A Fly Bottle. The fly flies up-into it (by analogy, he unwittingly makes a metaphysical assumption); but gets trapped in the bottle - eventually expiring into the pool of water. He does not instinctively fly downwards, and never discovers the escape route (by which he entered). To escape, the fly needs to retrace the route by which he got trapped: that is, by analogy, to discover the metaphysical assumptions that led to his current deadly situation. Only by such a retracing and discovery could the fly revise his 'assumptions', overcome his short-termist instincts ('always fly upwards'/ always do what is immediately expedient), and thereby become free of their potentially-lethal consequences. Since 'the fly' will not do this for himself - the metaphysician must teach him to do it!
I have been teaching and doing scholarship in the field of evolution by natural selection for more than twenty years; and have been deeply interested by the theory for much longer than that. There is a real sense in which I love the theory of evolution by natural selection!
Yet, what I will describe here is how mastery of this theory included - for a long time - being trapped by the metaphysical assumptions of natural selection. Love became an infatuation which was (like most infatuations) destructive.
When operating within the theory of natural selection - when actually thinking with its assumptions, definitions and procedures - it was not possible to perceive beyond or outside it. And, since this theorising was the most difficult and high-level activity I engaged in, and since it was the major conscious focus of my life for many years (at least 15 years, full-on) this exerted a distorting effect on my whole world view.
The serious business began one afternoon in May 1994, sitting in a garden in the sun, reading an interview in Omni magazine with the evolutionary psychologist Margie Profet; and realising that that was what I wanted to do - and what I had, unwittingly, been preparing myself to do, since my middle teens.
I knew, after seven-plus years working in laboratories that: 1. I was a scientist, but 2, I was not an experimentalist - not from lack of aptitude, but from lack of interest. And 3. that theory was My Thing - I has enjoyed writing theoretical papers about my experiments far more than doing the experiments - and that is very unusual in biology.
(Biologists spend hundreds-fold more hours in doing than in thinking - and if that sounds like a criticism: it is! Doctors are even worse. Anyone in biology or medicine who has once spent fifteen consecutive minutes in really thinking about their subject, counts as an extraordinary egg-head.)
One of my greatest pleasures had been prolonged and deep conversations about biology - in the broadest and most historically-informed sense - with Dr Tim Horder, an anatomist at Oxford; where I would visit each year specifically for that purpose. I was already a doctor and a (sort-of) psychiatrist - but it was Tim that made me think as a biologist.
So, my problem had been how to become a theoretical scientist in biology; especially in a world where theoretical biology was almost-wholly mathematical-computational, but I was trained as a doctor. When I discovered evolutionary psychology, I discovered something I could do and that I was well-prepared to do - especially in relation to psychiatry.
I threw myself into evolutionary theory with immense energy and zeal - rising early to read books and papers, and seeking out people to talk-with and write-to. The learning curve was very steep, and I was writing theory papers within not-many weeks; and developing grandiose projects for changing everything...
In order to contribute to evolutionary ideas in biology and medicine, I needed to train my thinking to operate accurately within the constraints and according to the rules - and I became capable of both rigour and creativity in that field. The process led to many papers, and a book (Psychiatry and the Human Condition).
My interest in biological evolution by natural selection then broadened (strongly influenced by a computer scientist colleague, Peter Andras), and eventually became utterly abstract; as I moved into Systems Theory (of the type articulated by the German legal theoretician and sociologist Niklas Luhmann). This was (or could be understood as) an absolutely general theory of selection - understood (by assumption) as the primary and metaphysical reality. This shift was marked by the Appendix to my next book - The Modernization Imperative.
It was indeed A Theory of Everything - and I proceeded to apply it... well, if not to everything, then at least to a wide range of phenomena including university education and research, science, medicine, health services, management and modern society in general.
I was, in once sense, by now utterly trapped by my assumptions! I saw the world through selection-theory spectacles.
But, I had the advantage that although this was true at the level of habit; I was aware (thanks to this aspect of Luhmann being very explicit) of the nature of these assumptions - and that they were indeed assumed, and were not entailed.
And it gradually dawned on me that I was not compelled by these assumptions - that, indeed, they were intuitively unconvincing - and that they led to many consequences that I simply could not go-along-with... things like the destruction of all objectivity, and the impossibility of knowledge about anything (even systems theory itself, even oneself)!
So I knew that I was basing my fundamental beliefs on assumptions, I knew exactly what these assumptions were, I knew these assumptions were self-refuting; and I realised that such metaphysical assumptions have ramifying consequences of the greatest possible significance all-over life and reality.
Thus I was prepared and ready to change my ultimate assumptions, as I eventually did when I became a Christian; then again when I became (theologically, but not practically) a Mormon Christian.
That is where I am now - my interest/ obsession with natural selection went from biology, to general theory of complex systems, to metaphysics - to being focused on those first assumptions.
And I have developed a heightened awareness of the way in which we can be captured by our assumptions. The more we practise thinking within our assumptions, the better we get at doing so; but also the more prone we become to living as-if the whole of reality was actually nothing-more-than our simplified model-of-it.