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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 14 2013: Hi, Orlando:

    There is nothing wrong with your attitude. There is so much that is still unknown about the nature of life that nobody is in a position to say that he or she has the complete truth, however much people from all different persuasions may like to claim so.

    And that is the point in this discussion. There are people who are convinced that science alone can explain life, even though it has no idea yet what consciousness is or how it may work. And that is why it would be premature to throw metaphysics out just yet, when there is so much that is not definitely known. Metaphysics is an attempt to get a handle on questions that are very important to people: What will become of me when I die? What has happened to my grandma/father/brother/child/(etc.) whom I love dearly, but who is no longer in this world?

    Some people have made contacts with such departed loved ones, through their own dreams or meditations, or through spirit mediums or the like, which are absolutely convincing to them, although perhaps less convincing to onlookers. Those people are able to put aside the deep sense of loss that they may have felt at the time of the person's death. Nobody is in a position to say that those people are wrong or deluded, and nobody is in a position to say, definitely, that they are all factually correct. The people themselves may be certain, and there the certainty ends. But there are people on both sides of the argument who are convinced that they are right, and that it is their duty to shout down anybody who disagrees.

    Science has no idea how consciousness, or life, can have arisen from inert matter. It cannot even begin to say how the inert matter itself came into being in the first place, apart from referring to an inexplicable "Big Bang". So, we resort to metaphysics to try and understand such questions. Whether we do so rightly or wrongly, we cannot definitely say, but it is better to try to understand them than to pretend that such questions do not exist.
    • May 14 2013: we can say that people who've contacted loved ones are wrong and deluded, because such things have been debunked many times; as convinced as they might be that it was real, their recollections break down at some point by conflicting with reality. similarly out of body experiences during surgery have been shown to be imaginary - while many patients get many details right, they are all details which you'd commonly expect to find in an operating theatre, and they always get something wrong like "seeing" 3 nurses when there were only 2, or not seeing the one who had a different colour gown etc.

      i would contend that even if science has no definitive answer, metaphysics definitely can never have one. we might be able to find a metaphysical answer, but it won't be the truth any more than if i asked my cat the answer to something i couldn't work out.
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      May 17 2013: Hi Rodney,

      Yes no one knows where consciousness comes from in the natrual world. This my forevcer be a mystery to us.

      I disagree where science may fail we need to invoke metaphysics. You are correct that there is much existential anxieity that is present when thinking about death and the here after. This is something that may never be answered to us while we are alive but I do not feel the need to postulate a metaphysical afterlife because I do not have the answers.

      I see nothing wrong with asking questions but when it comes to death I can at least admit that I have no clue and I"m fine with that. Realizing that I do not know gives me reason to value this life as much as I possibly can before my time is up. I personally do not believe that people have made contact with their loved ones. I believe that they would like to believe that they did but at the end of the day I am not them,. I do not know what was like to be them in that moment and if someone had such an expereince I would not do anything to take away the belief that they did get in touch with loved ones. I may disagree that they never did get in touch but at the end of the day its just a belief, not a fact.

      It is such conclusions derived from these metaphysical questions that I have a problem with. Instead of admitting we do not know, we invoke something else because we seek solace.
      • May 18 2013: well said. just because science doesn't yet have an answer to something doesn't mean that therefore metaphysics has anything at all to offer besides supposition and imagination.
        • May 18 2013: Actuallly, there is a lot of evidence to support metaphysical ideas. It is a myth, loudly promulgated by skeptics, that there is no evidence. But there is a lot of evidence. Do an online search for 'reincarnation evidence" or "afterlife evidence", or anything similar, and you will find some of it. Victor Zammit (easily discoverable online) has published a good summary of the evidence available, and offered a million dollar reward to anybody who can disprove that evidence. Unlike James Randi's much ballyhooed but illusory million dollar offer, Zammit has actually produced the money, and is willing to have a final decision decided by an independent arbiter. So far, nobody has been willing even to try for it. The evidence is too strong.
      • May 18 2013: there's a lot of circumstantial, cherry-picked evidence for sure, nothing reproducible, ie no evidence at all. if there really is some, please include it in your reply rather than simply declaring that anyone who searches for it will find irrefutable proof.

        in what way is randi's offer illusory?

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