Can any metaphysical positions be proven?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by wegs, Aug 26, 2016.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I can only give you my ideas and opinions, not what is right and wrong to say.

    I most emphatically don't think that any metaphysical view is as good as any other. There are many metaphysical theories about pretty much all of the issues I mentioned earlier. There are theories about what causation is and how it works. There are theories about the nature of time and persistence through time. There are theories about what the most fundamental aspects of reality are and about mathematical objects and the nature of logical implication. There are often reasons to favor one theory over another, matters of internal and external consistency, general plausibility and the nature of their ontological commitments. (A theory of universals that imagines an abstract universal corresponding to every general term in our language would be a very crowded and busy ontology.) 'Occam's razor' is a maxim about parsimony in adopting ontological commitments, counseling us to favor the simplest and most elegant theories.

    Science and mathematics obviously have a lot to say about which of these theories we should embrace. Einstein said a lot about the nature of space and time. Quantum mechanics seems to have implications for the question about the nature of vagueness. The actual practice of mathematics has a lot to say about mathematical objects and their relations.

    But I think that it would be wrong to say that metaphysics can be replaced by physics, or by science and math generally. That's because science and math are even more dependent on metaphysics than metaphysics is on them. Science employs a whole host of ontological, methodological and formal concepts that it doesn't often scrutinize very closely, except when they seem to give rise to problems: causation, logical implication, substances and properties, quantification, mathematical idealization and models, thought experiments and all the rest. (The crisis of early 20th century physics, that gave rise to relativity and quantum mechanics, was an example of scientists being forced to reexamine their presuppositions.) Science is dependent on how it conceives of the world and how it conceives of scientific practice, and if we try to derive our conceptual vocabulary from science, the whole thing becomes circular.

    But maybe a little circularity isn't a bad thing... perhaps we should imagine and upward spiral.

    In the history of science, what we observe is earliest science adopting the modes of thinking in use at the time, then making some advances that catch people's attention. That has an inevitable impact on how fundamental issues are conceived. (The scientific revolution introduced physical mathematics in a new way.) Those new ideas in turn influence the growth of subsequent science. So what have is metaphysics and science in a mutually beneficial relationship in which each one stimulates the other. Maybe that's what lies at the heart of scientific progress in the larger sense, when science isn't just collecting more and more facts, but learning to look at the world in new and more fruitful ways.

    Only if we are agreed on what the connectives '+' and '=' mean, and that '3' and '6' are drawn from the natural numbers, integers or real numbers.

    I think that part of our problem is that the word 'metaphysics' is used in several inconsistent ways.

    The word literally means 'after physics'. In the Roman-era collection of Aristotle's writings that became standard, Aristotle's book that came after his 'Physics' didn't have a title, so it was called the 'Metaphysics'. Aristotle himself referred to the subject as 'first philosophy'.

    But today, many people interpret 'after physics' to mean 'beyond physics'. So lots of occultism and alternative religosity calls itself 'metaphysics'. We see the word used a lot in 'new age' bookstores. That's where 'metaphysical' is kind of synonymous with 'cosmic' or 'spiritual' (with a hint of 'anything goes', since it's broken free of the dead hand of physics).

    Then in the early 20th century, the Positivists used 'metaphysics' in a highly perjorative sense, interpreting it to mean something very much like 'bullshit'. Most of them were German speakers (Austrians mostly) and I believe that their target was the whole tradition of post-Kantian German idealism and its German romantic influences. The positivists were tremendously interested in scientific methodology which they hoped would serve as a bullwark against bullshit. Their efforts never really succeeded (European 'continental' philosophy moved in the opposite direction, away from science), but we still see their influences here on Sciforums, especially in the incessant science/pseudoscience arguments.

    And then there's the way I'm using the word, as referring to the most general concepts that we apply in trying to understand things. I think that's how many academic philosophers in the 'analytic' tradition conceive of 'metaphysics'. It's probably closest to how Aristotle, its originator, conceived of 'first philosophy'.

    I don't think that our issue should be whether or not something is "absolute truth". That's partly because I'm not sure what 'absolute truth' means. (Necessary truth? Beliefs that can't possibly be mistaken?)

    I'm a fallibilist, and don't think that any of our beliefs are inerrant in that sense. Not the Bible or other religious 'scriptures', not the propositions of our most advanced science, and not even mathematics and logic themselves. (Those latter seem dependent on our intuitions and the possibility always remains that we might always be making a mistake.)
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2016
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Here's yet another alternative route for cognizing what's going on in regard to these activities, which can dismiss the relevancy of our trying to construe adventures of reasoning in a binary true / false context (especially where "true" demands _X_ being located as a particular object with space-time coordinates -- i.e., being a concrete perception of many observers):

    By converting features of the experienced world into abstract description and principles / concepts, we can either invent or discover things that we might not otherwise encounter empirically. For instance: non-euclidean geometries and higher dimensions once seemed nonsensical, but were finally made reasonable by making adjustments in the symbolic expressions for space properties. IOW, via expanding and diversifying what an abstract system can "say" while still retaining inter-consistency of the overall framework.

    This is apart from the issue of whether or not certain novel affairs would ever be found, made possible, or have a functional role in the tangible or experienced context of everyday life. The point is that what was once considered "meaningless" would have been rendered "meaningful"; established as a legitimate intellectual game or preoccupation (akin to pure mathematics, where its quantitative pursuits are not subservient / beholden to applied uses in the world).

    - - - - - - -

    Immanuel Kant: The enlarging of our views in mathematics, and the possibility of new discoveries, are infinite; and the same is the case with the discovery of new properties of nature, of new powers and laws, by continued experience and its rational combination. [...] Natural science will never reveal to us the internal constitution of things [the intrinsic, absolute or immutable identities of things which would not be altered by their extrinsic relationships to each other] [...] Nor does that science require this for its physical explanations. Nay even if such grounds should be offered from other sources (for instance, the influence of immaterial beings), they must be rejected and not used in the progress of its explanations. For these explanations must only be grounded upon that which as an object of sense can belong to experience, and be brought into connection with our actual perceptions and empirical laws. --Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics
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  5. river

    BB is metaphysical .
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  7. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


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    No really, that's nonsense river and you know it.
    The BB is the evidenced based theory of the evolution of the universe/spacetime, from a hot dense state. The exact mechanism of the BB is unknown, but a reasonable description can be formulated based on current knowledge from t+10-43 seconds.
    Pretty cool aye?

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  8. birch Valued Senior Member

    Let me give an example of what metaphysics is. Say you go to the store and you get short-changed not even on purpose but accidental. These accidents or mishaps or interpretations of logic is what affects our lives the most not abstract truths such as 1 plus 1 does indeed equal 2. Did mathematical truth prevent that from happening? Nope! We can even take this further and it can be done deceptively too. Does truth prevent incorrectness from occurring? After all, one could divide a pie where one gets 3/4 and another 1/4 and call it fair or half but knowing a truth doesnt mean it makes it happen or apply. After the microconstituents and mechanisms, how that is managed and applied is dealing in another dimension of life or context where it can actually be applied for chaos or deception in a larger context.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016
  9. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    When talking about what can be "proven", it's important to note that the empirical findings of science cannot be proven, only evidenced, and that scientific theory can only be proven false...not proven true (only tentatively accepted as true). Only math and logic offer proof within their self-consistent axioms. Philosophy, of which metaphysics is a branch, utilizes logic, and within the rules of logic offer proof. IOW, if the premises of a logical argument are sound and the structure of the argument valid, the conclusion is proven. This is quite stringent, except to the degree premises rely on evidence, where their soundness isn't so cut and dry.

    Not all metaphysical positions are equal. While solipsism may be an epistemologically useful idea, it's a dead end metaphysically.
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  10. birch Valued Senior Member

    What about when life isnt logical? Everything is logical and pristine and in fact can be neat and perfect in one's head, isnt it? We can construct and reason the most logical, sound, efficient etc. But it just doesnt always manifest that way, isnt that interesting?
    Its logical then that life isnt always logical. It can create insecurity when there can be unknowns and inconsistency. Even every wise quote by the greatest philosophers or old wives tales have exceptions in life. Otherwise, you are only talking about controlled lab experiments or creations essentially. Even thrust that out into the real world and it can be used, manipulated, changed, mutated etc and end up in ways not as it was before or not foreseen or anticipated.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
  11. birch Valued Senior Member

    I find it strange that even the brightest so-called minds cant see that life favors chaos or something else, heck maybe even emotions or appetites etc more than logic.

    The small percent of scientific minds serve the majority to protect and comfort those who do not care about it or develop it themselves through your research and inventions.

    Look and face the truth. The highest paid people with only a few exceptions are "entertainers" or entrepreneurs of "materialism", not scientists, engineers, researchers, doctors or teachers etc. You are not the ones in control and that much is obvious. Think about that not just in relation to the mob of people/society but evolution and the universe at large. An analogy would be like the mob giving some respect and deference to their town priest or doctor because they are needed.

    They ride off your back and do things with your fundamental discoveries and run with it in ways the most logical would not. They arent the most "logical" and they are favored yet you continue to believe the universe is most paramount in logic and obviously it isnt. Just because you "understand" the science and math behind it doesnt mean its logical in the larger scheme. It just really means it is what it is. Wrap your head around that one.

    If logic and truth was so important to this universe, its logical that stupidity such as the spanish inquisition or the many scientists who were burned at the stake for their logic and truth would have never occurred because it would have been 'logically' impossible! But it did. Why? Because power, manipulation, deceit/lies ignorance, idiocy, greed etc are also very big players here too. How 'logical' is that, really? Its quite unfortunate like a candle in a dark room.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
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  12. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Metaphysics deals with internal reality, while science deals with external reality. Each orientation does well in its own area of specialization, but each does not always apply very well, to the other area of specialty.

    Let me give an example, we all sleep and have dreams. This is a scientific fact. Even though a dream is a natural output product of the brain; information output, and everyone has had at least one dream to know dreaming exists, there is no way to reproduce any given dream, in the lab, in all it original details. Dreams, although a data output, is not subject to the same science standards, used for collecting external data like rocks and birds.

    We can find two birds, put them in separate cages, and allow independent scientists to compare these in independent labs. Both teams can use direct real time data to analyze and compare. With dreams, there is no way for two independent researchers to investigate the same exact dream, since you can't do this directly, like with birds. It requires second and third hand data for one of the labs. The analogy is one investigation looks at the birds directly, while the second lab get their report, without any way to verify the data collection on their own. Metaphysical is when internal data, is given an external reality. A second party cannot verify on their own, even if the data did originally exist in a dream or vision.

    If you look at the election cycle in America, how can two groups of people; D and R, infer different things from each candidate? Unlike Science where we all may agree on the data, things of the human mind; subjectivities, adds a wild card.

    Metaphysics is a system of learning and thinking that deals with internal reality. Moral laws; metaphysical or God's law, is about dealing with human nature. All scientists have human nature combined with their own unique subjectivities;,not subject to second party verification.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Metaphysics deals with two things, both of which overlap quite considerably with science: what is there? What is it like?
    The difference with science has nothing to do with internal or external reality, but in scope of the questions it can ask.
    I remember reading once that the answers that science aims to provide are found in their beginning, while those that metaphysics provides are not. By that I mean that if you throw a ball in the air, science can tell you where that ball will land. It is predictable. The answer, the landing point, is contained within the information you already have at the start.
    But questions such as "what exists?" and "does reality exist?" have no such containment.

    It is not a matter of subjectivity, but of the limitation of available knowledge to arrive at an answer.
    It deals with first principles, not just with what springs from any such assumptions.
    Science starts with a few assumptions without which no scientific answers could be provided. Metaphysics deals with those assumptions: e.g. Cause and effect, time and motion, the nature of possibility and necessity, of determinism, even free will etc.

    What you seem to be equating it to is subjectivity. It is not that.
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  14. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Internal reality can be objective to the person who experiences it. However, since this data is not easily assessable, so others can examine it, it is called subjective relative to others, such as scientists. If I like eating fiddleheads in the spring, this preference for flavor is objective to me. I can line up all types of forest greens and blindly taste them to draw the same conclusion, again and again. However, since this food is not for everyone, my preference will also be called subjective, relative to the group. Internal reality can be objective to me, but subjective to others.

    As another example, say I had a dream. Since we have all had dreams and we all know his is real, my dream will be object to me, just as your dreams can be viewed in an objective way by you. I am able to watch and recall that dream, using the same skills, I do inside the lab. With the dreams I am being objective to data from my brain. On the other hand, there is no way for science to reproduce my dream in the lab, so others can observed the same thing. Since others cannot examine this specific dream, in a direct way; reproducible, but only via second and third hand means, it is also called subjective. Even though there are more dream data points, than fossils, dreams are not considered objective science, like are fossils, because science is a group objective, while dreams are individually objective. Science is based on our sensory systems inputting external data into the brain for processing. Internal data uses similar neural wiring but the data starts inside the brain where it is hidden to the outsider.

    Metaphysical things, are things that are thought to exist, but can't be seen in a collective scientific way. The metaphysical has a reality, through internal senses, but not via the external senses used by science. A specific dream or vision fits that category. If I had a vision of an angel, this hallucination may be objective to me, since it impacts me as strongly as something tangible. But it will be considered subjective, to science, since they can only use their external based senses, and not their internal senses for this data. If others have similar internal experiences, they may even call it objective.

    That being said, even scientists have an internal world, and not just the external sensory world they investigate with science. The internal world can overlay their objectivity and/or create projection. The big bang theory is inferred from evidence, but nobody has ever actually seen it happen. This is similar to a dream, in that we knows it exists based on our own experience. The Big Bang is metaphysical, overlaying science. It brings two levels of objectivity together, with one aspect having a subjective side. Man made global warming is a objective-objective-subjective reality.
  15. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    And it is unfortunately clear you're not too sure what it means to be objective and/or subjective. Something is either objective or it is not. If it is objective then it is the same from every perspective. The idea of something being "objective to the person who experiences it" is saying "something is objective... if by objective I mean subjective".
    Your statement, as it stands, is contradictory.

    The rest of your post just continues with your same misconception.
    It's quite possible there's something in what you're trying to say, but you need to find a way of expressing it that does not use existing terminology in the wrong way. At the moment you're basically saying nonsense.
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  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Can it really? It seems to assume an accuracy and speed of measurement that I don't think we are capable of.
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Yet robots can catch balls.

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    But it's somewhat beside the point. Imagine you are shown a video of someone throwing a ball, and you are given only up to the point of launch, but are given the initial velocity and point of release etc. High-school mathematics can give you a damn close approximation of where the ball will land. I.e. Everything needed (assuming no intervention of wind etc) is contained within that initial moment. Everything else just follows.
    Science is all about predicting the future events by understanding the initial conditions and their subsequent interactions. Metaphysics... isn't.

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    It's more concerned, I would say, with the soundness of the most basic underlying assumptions that science et al uses. But metaphysics is a broad church and there are undoubtedly different views of what it entails and encapsulates.
    But it is not, as wellwisher seems to suggest, simply a matter of subjectivity.
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  18. wellwisher Banned Banned


    Objectivity appears when many people can compare something and come to the same conclusion. If we all see the same thing, in different labs, we call this an objective fact.

    If we use internal sensory systems, instead of external sensory systems, it is not clear cut if this is objective or subjective. For example, pain can be different for each person in the group; using the exact same pin prick. But relative to an individual person, their pain threshold might not change if another scientist pricks them with the pin. If we had only one test subject being asked about their pain, they will consistently give the same answer, because they are being internally objective to their own pain. Since we can't crawl into their skin, to see if they are telling the truth or are lying, we call it subjective. In this case, subjectivity is being projected by the scientists, since they cannot be totally objective to what the subject claims, even if the subject is being objective. It is not like measuring the moon, which uses external based senses.

    Theories usually begin in the mind of one person; Relativity and Einstein. Relativity was right, even before there was proof. Proof is needed by the herd, so they can detach from their subjectivity; fears, and become more objective, to what was already objective relative to Einstein. The proof turns the subjectivity of the scientists, into objectivity for the group. Metaphysical exists where there is not yet proof for the herd, but it can nevertheless be objectivity at the level of the creator. Metaphysical reflects two levels of objectivity. Individual objectivity comes first, then group objectivity comes second. These will not always an overlap in the very beginning.

    Some people claim there is an after life. This will be called subjective because there is no scientific proof for the herd. Nevertheless there are others, who will continue to ask if there is any proof of the after life, because they are hoping this can be made objective for the herd. They want to believe and they want to be objective. The solution is they hope the herd will move to objectivity.
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Not in philosophy we don't. One has to distinguish between what is objective and what might simply be a shared subjective viewpoint. The thing about objective things is that they are irrespective of viewpoint, not merely a consensus from people sharing the same viewpoint.
    Even one person's pain is not objective, even to them. Their pain threshold fluctuates with body chemistry, with thoughts, with anticipation of pain. It is not the same from every viewpoint, thus it is not objective.
    This stems from our misunderstanding of the terms of subjective and objective.
    As does this. As well as continuing to be none too clear about what you think metaphysics actually is.

    And the rest seems to be more of the same.
  20. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    No, just because we perceive the objective, external world through our senses, that does not make all sense experience, like pain, objective. When it is not clear cut if something is objective, it is not. The only reason it isn't clear cut is that some degree of potential perceptual bias exists, and this bias is the internal, subjective experience. Even for things we can safely assume to be objective fact, we must have some corroboration from other people to verify that our own perceptions are not subjectively biased. Personal, internal consistency has nothing to do with whether something is objective. You can just as readily have internally consistent paranoid delusions that aliens are beaming thoughts into your head....there's nothing objective about that...and for all the delusional person knows, it comes from the same external world everything else does. Self-reported data, like pain, is never as reliable for scientific purposes as a direct measurement, such as brain activity response. It may be necessary in some cases, but only demonstrates the average response. A single, self-reporting subject is scientifically useless.

    Hypotheses begin in the mind, but theories usually have some basis in evidence. And for every successful one, there are countless more that fail when tested against the objective world. Usually because the unsuccessful hypotheses have failed to take sufficient evidence into account.

    You seem to be conflating philosophical metaphysics with what laymen call metaphysics...which is basically the supernatural. Philosophical metaphysics is not the is the logical argumentation and justification for abstract things like being, existence, knowledge. Everyone intuitively knows these sorts of things exist, and it takes zero agreement for us to know these. But it takes logic to sort out in what way they exist, how they relate, and what justifies our understanding of them. These things are not, themselves, objective, because we know our experience of them does not directly rely on the external world. This is why there are both Objectivist and Subjectivist schools of metaphysical thought, where one assumes an actual external world, and the other only the experience of the mind...for which an actual world may or may not exist.
  21. river

    Is not BB? a metaphysical position ? it is .

    BB is a gravity based theory of our Universe .

    But it can not explain the before the " BB ".

    Hence BB is metaphysical idea .
  22. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    No, obviously.

    The BB is a theory of universal evolution from a hotter denser state.
    GR and Newtonian mechanics are theories of gravity.
    Of course not: According to the BB, there was no before.
    No, as already explained.
  23. birch Valued Senior Member

    Theories have a metaphysical component. Thats why they are theories.

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