Philosophy of Metaphysics

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Overview

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the 'biggest questions'. Its primary question is "What exists? And what is it like?"

From this question, branch questions such as: What is it like to exist/not exist? What is time? Do humans have free will?

Metaphysics is notoriously difficult to define, but for purposes of briefly introducing it, it can be identified as the study of any of the most fundamental concepts and beliefs about the basic nature of reality, on which many other concepts and beliefs rest—concepts such as being, existence, universal, property, relation, causation, space, time, event, and many others.

Part of the trouble with defining metaphysics lies in how much the field has changed since it was first given its name by Aristotle's editors centuries ago (see below). Problems that were not originally considered metaphysical have been added to metaphysics. Other problems that were considered metaphysical problems for centuries are now typically relegated to their own separate subheadings in philosophy, such as philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, philosophy of perception, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science. It would require quite a long time to state all the problems that have, at one time or another, been considered part of metaphysics.

What might be called the core metaphysical problems would be the ones which have always been considered metaphysical and which have never been considered not metaphysical. What most of such problems have in common is that they are the problems of ontology, "the science of being".

Other philosophical traditions have very different conceptions of the metaphysical problems from those in the Western philosophical tradition; for example, Taoism and indeed, much of Eastern philosophy completely reject many of the most basic tenets of Aristotelian metaphysics, principles which have by now become almost completely internalized and beyond question in Western philosophy, though a number of dissidents from Aristotelian metaphysics have emerged in the west, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Science of Logic.

Causation

Humes causation: Hume said that when we see a brick hit a window, and then the window breaking, we believe that the brick has broken the window. Hume, however, splits the window breaking into two seperate events, and then asks why we believe they are linked: 1. The brick hits the window 2. The window breaks He said that is is because of habit (ie everytime a brick hits a window hard, the window breaks) that we believe that the brick has broken the window. Hume said that causal relations cannot be known a priori, and that they aren't neccessary.

Time

"What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not" St. Augustine


Time is generally thought of in two different ways:

  • 1 The present, past and future
  • 2 The earlier, later and simultaneous

McTaggart's Unreality of Time: The beggining of World War I was at one point an event in the future, at a different point an event in the present and at yet another point an event in the past. Change is essential to time, and vice versa, hence they both require each other.

Philosophers

Hume said that when we see a brick hit a window, and then the window breaking, we believe that the brick has broken the window. Hume, however, splits the window breaking into two seperate events, and then asks why we believe they are linked: 1. The brick hits the window 2. The window breaks He said that is is because of habit (ie everytime a brick hits a window hard, the window breaks) that we believe that the brick has broken the window. Hume said that causal relations cannot be known a priori, and that they aren't neccessary.

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