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Abbr. met., metaph.
1.(used with a sing. verb). Philosophy. The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.
2.(used with a pl. verb). The theoretical or first principles of a particular discipline: the metaphysics of law.
3.(used with a sing. verb). A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.
4.(used with a sing. verb). Excessively subtle or recondite reasoning.
[Pl. of Middle English methaphisik, from Medieval Latin metaphysica, from Medieval Greek (ta) metaphusika, Greek (Ta) meta (ta) phusika, (the things) after the physics, the title of Aristotle's treatise on first principles (so called because it followed his work on physics) : meta, after. meta- + phusika, physics. physics.]
1.a. Metaphysics. b. A system of metaphysics.
2.An underlying philosophical or theoretical principle: a belief in luck, the metaphysic of the gambler.
[Middle English methaphisik, metaphisik.]
1.Of or relating to metaphysics.
2.Based on speculative or abstract reasoning.
3.Highly abstract or theoretical; abstruse.
4.a. Immaterial; incorporeal. synonyms at immaterial. b. Supernatural.
5.Often Metaphysical . Of or relating to the poetry of a group of 17th-century English poets whose verse is characterized by an intellectually challenging style and extended metaphors comparing very dissimilar things.
[Middle English metaphisicalle, from Medieval Latin
metaphysicâlis, from metaphysica, metaphysics. See metaphysics.]
- met´aphys´ically adverb
Metaphysics, branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of ultimate reality. Metaphysics is customarily divided into ontology, which deals with the question of how many fundamentally distinct sorts of entities compose the universe, and metaphysics proper, which is concerned with describing the most general traits of reality.
The subjects treated in Metaphysics by Greek philosopher Aristotle (substance, causality, the nature of being, and the existence of god) fixed the content of metaphysical speculation for centuries. Thirteenth-century Scholastic philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas declared that the knowing of god was the aim of metaphysics. The central figure in metaphysics, however, was 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Before Kant, metaphysics was characterized by a rationalistic method of inquiry based on a priori principles- that is, knowledge derived from reason alone. This method may be subdivided into monism, the belief that the universe is made up of one fundamental substance; dualism, the belief in two such substances; and pluralism, the belief in many fundamental substances.
The monists, agreeing that only one basic substance exists, differ in their descriptions of its principal characteristics. In idealistic monism the substance is believed to be purely mental; in materialistic monism it is held to be purely physical; and in neutral monism it is considered neither exclusively mental nor physical. The most famous dualist was French philosopher René Descartes, who maintained that body and mind, radically different entities, are the only fundamental substances in the universe. German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a prominent pluralist.
The type of metaphysics that asserts that knowledge of reality is obtained not from a priori principles but from experience is called empiricism. Another school of philosophy maintains that, although an ultimate reality does exist, it is altogether inaccessible to human knowledge. This view is known as skepticism or agnosticism with respect to the reality of god.
Kant combined several major metaphysical viewpoints, developing a distinctive critical philosophy called transcendentalism. His philosophy is agnostic in denying the possibility of a strict knowledge of ultimate reality, empirical in affirming that all knowledge arises from experience, and rationalistic in maintaining the a priori character of the structural principles of empirical knowledge. Kant sought to reconcile science and religion in a world of two levels, comprising noumena, objects conceived by reason although not perceived by the senses; and phenomena, things that appear to the senses and are accessible to material study. He maintained that because god, freedom, and human immortality are noumenal realities, these concepts are understood through moral faith rather than through scientific knowledge.
Some of Kant's most distinguished followers, including German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, developed an absolute idealism in opposition to Kant's critical transcendentalism. Notable among later metaphysical theories are radical empiricism, or pragmatism, adapted as instrumentalism by American philosopher John Dewey; voluntarism; phenomenalism; emergent evolution, or creative evolution; and the philosophy of the organism.
In the 20th century the validity
of metaphysical thinking has been disputed by logical positivists, who
assert that expressions that cannot be tested empirically have no factual
cognitive meaning, and by Marxist dialectical materialism, which asserts
that the mind is conditioned by and reflects material reality. Therefore,
speculations that conceive of constructs of the mind as having any other
than material reality are themselves unreal. Existentialist philosophers
have contended in turn that the questions of the nature of being and of
the individual's relationship to it are extremely important and meaningful
in terms of human life; therefore these questions are considered valid
whether or not their responses can be verified objectively.
In the American metaphysic,
reality is always material reality, hard, resistant, unformed, impenetrable,
Lionel Trilling (1905-75), U.S. critic. The Liberal Imagination, "Reality in America" (1950).
To regard the imagination
as metaphysics is to think of it as part of life, and to think of it as
part of life is to realize the extent of artifice. We live in the mind.
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. The Necessary Angel, "Imagination as Value" (1949; repr. 1951).
The physics of information ultimately leads people into deeper questions, including the one raised originally - about eschatology or the fate of the universe. Some physicists suggest the universe has only two possible fates available to it, depending on the curvature constant of spacetime: continual expansion, in which case it will spread out into entropic heat death; or recollapse, into the Big Stop, which might possibly be the seed of a succeeding Big Bang. But this pondering of the fate of the universe doesn't take into account a third possibility. Some physicists like Frank Tipler suggest that at the last possible moment, all conscious life with unite into one "Omega Point" supermind, and place the cosmos under its control, annulling heat death. This viewpoint is the inverse of Deism, essentially postulating the Creator at the end of time rather than at the beginning.
Tipler's assumption is that
various negentropic processes
are actually driving the universe toward improbability - in this case,
the most improbable thing imaginable, a Universal Mind. But one can take
a sort of "weak" position with regard to Tiplerian theory, and merely
state that the universe is becoming more and more self-aware (through the
sense organisms of conscious life), and, as a result, a more self-organizing
system, reducing its own entropy. (Whether it ever becomes totally self-aware
can be left to the mystics.) That is to say, the universe isn't a box which
requires a Maxwellian
demon roaming about. The box is the demon, becoming more and more aware
of what's inside of it, and also what's outside.
- _Aimless Wandering: Chuang Tzu's Chaos
Linguistics_ by Hakim
Bey from Fringeware