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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 11 2013: Hi Orlando, I have a bit of a problem with your situation.

    First I think it great to learn about the history and development of philosophical thought, even the metaphysical streams, Eastern, Greek, on so on through history etc. There is long history of mysticism mixed with reason and occasionally evidence. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. Atomists looking for mechanistic explanations - perhaps proto materialists. Pythagorus with his taboos against picking up what has been dropped. Others having "self evident" premises of Olympian gods, Bacchus, or one God that is justice, that war is sacred, whatever they happen to believe. Then the sophists with their skepticism etc

    Also no issue with your teachers having a view and debating or discussing it. Debates on mind/brain/consciousness/life/reality etc are some of the most interesting.But I think they should be teaching you about ways of thinking, what others have thought, and how, not what to think.

    I find it odd that they seem certain of the their metaphysical claims when there is no evidence. At best they should realise they are speculative, not proven.

    Personally, I lean towards science and evidence being important foundations on which to philosophize on meaning, reality, etc. To ignore it is to go down speculative rabbit holes. The best approach is for science, evidence, observation ideally should inform philiosphy.

    Also no issue playing around with metaphysics, but without evidence they are merely speculative and the leaps of inductive or deductive reasoning are often flawed or speculative and should be assessed as such. We probably never know the absolute truth. We wouldn't know if we had it. But we can have better approximations of it if evidence based.
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      May 11 2013: Hi Obey,

      I'm glad you have a problem with my situation because I have the same problem but I'll address your response the best I can

      I have no issue with my teachers debating or discussing their metaphysical beliefs. As I mentioned in other post, I do find it very interesting and very benevolent. I would take there responses over many response from evangelicals. I still dont' agree with their metaphysical conclusions though and yes they shouldn't teach me what to think but honestly thats what they are trying to do. One of my philosophical buddies is transferring schools for the simple fact that he does not feel like he fits in and that our professors hold a bias against him (well one of the professors, who happens to teach the majority of philosophy courses).

      but yes, I do find mind/brain/consciousness/life/reality/etc very interesting for discussion. many of those are my favorite topics to talk about...

      I don't want to give a bad reputation to my professors because they are great and kind and they do respect me but I have received text messages and email from one of them stating that I'm deluded by my western thinking and I put too much faith in science, which I find disturbing. And yes I do find it odd that they are certain about their metaphysical claims but its honestly because they place value and meaning over truth, which I just don't agree with personally.

      you mentioned "Personally, I lean towards science and evidence being important foundations on which to philosophize on meaning, reality, etc. To ignore it is to go down speculative rabbit holes. The best approach is for science, evidence, observation ideally should inform philiosphy."

      That is honestly where I stand and is the purpose of my post...I think such an approach will only enhance philosophy, not diminish it...as I mentioned numerous times in this thread, questioning is ok, I have no problem with that but the conclusions we develop should scale with the way things really are.
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        May 11 2013: I think you have reasons to be alarmed. It appears more indoctrination to me than teaching if anyone, with full respect to your professors, tries to tell you what to think.
        I am in agreement with Obey. I shall invite you to check my reply to Everett Hill's comment in another discussion thread here
        http://www.ted.com/conversations/18232/for_non_us_tedizens_can_you.html?c=666724
        Just consider the last 5 words of your above post. It reopens another debate. The way things are are different for different people.
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          May 11 2013: Hi Pabirta,

          Thanks for the link. That's the exact concern that I have in regards to metaphysics. I agree with both you and Obey

          I think the last paragraph I can start up another debate for that.
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          May 12 2013: Hi PM, OH,

          I agree, seems like inappropriate indoctrination.

          Although others would argue that science (or math) is indoctrination. I hope most can see the distinction between science and metaphysics.

          With metaphysics, without evidence or sound reasoning, you can have many positions that are equally with or without merit e.g. all the different supernatural belief systems.

          As stated I find meaning based on the foundation of what I consider we best know about reality. Because I personally value truth not based on speculation and intuition.

          That doesn't close the door on amazing new understandings, but does not accept them until they are reasonably proven, depending on the claim.

          Others value more speculative beliefs. Fine, but if they want to assert their beliefs in the metaphysical, then we can debate and discuss the merits of such.

          ALthough I would be concerned about the impact on your grades if you don't toe the line or are too outspoken or they feel disrespected. I may believe astrology and religion is mostly bunk, but the people are often smarter, wiser and kinder than me. Still even when you argue against ideas, people take it personally.

          Other times people lack critical thinking in regards to this one sphere or life in general.

          One other point. These teachers have spent years more thinking about these things, so it is a good opportunity to explore and test their ideas.

          Finally, I remember having a different view to some of the history we were taught at school. I learnt what they wanted, passed the exams, but still disagreed. Same with Sunday School etc. Good thinking processes can protect you from bunk.
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        May 14 2013: Hey Orlando, I just read your post above, here, and I've got to put all my cute "Pontificating" aside. I find it not only disturbing, but outrageous that you are paying for an education that does NOT seem to be giving you the tools to separate the reality of proven science from valid, logical, & authoritative Metaphysical thought. Metaphysics is a branch of Philosophy. And the academic discipline of Philosophy is respected. Philosophy is respected as a discipline because it strives to be reasoned, logical, purposeful, and disciplined in an authoritative and historical sense.
        Now, in common speech (non-academic language) Metaphysics is seen as being synonymous with Halloween science. That means witchcraft, alchemy, astrology, and potion-making. Self-Proclaimed Experts in "Metaphysics" promote channeling the dead, visions of Atlantis, Chariots of the Gods, Ancient Astronauts, Lost Civilizations, UFO's, and Nonia Juice for all that ails you. Really! Nonia Jucice cures Cancer! Just read the testimonials! (I say with great sarcasm and derision!)
        There is a historic, Metaphysical thread in Philosophy that remains valid. Especially with all these brilliant Physicists doing their "String Theory." They are STILL asking the SAME Metaphysical questions that Aristotle and Plato asked over 2500 years ago. What's more, their experimental measurements and their mathematical equations used to explain their results -- are giving ANSWERS. Those theoretical physicists are having a tough time getting to the point. They know the math, but they cannot translate it into ENGLISH (or any other language) without spewing out what sounds like a lot of science-fiction drivel! These are brilliant men, but occasionally they sound stupid. Yeah, I know far less than they do about their fields. Occasionally, I feel I hear them trying to repeat a metaphysical argument first made in year 1622 . . . but botching it badly.

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