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Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter , between substance and attribute , and between potentiality and actuality.
Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are.
Metaphysics seeks to answer, in an abstract and fully general manner, the questions: . Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence , objects and their properties , space and time , cause and effect , and possibility. Metaphysics is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with epistemology , logic , and ethics. Metaphysical study is conducted using deduction from that which is known a priori.
Like foundational mathematics which is sometimes considered a special case of metaphysics applied to the existence of number , it tries to give a coherent account of the structure of the world, capable of explaining our everyday and scientific perception of the world, and being free from contradictions.
In mathematics, there are many different ways to define numbers; similarly, in metaphysics, there are many different ways to define objects, properties, concepts, and other entities that are claimed to make up the world. While metaphysics may, as a special case, study the entities postulated by fundamental science such as atoms and superstrings, its core topic is the set of categories such as object, property and causality which those scientific theories assume.
For example: claiming that "electrons have charge" is a scientific theory; while exploring what it means for electrons to be or at least, to be perceived as "objects", charge to be a "property", and for both to exist in a topological entity called "space" is the task of metaphysics.
There are two broad stances about what is "the world" studied by metaphysics. The strong, classical view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist independently of any observer so that the subject is the most fundamental of all sciences. The weak, modern view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist inside the mind of an observer, so the subject becomes a form of introspection and conceptual analysis.
Some philosophers, notably Kant , discuss both of these "worlds" and what can be inferred about each one. Some, such as the logical positivists , and many scientists, reject the strong view of metaphysics as meaningless and unverifiable.
Others reply that this criticism also applies to any type of knowledge, including hard science, which claims to describe anything other than the contents of human perception, and thus that the world of perception is the objective world in some sense. Metaphysics itself usually assumes that some stance has been taken on these questions and that it may proceed independently of the choice—the question of which stance to take belongs instead to another branch of philosophy, epistemology.
Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence , being , becoming , and reality. It includes the questions of how entities are grouped into basic categories and which of these entities exist on the most fundamental level.
Ontology is sometimes referred to as the science of being. It has been characterized as general metaphysics in contrast to special metaphysics , which is concerned with more particular aspects of being. Commonly proposed categories include substances , properties , relations , states of affairs and events. These categories are characterized by fundamental ontological concepts, like particularity and universality , abstractness and concreteness or possibility and necessity.
Of special interest is the concept of ontological dependence , which determines whether the entities of a category exist on the most fundamental level. Disagreements within ontology are often about whether entities belonging to a certain category exist and, if so, how they are related to other entities.
Identity is a fundamental metaphysical concern. Metaphysicians investigating identity are tasked with the question of what, exactly, it means for something to be identical to itself, or — more controversially — to something else.
Issues of identity arise in the context of time : what does it mean for something to be itself across two moments in time? How do we account for this? Another question of identity arises when we ask what our criteria ought to be for determining identity, and how the reality of identity interfaces with linguistic expressions. The metaphysical positions one takes on identity have far-reaching implications on issues such as the Mind—body problem , personal identity , ethics , and law.
A few ancient Greeks took extreme positions on the nature of change. Parmenides denied change altogether, while Heraclitus argued that change was ubiquitous: "No man ever steps in the same river twice. Identity, sometimes called numerical identity , is the relation that a thing bears to itself, and which no thing bears to anything other than itself cf. A modern philosopher who made a lasting impact on the philosophy of identity was Leibniz , whose Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals is still widely accepted today.
It states that if some object x is identical to some object y , then any property that x has, y will have as well. However, it does seem that objects can change over time. If one were to look at a tree one day, and the tree later lost a leaf, it would seem that one could still be looking at that same tree.
Two rival theories to account for the relationship between change and identity are perdurantism , which treats the tree as a series of tree-stages, and endurantism , which maintains that the organism—the same tree—is present at every stage in its history.
By appealing to intrinsic and extrinsic properties , endurantism finds a way to harmonize identity with change. Endurantists believe that objects persist by being strictly numerically identical over time. Discriminating between intrinsic properties and extrinsic properties, endurantists state that numerical identity means that, if some object x is identical to some object y , then any intrinsic property that x has, y will have as well.
Thus, if an object persists, intrinsic properties of it are unchanged, but extrinsic properties can change over time.
Besides the object itself, environments and other objects can change over time; properties that relate to other objects would change even if this object does not change. Perdurantism can harmonize identity with change in another way. In four-dimensionalism , a version of perdurantism, what persists is a four-dimensional object which does not change although three-dimensional slices of the object may differ.
Objects appear to us in space and time, while abstract entities such as classes, properties, and relations do not. How do space and time serve this function as a ground for objects? Are space and time entities themselves, of some form? Must they exist prior to objects? How exactly can they be defined? How is time related to change; must there always be something changing in order for time to exist? Classical philosophy recognized a number of causes, including teleological future causes.
In special relativity and quantum field theory the notions of space, time and causality become tangled together, with temporal orders of causations becoming dependent on who is observing them. Why then do we perceive it as flowing in one direction, the arrow of time , and as containing causation flowing in the same direction?
For that matter, can an effect precede its cause? This was the title of a paper by Michael Dummett ,  which sparked a discussion that continues today. Lewis had argued that one can meaningfully pray concerning the outcome of, e. Causality is linked by many philosophers to the concept of counterfactuals.
To say that A caused B means that if A had not happened then B would not have happened. This view was advanced by David Lewis in his paper "Causation". Causality is usually required as a foundation for philosophy of science if science aims to understand causes and effects and make predictions about them.
Metaphysicians investigate questions about the ways the world could have been. David Lewis , in On the Plurality of Worlds , endorsed a view called concrete modal realism , according to which facts about how things could have been are made true by other concrete worlds in which things are different.
Other philosophers, including Gottfried Leibniz , have dealt with the idea of possible worlds as well. A necessary fact is true across all possible worlds. A possible fact is true in some possible world, even if not in the actual world. For example, it is possible that cats could have had two tails, or that any particular apple could have not existed. By contrast, certain propositions seem necessarily true, such as analytic propositions , e.
A less controversial view is that self-identity is necessary, as it seems fundamentally incoherent to claim that any x is not identical to itself; this is known as the law of identity , a putative "first principle". Similarly, Aristotle describes the principle of non-contradiction :. Metaphysical cosmology is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the world as the totality of all phenomena in space and time. Historically, it formed a major part of the subject alongside Ontology, though its role is more peripheral in contemporary philosophy.
It has had a broad scope, and in many cases was founded in religion. The ancient Greeks drew no distinction between this use and their model for the cosmos.
However, in modern times it addresses questions about the Universe which are beyond the scope of the physical sciences. It is distinguished from religious cosmology in that it approaches these questions using philosophical methods e. Cosmogony deals specifically with the origin of the universe. Modern metaphysical cosmology and cosmogony try to address questions such as:.
Accounting for the existence of mind in a world largely composed of matter is a metaphysical problem which is so large and important as to have become a specialized subject of study in its own right, philosophy of mind. Substance dualism is a classical theory in which mind and body are essentially different, with the mind having some of the attributes traditionally assigned to the soul , and which creates an immediate conceptual puzzle about how the two interact.
Adherents of panpsychism , a kind of property dualism , hold that everything has a mental aspect, but not that everything exists in a mind. For the last century, the dominant theories have been science-inspired including materialistic monism , type identity theory , token identity theory , functionalism , reductive physicalism , nonreductive physicalism , eliminative materialism , anomalous monism , property dualism , epiphenomenalism and emergence.
Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. It holds that nothing happens that has not already been determined. The principal consequence of the deterministic claim is that it poses a challenge to the existence of free will.
The problem of free will is the problem of whether rational agents exercise control over their own actions and decisions. Addressing this problem requires understanding the relation between freedom and causation, and determining whether the laws of nature are causally deterministic. Some philosophers, known as incompatibilists , view determinism and free will as mutually exclusive. If they believe in determinism, they will therefore believe free will to be an illusion, a position known as Hard Determinism.
Proponents range from Baruch Spinoza to Ted Honderich. Henri Bergson defended free will in his dissertation Time and Free Will from Others, labeled compatibilists or "soft determinists" , believe that the two ideas can be reconciled coherently. Incompatibilists who accept free will but reject determinism are called libertarians , a term not to be confused with the political sense.
Robert Kane and Alvin Plantinga are modern defenders of this theory. The earliest type of classification of social construction traces back to Plato in his dialogue Phaedrus where he claims that the biological classification system seems to carve nature at the joints. In his essay The Analytical Language of John Wilkins , Borges makes us imagine a certain encyclopedia where the animals are divided into a those that belong to the emperor; b embalmed ones; c those that are trained; According to Quine this notion is closely related to the notion of similarity.
There are different ways to set up the notion of number in metaphysics theories.
For instance, in geometry the material objects of cognition are the various conclusions and the formal object of geometrical knowledge consists in the demonstrative arguments by which the conclusions are known. That is, the conclusions are known in the strict sense only because they are seen to be derived from the demonstrations. So, too, in the present case, the First Truth, or God, is the formal object, since by faith revealed truths are assented to only insofar as they are revealed by God and, as St. Thomas puts it later, publicly manifested in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church. So every revealed truth--whether or not directly about God--is cognized through faith only insofar as it is assented to because it is revealed as true by God and manifested in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church. Later on see 5,3 below , St. Any false beliefs that depend in some way on faith always involve some conjecture that is merely human and not revealed.
Form and Object: A Treatise on Things Read Online · Download PDF While the world is the reverse side or the form of each thing, the universe is a big thing,.
Concepts are defined as abstract ideas or general notions that occur in the mind, in speech, or in thought. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of thoughts and beliefs. They play an important role in all aspects of cognition. The study of concepts has served as an important flagship of an emerging interdisciplinary approach called cognitive science. In contemporary philosophy , there are at least three prevailing ways to understand what a concept is: . Concepts can be organized into a hierarchy, higher levels of which are termed "superordinate" and lower levels termed "subordinate".
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter , between substance and attribute , and between potentiality and actuality. Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are. Metaphysics seeks to answer, in an abstract and fully general manner, the questions: . Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence , objects and their properties , space and time , cause and effect , and possibility. Metaphysics is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with epistemology , logic , and ethics. Metaphysical study is conducted using deduction from that which is known a priori. Like foundational mathematics which is sometimes considered a special case of metaphysics applied to the existence of number , it tries to give a coherent account of the structure of the world, capable of explaining our everyday and scientific perception of the world, and being free from contradictions.
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