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Orlando Hawkins

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Is it time for philosophy to do away with metaphysics?

I love philosophy but one of the main issues that I hear about it is that its impractical and serves no suitable purpose to the world. Although I believe this claim to be somewhat false I understand the point that is being made from those who criticize it.

Philosophy is capable of being pragmatic but the reason why it appears as though its not is because it deals too much with the abstract and concerns itself with metaphysics. If you want a real brain teaser metaphysical talk is the way to go but metaphysics really serves no purpose to the world. For a family who constantly have to work to feed their children and provide an education, contemplating the nature of reality or postulating weather or not consciousness exists outside the brain is probably not going to help the situation. One of my professors say that if we sit in meditation, we’ll understand the true harmonious nature and interconnectedness of the universe. We will understand how to act in each moment (similar to what Taoist believe). He may be right but we often forget that its a privilege to be able to do so. Nor are these concerns on everyone’s mind.

The philosophy department at my school is great but it is too indulged in metaphysics. From an epistomological standpoint this is problematic because most of the claims that are made is either in conflict with the way the natural world really is (scientific discoveries) and they are essentially not able to be proved which means we should not waste our time with such claims. When it comes to epistemology, I think this is where philosophy could utilize the methodology of science.

I"m a philosopher at heart but it concerns me that philosophy would lose it value if it cannot indulge in more empiricism and naturalism when making claims about the way the world is.

are we so concerned with value to the point that we'll negate truth? is science capable of establishing values?

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    May 10 2013: Saying "metaphysics" means so many different things. The word is very inclusive. Are you saying we should focus only on hard science? We should not concern ourselves with anything outside of what science attempts to prove?

    I think you may want to reconsider.
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      May 11 2013: HI Henry,

      you are right about metaphysics being a very open-ended word but I'm simply talking about the nature of reality and the metaphysical conclusions derived from it.

      There is nothing wrong with questioning the nature of reality. What would philosophy be without questions?..In regards to the natural world and claims regarding the universe I don't think metaphysics has any value. I have professors who claim that the creation of the universe is consciousness. While this may be a possibility I don't think its likely and sure doesn't scale with what science (at least up to date) has found. If it is one day proven that consciousness is the source of everything then I will change my mind.

      I think scientific questions should be left to science. Will there be overlap between other disciples like philosophy and religion? absolutely and when it comes to that the implications can be discussed there.

      Also I'm not saying we should focus on hard science. I'm saying we should focus on the actual evidence. Not because we may lose value but because that is actually the way things are. I think there are many ways outside of science to do that such as philosophy.

      I will gladly reconsider my point when I'm convinced that metaphysics (i.e. studying the nature of reality) can have a suitable purpose. If conclusions derived from it can scale with the actual evidence (be it scientific or not).

      I took a class called power and oppression. Very interesting class and the approach by the professor was eastern mysticism. It was great. He mentioned that through meditation, we can understand the true harmony of the universe. How we should act in every moment. While I would love to explore that personally, I know many people do not have the time in there everyday lives to be able to do that due to work, school, family, etc. Contemplating such a reality would seem impractical in the real word.

      I'm happy to be wrong in what I say but how can metaphysics be employed pragmatically?
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        May 11 2013: You don't believe studying the nature of reality serves a purpose until we can measure our conclusions with actual evidence? How can we obtain evidence of anything unless we study it?
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          May 11 2013: Great question, I'll try to address it the best I can,

          Most of our lives, when people make claims about things we look for good reason and evidence. As I mentioned before, I don't think there is anything wrong with questioning. The act questioning is not what I have a problem with.

          exploring these questions in more detail is a great thing and of course there are a multiplicity of ways of doing so (philosophy, science, religion, politics, etc)

          The issue I have is the conclusions that are derived from these questions. Some of them seem insufficient from what the world actually is like (then again who knows what true nature of reality is?)

          As for you first question "You don't believe studying the nature of reality serves a purpose until we can measure our conclusions with actual evidence?"

          I don't think so in the sense of what goes in the world everyday. There are people who enjoy exploring these issues.. They enjoy the thrill of trying to understand what is real and what is not. or what is the true nature of their being...

          I really believe that people look for good reasons and evidence for claims such as what everyone is doing in this post. The burden of proof is on me justify why I think metaphysics serves no purpose to philosophy or the world and everyone who responds will want me to provide a good reason (or evidence if necessary) as to why and everyone will outright tell me if I'm wrong, which I"m ok with.

          So once again, I'm not trying to do away with questioning. Questioning is good. philosophy is a good tool of doing so...but I just think the conclusions that are derived should scale with the way things are or we can be honest enough to admit that we don't know as opposed to making insufficient claims (as I think my professors have done) or even myself in this particular post. If I am proven wrong and convinced that metaphysics in the way we are discussing it is valuable then so be it. I have learned something new.
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        May 11 2013: What part of your philosophy class do you disagree with. Can you give me an example of something they tried to teach you that is in conflict with science?
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          May 11 2013: oh yeah absolutely...

          I was told that the origins of the universe is nothing. which he mentioned as not-a-thing. Something that is non-physical..to spare you details he was stating that consciousness is what gives rise to the physical world...I acknowledge that his claims is very eastern and I acknowledge that it is possible that he's right but I just don't think its correct based off what modern astronomers and astrophysics say (although some invoke quantum mechanics and relate subatomic particles to consciousness).

          a couple of them also state that you can meditate your way into free-will. I am not purposing that determinism is true for I do not know but I hear that there is evidence to suggest that it might be although it may not be conclusive. He maybe right about meditation and obviously its difficult, if not impossible to approach subjective matters in an objective way.

          Another issue is consciousness. Most of my professors believe that consciousness is independent of the brain and that all of our experiences are interdependent of the brain. Now although there is no evidence of consciousness in the natural world, there is reason and some evidence to suggest that there is a relationship to our experiences (if we link consciousness to experience) and our brains. When I present why I challenge the notion that consciousness may not be independent of the brain I'm told that I'm just deluded by my western thinking. Personally I'm open minded to consciousness being independent of the brain but I don't find it compelling.

          Last but not least I asked him what happens if im 30yrs old, in great health and I reach enlightenment and go into nirvana. He stated that I just wither away. I understand the notion of the non self but I assure you that was not the response he gave me. He said I would no longer exist on this planet.

          Perhaps I can't let my professors dictate the purpose of metaphysics but its hard not to when they have Ph. D's. sorry for the long response.
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        May 14 2013: Wow . . . this is good! But on Second reading (3 days late) I have to repeat ALL of my other concerns. You have a LOONEY for a professor. I had one of those once. And spending too much time with a nutty-professor can destroy your academic career. I found that out the hard way. And this guy was so respected that he was able to destroy ALL of my academic opportunities otherwise! It isn't worth the risk.

        I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology. There are no professionals in Psychology, Psychiatry, or Neuroscience who believe that Consciousness is independent of the brain! In fact all the empirical evidence from PET scans suggests that there is good evidence for consciousness inside the brain and also evidence for meditative states. All that from INSIDE the BRAIN! If the Professor of Philosophy are ignorant of both Physics, and Psychology as parallel and valid disciplines; and if they are likewise clue-less as to the fact that those academic findings are already entering the public consciousness, then let them all be damned!

        Are they teaching Eastern Metaphysics or Western Metaphysics? Have they told you which one? And the idea that . . . I'm too angry to think about it! Mr. Hawkins! If you have the courage of your own convictions, and if you can afford to believe in yourself, do it! YOU are NOT the delusional one! Not at all! You do NOT need these people. They are cheating you out of the education you deserve. There is not one major, reputable University on Earth that would tolerate the drivel you are having to endure. Do these people send either you or your parents TUITION bills? If so, someone is being cheated!

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