The Metaphysical Dilema

In Necessary and Contingent Truths, I asked whether you the reader thinks the metaphysical necessarily exists/functions based on the presence of the extant/physical.

One way to view the Metaphysical are the laws/properties governing existence, another is God, or truth, or existence etc.

However, as activephilosophy astutely pointed out, whether or not we think there are laws/a harmony governing all energy/matter, really doesn’t have much bearing on our lives.  Since we live in the existential world, we ought to focus on this one.

In the end this is the only sensible answer.  However, the problem persists.

I consistently experience a strange phenomena, leading me to believe perhaps erroneously that my life somehow is assembled in several directions and perhaps fragments within my own chronology.  It could be coincidence but if so coincidence is an incredible thing, no less supportive of the notion of fate/destiny.

I began reading Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason shortly after writing the post on Leibniz.  Interestingly, he confronts the same question raised on this blog.

“…in a realm beyond the senses, where experience can yield neither guidance nor correction, that our reason carries on those inquiries which owing to their importance we consider to be far more excellent, and in their purpose far more lofty, than all that the understanding can learn in the field of appearances.  Indeed we prefer to run every risk of error rather than desist from such urgent inquiries, on the ground of their dubious character, or from disdain and indifference.  These unavoidable problems set by pure reason itself are God, freedom, and immortality.  The science which, with all its preparations, is in its final intention directed solely to their solution is metaphysics; and its procedure is at first dogmatic, that is, it confidently sets itself to this task without any previous examination of the capacity or incapacity of reason for so great an understanding.

Kant is motivated to crack the greatest dilemma facing metaphysics once and for all.  This is driven by the “unavoidable problems” that face us as humans and mortal beings – God, freedom, and immortality.

Kant seeks within knowledge the truly a priori.

Now the proper problem of pure reason is contained in the question: How are a priori synthetic judgements possible?

That metaphysics has hitherto remained in so vacillating a state of uncertainty and contradiction, is entirely due to the fact that this problem, and perhaps even the distinction between analytic and synthetic judgements, has never previously been considered.  Upon the solution of this problem, or upon a sufficient proof that the possibility which it desires to have explained does in fact not exist at all, depends the success or failure of metaphysics.  Among philosophers, David Hume came nearest to envisaging this problem, but still was very far from conceiving it with sufficient definiteness and universality.  He occupied himself exclusively with the synthetic proposition regarding the connection of an effect with its cause (principium causalitatis), and he believed himself to have shown that such an a priori proposition is entirely impossible.  If we accept his conclusions, then all that we call metaphysics is a mere delusion whereby we fancy ourselves to have rational insight into what, in actual fact, is borrowed solely from experience, and under the influence of custom has taken the illusory semblance of necessity.  If he had envisaged our problem in all its universality, we would never have been guilty of this statement, so destructive of all pure philosophy.  For he would then have recognized that, according to his own argument, pure mathematics, as certainly containing a priori synthetic propositions, would also not be possible; and from such an assertion his good sense would have saved him.

Kant walks through the empirical frame in the philosophical wall, stepping into a whole new fruitful way of thought that would encourage existentialism and logical positivism.

We begin to see a severing of the existential from its subservience to metaphysical notions brutally enforced – the greatest feat of modernism.  The postmodern period is a realization of these efforts.

But, rationality – the tool used to restore common sense to our justifications of action and society – returns to the same nagging questions.  And we personally in the end similarly come full circle.  Empiricism, overdetermination, jouissance is not enough.  Or at least the rational mind insists otherwise…

In the solution of the above problem, we are at the same time deciding as to the possibility of the employment of pure reason in establishing and developing all those sciences which contain a theoretical a priori knowledge of objects, and have therefore to answer the questions:

How is pure mathematics possible?

How is pure science of nature possible?

Since these sciences actually exist, it is quite proper to ask how they are possible; for that they must be possible is proved by the fact that they exist.  But the poor progress which has hitherto been made in metaphyics, and the fact that no system yet propounded can, in view of the essential purpose of metaphysics, be said really to exist, leaves everyone sufficient ground for doubting as to its possibility.

Yet in a certain sense, this kind of knowledge is to be looked upon as a given; that is to say, metaphysics actually exists, if not as a science, yet still as natural dispostion (metaphysica naturalis).  For human reason, without being moved merely by the idle desire for extent and variety of knowledge, proceed impetuously, driven on by an inward need, to questions such as cannot be answered by any empirical employment of reason, or by principles thence derived.  Thus in all men, as soon as their reason has become ripe for speculation, there has always existed and will always continue to exist some kind of metaphysics.  And so we have the question:

How is metaphysics, as natural disposition, possible?

that is, how from the nature of the universal reason do those questions arise which pure reason propounds to itself, and which it is impelled by its own need to answer as best it can?

Kant’s ability to isolate the basic pressing questions is inspiring.  His philosophy continues along a Cartesian attempt to piece together existence from inside-out, taking for granted that such is possible.

The way that philosophy builds upon itself, its so-called canonical nature, has been widely criticized but is also quite revealing and instructive.


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1 Response to The Metaphysical Dilema

  1. Pingback: The Grammar Of God « Active Philosophy

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