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    Thread: The value of Metaphysics

    1. #1
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      The value of Metaphysics

      Considering Metaphysics has many ambiguous definitions I will use the definition: Inquiry of the nature of existence through non-empirical means.

      So the question I pose is "What is the value of Metaphysics?"

      Metaphysical statements are non-verifiable making their truth/falsehood indeterminable by empirical means and experience.

      However metaphysical statements claim to be of a "higher knowledge" than empirical science as if the posseser of metaphysical knowledge has a superior glimpse at the nature of reality (through abstract non-empirical means) than someone who has knowledge of reality through experience.

      My argument is that metaphysical statements have no basis in reality since they are not derived through experience and cannot be determined to be either true or false, rendering them meaningless.

      I would be very interested in hearing everyone's opinion.
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    2. #2
      Xei
      UnitedKingdom Xei is offline
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      I think every time we think and speak it boils down to empiricism... is it really true anyway that everything in metaphysics is unverifiable? I'm thinking highly potent 'philosophical theorems' such as the incompleteness theorems, but I don't know if this is what you're talking about... it'd really help if you could give some examples of what you consider to be metaphysical statements.

    3. #3
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Well I didn't take into account mathematical statements, I was more alluding to statements like: God has X attributes or the ultimate nature of reality is X.

      Godel's theorems were a mathematical way to think about mathematics (which has a basis in reality) so I don't think I would consider the Incompleteness theorems to be metaphysical statements. I would say mathematical truths are meaningful because they can adequately describe and predict reality, which is something that metaphysical statements cannot do. Although Kant believed knowledge of mathematics to be a priori.

      I would assume that it comes down to the question: Are mathematical truths different than linguistic truths?

      Edit: Also Godel was a hardcore Platonist and thought maths to be a priori as well.
      Last edited by stormcrow; 04-26-2011 at 07:33 AM.

    4. #4
      Xei
      UnitedKingdom Xei is offline
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      I wasn't really talking about maths, I was just alluding to its wider, and very important, epistemological consequences.

      I still think your metaphysical statements are a bit vague. I don't have any conception of what 'the ultimate nature of reality' means... surely there are some good examples of some more concrete metaphysical arguments? Then I could probably decide if they are meaningful or not.

    5. #5
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Sorry about that, I think this is how metaphysical statements operate, they have to be a bit vague. If they were more specific they would be easily refuted so they hint at knowledge that is beyond our experience and thus non-verifiable.

      Some other metaphysical arguments are like: The existence of possible worlds, like David Lewis' modal realism and the existence of the forms which are only accessible through thought.
      As for the "ultimate nature of reality" claims, an argument for solipsism would be an unverifiable metaphysical claim.

      I dont know much about the incompleteness theorems, what are the epistemological consequences? (besides that a system cannot be consistent and cohesive)

      Edit: Maybe if the mind is a consistent system then knowledge cannot be cohesive, is this what you are trying to get at by applying I. theorems to epistemology?
      Last edited by stormcrow; 04-26-2011 at 08:40 PM.

    6. #6
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      I think I'm mistaken in the Op. The meaning of metaphysical statements hinges off of the idea that the meaning of a proposition is contingent on whether or not it can be empirically verified. For instance the proposition "Snow is white" has meaning if and only if there exists an entity called snow and it is in fact white. The meaning of a proposition cannot be defined within the language, it must be independently justified.

      This seems valid but consider the proposition in the first sentence "A proposition has meaning if it can be verified" this statement cannot itself be empirically verified. So the empirical theory of meaning cannot be valid. Perhaps this relates to Godel's Incompleteness theorems because if this system (language) is complete then there are facts that cannot be proven within the system itself but maybe the problem arises when we use language to talk about language.

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      Basketball Player kidjordan's Avatar
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      Well shit! It seems that the "ultimate nature of reality" is unknowable. Empiricism is a metaphysical epistemology that doesn't believe in making metaphysical claims (obvious contradiction). The only alternative seems to be pragmatism. Pragmatism acknowledges that you can't really know the absolute truth ( if such a thing really exists).

      Sorry if this isn't quite in depth. I'm quite tired.
      But anyway, I think that you can't really prove solipsism and a lot of other metaphysical stuff either way so I just focus on pragmatic ethics. Although, that area of philosophy is almost as equally hard to get truth claims. I've sorta come to accept that truth is fuzzy. Sorry if this sounds like a bunch of BS. It is philosophy after all. Perhaps an equally good thread would be "what's the value of philosophy". It seems to be a bunch of unverifiable BS and nobody seems to have a complete theory of everything and yet it asks the most important questions imaginable. Sorry for rambling.

      If there is one "metaphysical" truth I know to be certain, it's that free will is a myth. This is not dependent on idealism, physicalism, dualism or any theory of matter/consciousness. The basic idea is explained here:
      The Blog : Free Will (And Why You Still Don’t Have It) : Sam Harris

    8. #8
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      Well shit! It seems that the "ultimate nature of reality" is unknowable.
      What I meant by that is we cannot have knowledge of the external world unfiltered through our consciousness.

      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      Empiricism is a metaphysical epistemology that doesn't believe in making metaphysical claims (obvious contradiction). The only alternative seems to be pragmatism. Pragmatism acknowledges that you can't really know the absolute truth ( if such a thing really exists).
      Empiricism is not metaphysics nor is philosophy synonymous with metaphysics. Empiricism asserts that knowledge can only come from sensory experience. Metaphysics asserts knowledge can be attained from means other than sensory experience like Platonic forms which are only accessible through thought alone. Pragmatism is a form of radical empiricism. Pragmatism asserts that truth is merely what works or what is useful at the time and not some divine, changeless, eternal form or anything like that (Pragmatism is a rejection of metaphysics) and that the said truth is constantly open to revision and is incomplete.

      Rorty holds the position that truth is not even useful or philosophically interesting. Questions like "what is truth?", "what is the good or what is reality?" are questions we have been asking since Plato and are no closer to answering. He asserts that we would be better off focusing our time on making the world a better place for its inhabitants than asking 2000 year old metaphysical questions over and over again. He advocates a post-metaphysics trying to distance philosophy from Plato as much as he can like Aristotle before him.

      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      Sorry if this isn't quite in depth. I'm quite tired.
      But anyway, I think that you can't really prove solipsism and a lot of other metaphysical stuff either way so I just focus on pragmatic ethics. Although, that area of philosophy is almost as equally hard to get truth claims. I've sorta come to accept that truth is fuzzy. Sorry if this sounds like a bunch of BS. It is philosophy after all. Perhaps an equally good thread would be "what's the value of philosophy". It seems to be a bunch of unverifiable BS and nobody seems to have a complete theory of everything and yet it asks the most important questions imaginable. Sorry for rambling.
      Solipsism, I agree is probably the most perennial metaphysical holdover. We cannot prove that other minds exist or that there is an external world outside of our consciousness. I don't really call myself an empiricist but I do think that asserting the the two above premises as true would be stepping out of our experience and into speculation. I have always found solipsism to be a childish, anthropocentric idea but as a skeptic I realize that asserting the existence of other minds would be stepping out of my experience although I think it is pragmatically useful to assume others have minds and subjective experiences because I would hope they give me the benefit of the doubt and not treat me like a dream character lol. We treat others with compassion and empathy because we assume that others can feel pain in a similar way that we do. Is that what you mean by pragmatist ethics? I dont think its a bunch of bs I really do enjoy discussing these issues even if other people find them to be useless. I would be down to make an auxiliary thread "what is the value of philosophy" but I dont really want to actually be the one to start the thread because I get on DV sporadically now I have work and school so I get on every couple days. Dont be sorry for the rambling, I ramble every post and Im not sorry.



      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      If there is one "metaphysical" truth I know to be certain, it's that free will is a myth. This is not dependent on idealism, physicalism, dualism or any theory of matter/consciousness. The basic idea is explained here:
      The Blog : Free Will (And Why You Still Don’t Have It) : Sam Harris
      Ill read this later, I have to work in a bit but Ill comment on it later.

    9. #9
      Basketball Player kidjordan's Avatar
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      "Empiricism is not metaphysics nor is philosophy synonymous with metaphysics. Empiricism asserts that knowledge can only come from sensory experience."

      Therefore, empiricism contradicts itself, because the knowledge/belief that "knowledge can only come from sensory experience" didn't come from sensory experience.

    10. #10
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      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      My argument is that metaphysical statements have no basis in reality since they are not derived through experience and cannot be determined to be either true or false, rendering them meaningless.
      So, this statement has no basis in reality then?
      I stomp on your ideas.

    11. #11
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Somii View Post
      So, this statement has no basis in reality then?
      That seems to be the conclusion I came to, yes. This thread is full of fail on my part, I dont really hold any of these views anymore.
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    12. #12
      Basketball Player kidjordan's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      That seems to be the conclusion I came to, yes. This thread is full of fail on my part, I dont really hold any of these views anymore.
      Don't be afraid of failure. I value my philosophical methodology as equally important as the propositions themselves. The good philosopher is always willing to re-evaluate his beliefs.
      stormcrow likes this.

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