Thursday 6 April 2017

A walk in the country: The metaphysics of Life, the Universe and Everything

The vital importance of metaphysics in everyday Life can be seen by considering a typical walk in the country - first from the perspective of mainstream modern metaphysics, then from how things ought to be.

How modern metaphysics demeans life

Imagine walking on a beautiful day through beautiful countryside - and how everything that is experienced is undermined by our typical modern metaphysical assumptions...

The sky is a glorious, electric blue... and I feel elated; until I reflect that this apparent blueness is some kind of perceptual illusion caused by the interaction of the earth's atmosphere with light from the sun.

The sun is warm, and very air feels soft between my fingers and I am at peace... until I reflect that 'really' the sun is merely a ball of incandescent gas, of terrifying temperature; and the softness of the air merely an effect of some specific combination of moisture and temperature acting on the nerve endings of my skin.

I feel filled with well being... until I recognise that this must merely be due to some combination of neurotransmitters and hormones, a product of ancestral evolution which was shaped merely by traits that led to reproductive success.

That magnificent beech tree, with its translucent green leaves outlined against the blue of the sky, seems like a wise companion to this walk... until I reflect that it is just a plant with no feelings; and the leaves are only that colour due to the chlorophyll which is used in photosynthesis.

That sandstone boulder has a remarkable shape, which seems significant... until I reflect that it is just a dead lump of inert unconscious matter - shaped randomly by the forces of wind and water...

You get the idea? Modern metaphysics works to destroy the validity and significance of our best and highest moments - reducing them to contingent, random or merely-causal effects; and reducing our own responses to similarly meaningless factors.

Our metaphysics is that everything that happens is either merely the inevitable cause of something equally meaningless that happened before; or some random and pointless event. The ideas of meaning, purpose and the notion that any of this has anything significant to do with me and my hopes is written off as a delusion - a delusion that may be explained only in similarly meaningless terms.

But suppose we had a better metaphysics? How might things look then?

A better metaphysics

I walk in the country and I know that everything I perceive, everything I think, has meaning - even when I do not know what that meaning is exactly; even when I cannot understand it ever - I know that there is meaning.

I know that the meaning has to do with a divine purpose - that this world around me is in fact a creation - not just a collection of arbitrary stuff.

I know that the divine purpose has the unity which comes from creation being the product of a personal God - what is more, a God like myself, a God of whom I am a child.

And that, because I am a child of God; I too share in divinity; and indeed share in some knowledge of God's nature and purposes - I know that I can know enough of these matters such that I can lead my life well.

What, then, of all the specifics I have mentioned above - sky, sun, warm air, physical sensations, tree and rock? I know that they have meaning, purpose and relevance... but what, exactly?

Well, I don't necessarily know their individual meaning and purposes, and especially I don't know exactly. But I do know in a general sense that they are all alive in some shape or form; all conscious in some way and degree; and that they are all potentially beings with whom I can have a personal relationship of some kind.

I know this because they are all creations; and all of creation has to do with myself specifically, as one of God's children generally - our fates are interwoven.

Instead of nothing having any meaning or purpose - everything has meaning and purpose and is in communication and in relation... even though this is almost-wholly mysterious I know this is true, and that specific knowledge on such matters is possible, at some point or in some circumstances nothing meaningful is unknowable; everything is potentially knowable, experience-able.

That - then - is the difference metaphysics can make: all the difference in the world.