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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 17 2013: Philosophy and metaphysics have a place in the world.
    You may want to consider:
    1. Science also makes metaphysical claims about the universe.
    2. Metaphysics is useful to draw inferences from experimental evidence.
    3. Many scientific studies are setup to test theories which take root in the metaphysical, theories based on abstract maths, for example.
    4. Individuals living in poverty are reflective. They have utility for metaphysics since it is possible they understand their thoughts, feelings and derive meaning about themselves, their lives and their place in the world through metaphysics.
    5. I don't agree with :
    "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." because this is presumptuous
    and
    "we often forget that its a privilege to be able to do so. Nor are these concerns on everyone’s mind."
    because your understanding of meditation seems to be confused and because many meditators embrace poverty and seemed unhindered by their lack of privileges.
    5. The nature of all experience is subjective. So the metaphysical seems unavoidable.
    6. Metaphysics is not confined to the philosophies you study in the classroom a lot of it is about how we feel too.
    7. Lastly, metaphysics is not about conclusions, it is about debate and possibility.

    So let metaphysics be!
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      May 18 2013: Hi Umaind.
      1. Yes, depending on the context but most of their conclusions are not metaphysical (in the sense of some unknown spiritual reality).
      2 maybe
      3. yes
      4 and 5.I would say this is more existential than metaphysical but I'm in no position to play semantics so you can judege that statement how you want. Secondly let me place into context what I intended to say. My professor makes the assertion that by through meditation we can understand the true harmonious nature of the universe. While this may be a true claim philosophically I really do not think this goes thorough the minds individuals. In the eastern part of the world yes because the cultural climate is different. But being an individualwho has been homeless and in poverty and have seen others go into poverty the last thing that was on our minds was meditation, free-will, interconnectedness, and trying to understand ultimate reality. I can't speak for everyone but I have yet to see someone in their most desperate moment who was looking for food and shelter seek out meditation or even think about it as a possible remedy. Are there exceptions to this claim perhaps. This is why I say its a privilge. Being in the right circumstances does play a big role in having certain opportunites. You are right that eastern contemplatives embrace poverity due to impermence of materail objects.
      5. Yes subjectivty is all that can possibly matter but that does not negate the external world.
      6. Regarding my classroom i was refering more to metaphysical conclusions, which i think play no part in the natural world.
      7.. I agree but that's not what my professor believe.
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        May 20 2013: First, as theoretical physicists have developed Quantum Mechanics, String theory, and M-theory, they seem to have reached the point where the basic paradigms of the Universe itself break down. The theories have been tested in multiple settings, and at many levels they are NOT just theories any longer, they are accepted as scientific fact. But the break-down part is troubling in a metaphysical sense. Look at the famous metaphor of Schrodinger's Cat. That rather klunky metaphor tries to illustrate the limits of our ability to measure and even understand the Universe itself. The questions the physicists have to ask are strongly analogous to the questions asked formerly by metaphysicians. More than Cosmology, the focus reaches into both the smallest and largest things in the universe. Supermassive Black Holes seem to obey the same set of weird rules as Quarks, Leptons, Mesons and whatever else they come up with in the strange world of the sub-atomic.

        This is NOT just metaphysical imagination at work. This is measured and reproducible science. As a last example, your TomTom or Garmin GPS system would not work and could not work without E=MC^2. Web sites could not be encrypted without irrational numbers. And computers cannot work w/o some major mathematical number crunching. But all of that, it seems to me, started out with questions that come in two parts. In one hand you have data and science. In the other you have metaphysics. And you can't really begin to approach the science w/o a willingness to approach the basic questions of metaphysics all over again.
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        May 21 2013: I apologize, but something seems to be missing here. I would encourage anyone anywhere to meditate. I see meditation as being a means of increasing the efficiency of the mind. You have to quiet what Neuro-scientists call the "Reptile Brain." The biologic term: "Reptile Brain" is a common metaphor for the most primitive areas of the human brain, where the most primitive and fundamental processes occur. It is the "Reptile Brain" that makes us breathe and eat and sleep. And, anatomically, that portion of the human brain looks much like the primitive brain found inside reptiles. That's lizards and turtles. At a deep level, their brains are much like ours. And that similarity is suggestive of where violence comes from.
        Aggression, territoriality, sex and the rest are deeply rooted in the "Reptile Brain." The Reptile Brain is seen as the source of all this. Meditation acts much like medication. Meditation quiets the inner mind effectively. And it happens voluntarily. Meditation is much preferable to medication.
        The higher centers of the brain establish rhythms that put the Reptile Brain asleep in some sense. These rhythms are measurable and valid. And the usefulness of meditation in living a successful life seems to be subject now to scientific proof. Someday soon, I am sure that this will be the subject of a TED talk. I hope to see it when it happens.
    • May 20 2013: 1. If Science can make metaphysical claims about the universe then there is indeed no need for metaphysical speculation. People are talking as if its the sad demise of metaphysics but rather its the transition from METAPHYSICAL speculation to concrete SCIENCE (Concrete only on basis of all known observations).
      2. If experimental evidence suggest some entity we read in a metaphysics text, we might commit an error of pre conceiving or assuming all other properties about it n thus be biased. Isn't inferencing better after experimenting to remove Bias?
      3. I am reading metaphysics because of the fact that Science took root in them, that does not imply that we shall haphazardly keep sprinkling seeds of metaphysics in the soil when we can systematically create science when the time is needed. We already have quite a mess with consciousness in Biology, Quantum Mechanical Interpretation in Physics, etc. Speculate only that which can be tested now because by the time we end up with technology that will be able to test extraordinary metaphysical claims, the science of that time will be asking those questions as they speculate what can be tested then anyways.
      4.Science can deliver the same that metaphysics can in this case.
      5. Same as Orlando's reply
      7. Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with EXPLAINING the fundamental nature of being and the world- as stated by wikipedia.
      • May 25 2013: Hi Rohan and Orlando,
        Thanks for your replies.
        1. If science makes metaphysical claims about the universe then it is making metaphysical speculations based on different epistemic principles. So in effect I think you have argued there is a place for metaphysics even if you call it something else.
        2. This is indeed how science proceeds. However some scientific theory especially in the realm of consciousness and neuroscience seem to rely on metaphysical or anti-metaphysical frameworks to draw conclusions. Metaphysics is comprised of both.
        3. a) Metaphysical problems are old, were approached logically and are still unresolved, the seeds were sprinkled a long time ago.
        b) Quantum physics and consciousness are messy because that is the very nature of these problems!
        c)Ex. there is little you can observe about another person's conscious state. Does this mean you should treat them as unconscious beings or not attempt to find out more about their conscious state, since there is no measure for consciousness?
        4. @ orlando, I see what you mean here. But the point was to keep away from sweeping generalizations.
        @ Rohan, I fail to see how science delivers the same thing here, please elaborate.
        5. In my statement I don't disregard the external world. However every rendering of it is subjective. So metaphysics seems to be unavoidable. I..e to say there is a place for naturalism and metaphysics in this world, even if they are some times projected to be incompatible with each other.
        6. Rohan, here is a better sourcehttp: //plato.stanford.edu/entries/metaphysics/
        Further more I think you completely missed what I was trying to say. A metaphysical conclusion is reached through rigorous reasoning which is what makes it interesting.
        Lastly, there is a great uneasiness between the inner and outer world, and metaphysics is about understanding the relationship between the two. This is not a physical problem!
        So, please let metaphysics be!

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