Monday 4 April 2016

The invisibility of metaphysics to modern Man

It is a striking and intriguing aspect of modern intellectual life that metaphysics is invisible to almost everyone - despite that it was the very first type of philosophy and formed the basis of the subject (off and on) from the Ancient Greeks onwards.

Metaphysics refers to the fundamental assumptions - and therefore it is by definition not susceptible to proof or disproof nor does it depend on evidence. Even this by-definition fact is beyond modern Man.

This may be evidence of a decline in both average and peak intelligence, since it was only ever the most abstract thinkers who could engage with metaphysics.

Or, it may be due to a loss of introspective ability - although superficially modern people are far more introspective than people of the past; alternatively it may not be the loss of introspective ability so much as the belief that introspection is insignificant, merely 'subjective'.

The mainstream metaphysical beliefs of modern Man (because of course he has them, even if he does not know that he has, and denies the fact) are therefore utterly invisible.

(The most obvious example of invisible metaphysics is the theory of evolution by natural selection; another would be the assumption in physics of fundamental randomness - and therefore non-causality; another (related to the preceding) would be that a human life has no objective purpose or meaning.)

Modern man can only observe the consequences of his own metaphysics; but without even the slightest comprehension that these are necessary and predictable consequences of his own assumptions!


William Wildblood said...

Modern intellectuals, in whose wake everybody else follows, hate the idea of God because they hate the idea of obedience. They will not serve and for them anything, even death, is better than that. Therefore the only metaphysics they can possibly choose is the metaphysics of meaninglessness. What they see in the world is what they wish to see; that is, what corroborates their rebellion against truth and meaning.

David Balfour said...

I sometimes wonder if the modern world is not literally under some kind of evil magic enchantment or spell. From what I understand there are malign disembodied intelligences at work in the world (and embodied ones) even though that sounds absurd to modern ears. Is a denial in the existence of metaphysics a triumph of screwtape? Of course other natural factors will play into it: IQ, ability to sustain attention on questions like 'Do I have free will? And if I do what does this imply about the nature of my conscious existence?" I would have thought this will either lead to a conclusion of a mechanical universe but in which I can't even chose to post this message or chose what I want for dinner or my plans for the future, what qualities I value, etc. OR if I do have *real* free - will (if I am an unmoved mover), if I am a primary cause for certain chains of events? What does this imply?

But screwtape works hard to create enough noise and distraction to prevent genuine self - insight or sustained reflection of this time. For the intellectuals he has the Daniel Dennett's and the neuroscience racket to blind you with obscure language with surface plausibility sufficient to induce faith in the lay man and chivvy people along back into the mainstream view. For the average man in the street a new box set of dvds or an attractive woman at the end of a bar would likely spell the end of the beginning to anything like that kind of thought process that might lead to a metaphysical 'great escape'. (Disclaimer: I am very vulnerable and guilty of indulging these distractions as well. Free will can certainly be mesmerised by the correct stimuli)

Geir said...

Again, spot on. I must again confess to have been naive most of my life to what you sum up here. As improbable as it may seem, I discussed metaphysics with my mother from I was a little child - and many years later she confessed to me that I exhausted her with my questions and arguments already as small child, long before I went to (that hated institution) school. I can vividly remember discussing what God was and how he acted with humans and probably causes for the problem of pain and suffering as we walked together into town to buy groceries at the age of 5 and 6. I must have been 10 before I understood that many people simply didn't believe in God, and I couldn't understand how they explained away creation or God's presence - but they didn't, they were oblivious to it. In latter years I have explained metaphysics to my colleagues and some of them understand and can reason about it, but all around I notice that people have no idea about what they believe and why. So I can make fun of it and it seems then that some people will take up the challenge and begin thinking. But it doesn't seem important to them at all. Again, how naive I have been all my life. And because of this, you get political correctness and climate catastrophe and boundless empathism and materialism and idolism (mass media addiction) and cliches on anything and everything. There is one Catholic blogger whom writes about the Apocalypse and other prophesies and he is the only one who gives me hope that God may intervene some day. But I fear we must plunge deep into the end of the West as we know it.

Glengarry said...

Part of it due, I would say, to reducing all such inquiry to sterile word games and/or concluding that nothing can be concluded. Thank you for your scorched earth contributions to knowledge, modern philosophers.

Come to think of it, not a lot of philos for sophos in there. Perhaps they are better termed philosophists.