On Nature and Metaphysics

6 Jul

On “Metaphysics” and the Natural Order:  Some Nomenclature Issues

My last post and others raise questions about metaphysics, nature, and related concepts.  It may be good at this point for carrying the conversation forward to define some terms vis-a-vis the ‘philosophy of science’ topic that we’re working through.

  1. I contend the universe to be of a single order. Ergo the ‘moral dimension’ of human experience must necessarily reflect the ‘state of nature’ itself in the world.  “Human Experience” embodies “Natural Law” which itself mirrors and refers back to the “Laws
    of Nature” and “Existence.”

  2. Now, in arguing that, this requires me to set some concepts in order —>

METAPHYICS:  The old Classical and Scholastic definition held this to be synonymous with ONTOLOGY (the study of ‘being’ in itself)(the same as “scientia” and theoria” was understood as being the same as “philosophy”, philo-sophia, the ‘seeking after of wisdom’

However, the matter gets confused as soon as we realize the rationalist orientation of these original terms.

“Metaphysics” and “philosophy”, as we in contemporary times understand their significance, are mastheads of “Value” and “Meaning”, not points of ‘critical analysis.’

But in Aristotle’s times and Plato’s, as later in Abelard’s and Aquinas’, their definition was a little more open-ended, but with a primacy and preponderance more on ‘rationality’ than ‘soulfulness.’   Therefore, philos-sophia, as ‘love‘ of ‘wisdom‘ wasn’t a sentimentalist, spiritual concept, but a tendency of mental habit towards ‘logos’ and the stuff of ‘Intellect’, more than any ambiguous idealization of “wisdom” as a gnostic spiritualized principle of the “soul.”

In fact, “nous” the root of “noesis” which means “soul” is itself
tempered by the reality that its function is not “value oriented”
at all.

It’s instead defined as “cognition” rather than being ‘intutional’ as we understand the word in a modern, Western sense.  Therefore, rationalism holds vis-a-vis the original framing of metaphysics, philosophy, etc.

SUPERNATURAL:  This is another problematic term.  Modern usage has this being used for all super-physical phenomena of a spiritual, other-worldly order.

The older intellectual usage was somewhat different.  “Nature” wasn’t referring to the physical, material order as we know it today in a scientific, empirical sense, but instead on an “essential” order of the world – i.e., the order of “Essence” or “Essential Being”  Therefore, to be Super-Natural was not to be just higher than the physical plane of ordinary human experience and material living, it was to be beyond “Essential Being” – a non-starter.  Even in the theology of Medieval Scholastic thought, God, the Summit of ALL BEING (referred to under the rubric “God is Being” or by Meister Eckhardt as “Being is God”), was seen as being “Essential” as well.  Only God could be “Supernatural” (insofar as that term could be applied) in that God was posited to have no distinct “Essence”, as separate from the [Divine] “Being.”  The Divine Being was God’s Essence.  Ergo, all “being” was “essential being.”  All “being” was “natural.”  Hence, there was nothing truly “supernatural” at all in the world; material or non-material, it was all of the “Essential” order of nature.

This is an important point worth stressing.  There’s nothing truly “supernatural.”  There is no truly “metaphysical” phenomena, in the world, in any sort of meta-natural sense.  In that case, then, even if one doesn’t hold to a God principle or believe in spiritual entities, the basic point’s the same → The natural order of the universe still holds.  The laws of science reflect the laws of “being”; the ontological standard of the cosmos.  The moral order must, by its very state, reflect the laws of ontology and nature.

Hence what we would understand to be “supernatural” is not as universal as we would think, based on our apperception of supposedly higher-level metaphysical principles.

It’s not that everything is supernatural-metaphysical.  It’s that the connection between material existence as we understand it and higher-order nature is so integrally and intimately linked that we see it as being ‘metaphysical’, whether it truly is or not.  Those parts of reality that are ‘seen as being such’ [including the dimensions of human experience][in either baser or higher form] are not at all in fact ‘super-natural’ … but we do view them that way through the lens of our human perception, whereby we have to ‘transcendentalize’ in order to make sense of them.  Yet they are as natural as a hummingbird buzzing past one’s window or the molecules of water in one’s glass that one is about to drink from …

In fact, it’s all ‘natural.’ 

And just as the laws of quantum mechanics/relativity must be aligned with this order of reality, with the laws of ‘ontological being’ in turn reflecting-off what we know of scientific laws by necessity, all aspects of human experience and what we note of “ethos”, “telos”, and noumena in the world around us … all this has to be in alignment with “logos” and the principles of science, otherwise the “world of meaning” makes no sense.  … Metaphysics ghosts everything, warping everything into an ethereal haze.

But it need not!

We can still have a “world of meaning” even if it’s not transcendentalized … ‘Meaning’, after all, is “what we put into things” and “make of the world.”  Not “what the world makes of us!”  A new-found Secular Scholasticism can help clear up these confusions over “Is” and “Ought”, “Scientia” and “Sophia”, and Moral Philosophy versus critical Scientific Theory.   Without it, science languishes over its ‘matter’; philosophy languishes over its ‘ideals.’

There’s a better middle-way between both.  Revisiting Aristotle and Aquinas, we have a way of bridging scientific rationalism with philosophical understanding.  The materially-empirical merged with substantial-being in the realm of essential things (i.e, the entities and phenomena of nature, beyond which nothing exists).   That’s the way of bridging quantum mechanics with noumenal principles, and of bridging the possibilities of human experience with the cold, hard facts of science.

Short of doing that, all scientism fails, all philosophy fails, and all higher enlightenment fails.  Embracing ‘logos’ is our only way out of The Cave.  But all too often, both positivists and idealists would rather watch the Shadows on the Walls.  …  It’s time we emerged from Plato’s Cave!


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