Monday 3 July 2023

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and "a metaphysic of qualities"

Owen Barfield, in his introduction to What Coleridge Thought (1971), comments that ST Coleridge's philosophical work was aiming to institute a metaphysic and science of qualities

I would modify this to suggest that all metaphysics ought to be concerned, primarily, with qualities. Metaphysical qualities refer to the "building blocks" from-which we construct our world view, our understanding of fundamental reality. 

Such qualities are what underlie all specific and quantitative discourses; such as the various sciences. 

For instance, the metaphysical question of whether the basic units of reality are living-Beings; or instead abstract particles, waves, forces, fields etc? 

Almost-everything hinges on which assumption we make: which fundamental qualities we regard as primary. 

If we assume that fundamental reality is a matter of "physics"; then we cannot discover life, consciousness or purpose in the universe - since these are all excluded by assumptions. All possible apparent instances of life/ consciousness/ purpose must (by assumption) be reducible to physical causes and explanations. 

Conversely; if the fundamental reality is assumed to be constituted by Beings; then every-thing that is and happens will - ultimately - be-derivable-from life/ consciousness/ purpose/ motivation/ meaning... and other attributes of Beings. 

Thus metaphysical assumptions are far more important than any specialized discourse; and this importance is likely to be most lethally - and inescapably - damaging, when actual metaphysical assumptions are unconscious or denied.  


No Longer Reading said...

This is a useful way to look at it, distinguishing metaphysical systems by what they believe are the fundamental qualities.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NLR - That's what metaphysics *is* essentially - and why it is not so difficult as it usually seems to be. It is a matter of deciding - and confirming/ endorsing by intuitive reflection - what, ultimately, reality is "made-of" (and what it isn't).