Philosophy: Questions and Theories CHAPTER 6 INTRODUCING METAPHYSICS What is Metaphysics? metaphysics is the study of the basic structures of reality: being and nothingness, time and eternity, freedom and determinism, mind and body, thing hood and personhood, space and time, and a supreme being and nature
The Philosophers Approach to Metaphysics the most basic question in metaphysics is What is reality? leads to questions like: What makes reality? How many building blocks of reality are there? What are they make of? Are they material or mental? What is matter? What is mind? What is it to exist? What is being and why is there something and nothing? has direct relevance to life
a scientist would say that reality is composed of clouds of subatomic particles that are held together by an electromagnetic field, including people this explains what matter is but not reality metaphysical thought is developed through reasoning and not empirical thought
What Philosophers Have Said Common Sense Realism non-philosophical theory that believes that what people perceive under ordinary conditions is reality and the world consists of objects that can be perceived by the senses the issue with this is that it is considered to be motivated by ignorance and laziness rather than the quest for truth What Philosophers Have Said (Contd)
Idealism George Berkley 18th century denied the existence of material things, saying that reality ultimately consists of ideas and the minds that house them what people see as objects are just ideas that were placed to them by God What Philosophers Have Said (Contd) Platonic realism Plato reality consist of ideal forms that are timeless, unchanging,
immaterial and more perfect than the world of changeable that people encounter on a daily basis What Philosophers Have Said (Contd) Materialism proposed by the pre-Socratics everything is physical and reality consists of matter matter is particles in motion Hobbes was a materialist
What Philosophers Have Said (Contd) Monists say that reality consists of an all-encompassing thing and that all particular things are manifestations or expressions of this one thing Spinoza thought that this one thing was divine in nature
What Philosophers Have Said (Contd) Dualists reality consist of mind and matter and they are different but interact Descartes supported this view How Philosophers Have Said It Ontology area of metaphysics that deals with nature of being and reality
How Philosophers Have Said It (contd) Determinism theory every event, including human behaviour and choices, is determined by a chain of causes extending back in time How Philosophers Have Said It (contd)
Substance something with independent existence the basic element of which things are made Essence the fundamental nature of a thing its unchanging blueprint the thing that makes it what it is Why Metaphysics Matters e.g.: Does a supreme being exist? to many if so then lives have a
purpose, values have an objective grounding and death does not bring annihilation if not then, to many, anything is permissible and people would invent his/her own meaning for life e.g.: What is a person? this matters in medicine, law and Reality and Appearance Platos cave raises one of the central debates of metaphysics; how to distinguish between reality and appearance
most people consider what they experience to be real the philosopher is willing to leave the cave and consider what is on the other side of appearances Platos Ideal World Plato believed that peoples concepts of things came from an ideal thing this ideal thing exists independently of us, is unchangeable, is not visible or located and has always existed but this does not exist in time and space because this would mean that it is subject to change and therefore
not perfect even though this thing can not be seen or placed in time or space it still exists as a thing like an idea this is the ultimate model for all of these things and everything that is a representation of it draws its characteristic from it and also partakes in it The Forms because the ideal thing gives form to things, Plato called this a form this form is the essence of that thing
there is a form for every particular item in the world from actual material things, to people, to ideas like justice or courage or beauty all forms of these copy and partake in their particular ideal forms The Forms (contd) not all forms equal in
metaphysical stature some more inclusive and some more specific e.g. form of horse is under broader form of animal and animals fall under broader form of being form of good is the highest form
The Forms (contd) to Plato the form of good is the source of all reality, intelligibility and truth the allegory of the cave is about an encounter with the form of good the journey of the prisoner is the journey from the world in which things are only available to perception to a world of ideal forms although Aristotle agreed with Platos idea of
looking beyond the surface to see universal structures, he did not believe in the existence of perfect forms these structures to him were embedded in particular things in this world Taoism: Reality and the Tao Loazi believed that reason was not capable of comprehending reality Taoists believe that all
things come from the Tao, which sustains all things this is the fundamental principle of the universe as a whole the Tao is described in negative terms: it is not this and it is not that Taoism: Reality and the Tao all things in nature
are in constant flux and behind this flux is a deep pattern: the endless cycle of development and decline the Tao is responsible for this pattern Taoism: Reality and the Tao the oneness of Tao is expressed
in nature through yin and yang yin is the passive element in nature and yang is the active element yin is the are being, receiving, night, rest, earth and decline yang are doing, giving, day, activity, heaven and development they are distinct yet inseparable the Taoist strives to be at one
with the Tao and not caught up in the desires of the senses The Nature of Being basic ontological questions are: What is being? What does it mean to be? Is being a thing, a substance, a process or a kind of super-thing to Plato being was an ideal and thus timeless and second in power to the form of good and all things that exist partake of this form to Aristotle being is the substance that all properties are ascribed but it is not itself a
property to Laozi being was the Tao and behind all existence and thus cannot be described The Nature of Being to Heidegger in Being and Time argued that being was not an entity such as a special form or substance argued that the first question of philosophy is What is the meaning of being and not How do we know? argued that being is not a thing at all being is the background in which beings exist
e.g. like light objects are made visible through light but light itself is not seen and in itself not an object being is not a being but it is by means of being that beings stand out and become intelligible Heidegger argued that human beings are not things instead of being defined by factual properties, humans are defined by future-oriented possibilities of being The Self
What is the self? What is it made of? How do people get to know it? When they do what are they exploring? How many selves do people have Varieties of the Self Substance theory according to Descartes the self is a determinate and unitary thing,
a substance, that persists over time a mental substance, but not the brain as the self controls the brain and body cannot be divided and is not subject to change supports changing experiences but does not itself change it owns the experiences Varieties of the Self Bundle theory proposed by Hume as well as
Buddhist philosophers, says that the self is a bundle or collection of bits and pieces of experience when Hume looked introspectively at himself he found memories, perceptions, fleeting ideas, passing desires and other bits and pieces without a continuity or thread and thus concluded that the self is a loosely knit bundle of perceptions Varieties of the Self Narrative theory maintains that the self
is defined by narrative structure and unity people narrate their experiences they are the central characters in their narratives Varieties of the Self Project theory proposed by Sartre, this theory maintains that the self needs to
be thought of in temporal terms, that is like an event in time rather than a thing the self is a dynamic and future oriented project and is thus always under construction
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