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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: Metaphysics allows us to to guess what's there in a darkened room.

    Philosophy allows us to use our senses to feel our way around that room, and to see a little more clearly, once our eyes get more used to the dark.

    Science switches the lights on.

    All are of vital importance if we are to continue exploring.
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      May 11 2013: HI Allan,

      that is very compelling. I like that...thanks for your response. I like your analogy and I agree about science switching the lights on.

      what I'm concerned about is people using metaphysics not only to guess whats there in the dark room but never turning the lights on in the first place and telling others they know whats in the room, while the room is still dark.

      the process you mentioned I'm honest enough to admit that I agree with it. But once the lights are on, I can't see how you can still accept a metaphysical conclusion, especially if we know what's already in the room.
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        May 11 2013: Hi Orlando,

        I don't think the metaphysical can ever be a conclusive thing, because it seems to me to be placed at the initial stages in the hierarchy of thought that leads, via intuition, through to what we like to call certainty. However, there may be exceptions:

        The way I see it is that 'certainty' is unstable. To stick with the lit room analogy, it's almost as though the lit room is forever expanding and/or changing shape, and the bulb we switched on initially is no longer bright enough to light the whole of it any more. We then have to feel our way around again as philosophers - or even as metaphysicians if it is beyond experience - to try and find more light switches.

        It's like a constant conveyor belt of intuition/possibility/probability/certainty - forever changing, and with the constant need for re-referral back to metaphysical/philosophical origins in order to ascertain the elusive holy grail of certainty.
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          May 17 2013: Hi Allan,

          I think I understand what your saying now. Even these questions that we may call scienitifc, are at first philosophical or metaphysical questions
      • May 12 2013: Orlando,
        I agree about people not being honest enough to say they don't know. Knowledge is classically defined as justified true belief...and the way science is going, it seems what is uncovered in our universe is in flux constantly. In metaphysics, there are probably fewer things being "discovered" these days. The thing that sticks in my craw is that science, while it works well to refine the explanation of how something is done, it can never answer whether something ought to be done. Science never illuminates the "ought", "why", and "transcendence" questions, just the material questions. And the most pressing need of our society is for the former questions to be illuminated. Metaphysics is an important part of this enlightenment.
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          May 17 2013: Hi John,

          I do agree that science is not capable of answering every question. I somewhat disagree that science cannot answer the "ought" or "why" questions (or even the transcendental ones).

          The reason why I think this is because I belive that there is no clear boarder between "good" philosophy and science. For me good philospohy is reasonable and values evidence in spite of how grotesque the truth may be. Nietzsche did show a bit of concern about our pursuit for truth. He wondered if it would be psychologically daming if we concered ourselves with truth for the sake of value. Personally I believe that most scienfitic facts or theories have philosophical explanations.

          Your right that the world is constantly in flux. You see this in science when a theory is taken off the table or modified because we know more or when something new is discovered.

          I hope you don't take my response as science is able to answer our most important existential questions. I do not believe that is the purpose of science. The main issue I have is when there are scientific questions that can only be answered by science (or the best answer is scientific) and yet philosophers and theologains claim that the answer is metaphysical. Here is an example:

          Assume you wanted to expalin how the Mt. Baldy mountisns in california shifted from north and south to east and west. There are many naturalistic explianations to this question. You can talk about the tatonic plates, you can talk about the san andreas falt, etc. Many natural scientists can explain why. Now one of my professors who likes to invoke quantum mechanics would assert that there could be no shift because ultimatly the mountains are non-physical and therefore there could be no naturalistic explaination. It is this sort of philosophy that I have an issue with. one's that are not honest in face of the evidence.
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        May 14 2013: Please see my posts above on this subject. There IS an answer. But it is more Scientific than not!
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        May 14 2013: I am privileged to quote YOU here, Mr. Hawkins: (and please forgive my 'schoolmaster' voice -- this is a feeble attempt at both humor and irony . . . :)

        " . . . what I'm concerned about is people using metaphysics not only to guess whats there in the dark room but never turning the lights on in the first place and telling others they know whats in the room, while the room is still dark . . . . But once the lights are on, I can't see how you can still accept a metaphysical conclusion, especially if we know what's already in the room." I agree completely. Specifically, Sam Harris talks about that in his TEDtalk. I had to figure out how Dr. Harris could list himself as both a neuroscientist and a philosopher. Answer: he got educated in both.

        I very much fear that while YOU are asking all the right questions, you are NOT getting the right answers by any means. If your goal is to study Philosophy, I'd seriously consider going to a different school or University. Sam Harris is easy to respect because he admits up front that people can disagree. What's more, he accepts the idea that even religious people can disagree on critical, dogmatic RELIGIOUS issues and not get heartburn over it. But clearly, the only thing he will NOT tolerate is shabby or lazy or superstitious THINKING. Things MUST be logical, and reasonable. And we have to be committed to learn. I can tell that you are a serious student. Your answers are thoughtful and insightful. You questions, equally so. No respected PHILOSOPHER who earned a PhD in their discipline would leave you "dangling" on this issue as they have. I agree with YOU and not with the people you are complaining about. YOU have the point worth defending here. More below.
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          May 17 2013: Hi Jaun

          Thanks for your comments. Yes I am a serious philosophy students. I'm constantly trying to learn more and more.

          One of the main issues that I have is when peopel ask me what my major is. When I tell them that I'm a philosophy major the most common response I recieve is, "philosophy huh? what can you possibliy do with a philosophy degree?".

          The more I explore the reasons as to why people believe that philosophy has no value, the more I realize that they don't believe it serves a practical purpose (at least in the western world. The focus is always about business, politics or anything else to do with money).

          I too do not tolerate superstiious thinking. I understand the reason's as to why people do but I really don't believe its going to help people. Sam Harris is great because he's an honest person and is willing to admit both the good and the bad. What he belives to be true and what he believes to be false.

          I noticed its my class that usually has to deal with metaphysical issues that pertubs people the most because of the claims that my professors say about reality. Its not that I think metaphysics is false, it more that I belive its unverfiable and those who are capable of giving it some credence do so by the virtue of having the opportunity to do so, which most people do not have for x,y and Z reasons. I just want to make philosophy asscessble to everyone so they can see how much of a suitable purpose it has

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