or, as some have suggested, philosophical theories can have truth-values that are difficult to determine. The human experience has been disconcerting for thousands of years with questions on the reality of life, death, soul, spirituality, time conception, and the existence of fantasies.
Metaphysics is now considered to be imaginative and ultimately meaningless. This is because philosophers and metaphysicians have failed to resolve the fundamental problem of metaphysics not because of the nature of the subject of metaphysics itself. The metaphysical statement typically involves an idea of the world or the universe that may look realistic. But they cannot eventually be empirically checked, tested, or proven. Hence, there is a growing list of mysteries every day passing by.
The concept of metaphysics is a hard one to understand and address. The important thing to remember is that metaphysics addresses the question of what reality is and various people respond in different ways to that question.
The subjects which come under meta-physics are subjects such as mysticism, life after death, reincarnation, soul, meditation, spirituality, dreams, fairy tales, ghosts, and astrology. Even the existence of a supreme being and nature or origin of reality comes under metaphysics. But it seems like this branch of philosophy does not have an end to it. Many philosophers still continue to work on metaphysics. While they are doing their part, keep asking more questions like these!