Derived from the Greek meta ta physika ("after the things of nature"); referring to an idea, doctrine, or posited reality outside of human sense perception. In modern philosophical terminology, metaphysics refers to the studies of what cannot be reached through objective studies of material reality. Areas of metaphysical studies include ontology, cosmology, and often, epistemology.
Metaphysical - Longer definition: Metaphysics is a type of philosophy or study that uses broad concepts to help define reality and our understanding of it. Metaphysical studies generally seek to explain inherent or universal elements of reality which are not easily discovered or experienced in our everyday life. As such, it is concerned with explaining the features of reality that exist beyond the physical world and our immediate senses. Metaphysics, therefore, uses logic based on the meaning of human terms, rather than on a logic tied to human sense perception of the objective world. Metaphysics might include the study of the nature of the human mind, the definition and meaning of existence, or the nature of space, time, and/or causality.
The origin of philosophy, beginning with the Pre-Socratics, was metaphysical in nature. For example, the philosopher Plotinus held that the reason in the world and in the rational human mind is only a reflection of a more universal and perfect reality beyond our limited human reason. He termed this ordering power in the universe "God."
Metaphysical ideas, because they are not based on direct experience with material reality, are often in conflict with the modern sciences. Beginning with the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, experiments with, and observations of, the world became the yardsticks for measuring truth and reality. Therefore, our contemporary valuation of scientific knowledge over other forms of knowledge helps explain the controversy and skepticism concerning metaphysical claims, which are considered unverifiable by modern science.
In matters of religion, the problem of validating metaphysical claims is most readily seen in all of the "proofs" for the existence of God. Like trying to prove the existence of a "soul" or "spirit" in the human, attempts to scientifically prove the existence of God and other nonobjective, nonhuman realities is seemingly impossible. The difficulty arises out of the attempt to scientifically study and objectify something which, by its very nature, cannot become an object of our scientific studies. This reigning belief that everything can be explained scientifically in terms of natural causes - referred to as naturalism - compels many to think that only what is seen or sensed, only what can be hypothesized and tested can be true, and therefore, meaningful to us as humans.
Recently, however, even as metaphysics has come under attack for its apparent lack of access to real knowledge, so has science begun to have its own difficulties in claiming absolute knowledge. Continual developments in our understanding of the human thought process reveals that science cannot solely be relied upon to explain reality, for the human mind cannot be seen as simply a mirror of the natural world. For example, since the act of scientific observation itself tends to produce the reality it hopes to explain, the so-called "truths" of science cannot be considered as final or objective. This fact manifests itself over and over again, as scientific truths and laws continue to break down or yield to new and better explanations of reality. What becomes apparent, therefore, is that the process of human interpretation in the sciences, as elsewhere, is both variable and relative to the observer's viewpoint.
Under the skeptical analyses of the philosophical movements known as postmodernism and deconstructionism, all of these facts have resulted in a modern repudiation of both metaphysics and science. Their criticisms are based on the cultural and historical relativity of all knowledge. These two philosophical "schools" deny any existence at all of an objective or universal knowledge. Thus, metaphysical claims stand today between the absolutist claims of science (scientism) and the complete relativism of postmodernism and deconstructionism.
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