Is metaphysics meaningful?

Is metaphysics meaningful?  (expanded from answer in Quora)

Any hypothesis which predicts observations can in principle be tested scientifically.

Take “metaphysics” to be the set of hypotheses about people and the universe which does not predict any observations, or none which differ from those predicted by their null hypotheses.

Can a hypothesis be meaningful even if it does not predict any observations?


AM. The diccionary def. of ‘meaningful’ is, primarily, ‘significant’, ‘purposeful’. The answer to the question is, ‘yes’ (otherwise there would not be such a thing). But metaphysics is not empirical science, so it does not work with hypotheses or with experimentation (measurement, etc.). Once called ‘the queen of the sciences’, it is at the root of all thinking, scientific as well as philosophical, in particular the basic ideas about what real/reality is.  Thus, the métier of metaphysics is philosophical, including the presuppositions underlying empirical science: beingness or existence, space, time, and causality, and also matter/energy, subjectivity and objectivity.

Traditionally, metahysics (or ontology) is considered as a branch of philosophy –  ethics, logic, and epistemology being its other branches. Due to the rejection, even abhorrence, that the word ‘philosophy’ (even more so ‘metaphysics’!) generates in  most people’s minds – and we may include here the word ‘religion’ as well – it may be better to use the term ‘spirituality’, which seems to be much more congenial. Everybody is spiritual, and I say this without irony or humor. It is so by definition.

In this day and age – and with the help of modern physics and quantum mechanics – the boundaries between physics and philosophy (what can be known, and how) have become blurred, whereby one may ask: Is everything physical (matter/energy), or is it meta-physical? No one really knows (it is safe to say) what matter is, and we can no longer talk of objectivity in science. We can deal with such things as the structure of the atom, its constituent parts, but have no answer as to its intrinsic nature (this is too philosophical!).

And, definitelly, we cannot employ the word ‘purpose’, akin to, or one of the meanings of, ‘meaning’. May be there will never be an answer to this last, which means that, altogether, we really  know nothing about either the reason (why) or the nature of the universe – only its mechanism. And so, we may turn with glee to someone of the  Eastern philosophies or spiritualities, where hidden treasures are waiting to be discovered. Or to poetry, the language of the gods (or demons).


About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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