Metaphysics, Philosophy, Traditionalism, Wolfgang Smith

Metaphysics as Seeing: The Importance of Metaphysics

Wolfgang Smith Metaphysics as Seeing Part IThere are five primary questions every person will wrestle with throughout their life, and how these questions are answered will shape who they are and what they might become. Even if these questions are ignored, or suppressed, they will remain lurking in the psyche of each individual. And because there is no escape from these questions any attempt to ignore them is in actuality an answer to them.

The five most important questions every person must confront and provide an answer for are these:

  1. Does God Exist?
  2. Why is there something rather than nothing?
  3. Who am I in relation to all that exists?
  4. What is the good life?
  5. What happens when you die?

These questions are fundamental and ultimate. It is because of their ultimacy that nobody can evade responsibility for providing answers to them. Every moment of any person’s life will result in a way of thinking, knowing, believing, and acting which reflect how these questions have been answered. The answers might be thoroughly examined or they may be entirely unexamined, but either way, they will be answered in the choices we make here and now in this life.

The fundamental importance of these questions is also the strongest reason why so many people attempt to hide from them; because once they have been answered the virtuous will recognize the necessity to submit and conform to the truths discovered. Hiding only leads to ruin and spiritual decay.

While these questions might seem disparate and independent of one another, the truth is they are intricately united by a word that causes modern men to tremble in fear – metaphysics. These five questions are metaphysically united; how the first question is answered will affect the manner in which the rest of the questions are answered. And even if the first question – Does God exist? – is ignored for the sake of starting with the fourth question – What is the good life? – the examination of what constitutes the good life will inevitably lead to whether or not God exists. The impact the divine has on the questions of life are, as we will come to see, world changing.

There are at least three all-encompassing metaphysical questions that directly overlap with the questions of life (these three questions are taken from the book, Metaphysics)

  1. What are the most general features of the World, and what sorts of things does it contain? What is the World like?
  2. Why does a World exist – and, more specifically, why is there a World having the features and the content described in the answer to Question 1?
  3. What is our place in the World? How do we human beings fit into it? [1]

It is evident, then, that there is no way to avoid metaphysics when examining life’s ultimate questions. It is built into the fabric of reality.

As penetrating as these questions might be, and as daunting as metaphysics can become, there are only two general metaphysical frameworks or schematics of reality that make sense given the nature of the questions under examination. For example, God either exists or He does not exist; the world/universe is either infinite or it is finite; there is a purpose or reason for why we are here or there isn’t; there is either a good life or there is not a good life; there is an afterlife or there is not an afterlife; the reality we perceive either exists independently of the mind or it is dependent on the mind; there are minds or there are not. Nuances arise when figuring out how these options might fit together in a coherent whole, but there are really only a couple of available routes from which to choose at the foundational level.

Another way to break down the metaphysical situation is to recognize that throughout the history of rational thought there has been a theistic and a materialistic/atheistic schematic vying for sway in the minds of men, and ultimately the cultures men find themselves living.

The theistic answers to the fundamental metaphysical questions are all of reality and everything therein exists because it has been created by God;[2] God is the necessary being which sustains all of created reality;[3] and human beings are made in His image to love, serve, and honor Him in this life and the next.[4]

The materialist/atheistic answers to the fundamental metaphysical questions are that all of reality is reduced to atomized matter in motion;[5] matter is a brute fact and eternally exists;[6] and human beings are intricately structured products of the material reality they find themselves existing.[7]

The theistic and materialist/atheistic metaphysical schematics cannot both be true. They are both making claims about reality that are fundamentally incompatible. Moreover, this metaphysical incompatibility significantly influences what might constitute the good life, that is, questions concerning moral philosophy, as well as answers concerning the mysteries of life after death.

The ultimate questions of life are vitally important and will impact every person not only by the choices made today, but potentially in the afterlife as well. The answers to the ultimate questions are fundamentally informed by metaphysical presuppositions that can either be examined or left unexamined by those who fear the consequences of what might arise concerning the truth. And these metaphysical presuppositions will directly influence how a person will answer moral questions and questions pertaining to the afterlife. Now that the importance of metaphysics has been established, it is worth examining why metaphysics is necessary and unavoidable.

To be continued…

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Metaphysics, Inwagen, 3rd Ed., Pg. 4

[2] “The World consists of God and all He has made. God is infinite (that is, he is unlimited in knowledge, power, and goodness) and a spirit (that is, He is not material). He has made both spirit and material things, but all the things he has made are finite or limited. God has always existed, and at a certain moment in the past He first made other things; before that, there had never been anything besides God. God will always exist, and there will always be things He has made.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[3] “God has to exist, just as two and two have to equal four. But nothing else has this feature; everything besides God might not have existed. The things other than God exist only because God (who has the power to do anything) caused them to exist by an act of free will. He could just as well have chosen not to create anything, in which case there would never have been anything besides Himself. Moreover, God not only brought all other things into existence, but he also keeps them in existence at every moment. If God did not at every moment keep the sun and the moon and all other created things in existence, they would immediately cease to exist. Created things no more have the power to keep themselves in existence than stones or lumps of iron have the power to keep themselves suspended in the air.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[4] “Human beings were created by God to love and serve Him forever. Thus, each of them has a purpose or function. In the same sense in which it is true of John’s heart that its function is to pump blood, a human being has free will and can refuse to do the thing for which it was made. What we call human history is nothing more than the working out of the consequences of the fact that some people have chosen not to do what they were created to do.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[5] “The world consists of matter in motion. There is nothing but matter, which operates according to the strict and invariable laws of physics. Every individual thing is made entirely of matter, and every aspect of its behavior is due to the workings of those laws.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[6] “Matter has always existed (and there has always been exactly the same amount of it), for matter can be neither created or destroyed. For this reason, there is no “why” to the existence of the World. Because the World is wholly material, and because matter can be neither created nor destroyed, the World is eternal: it has always existed. The question ‘Why does it exist?’ is a question that can be asked only about a thing that had a beginning. It is a request for information about what caused the thing to come into existence. Since the world is eternal, the question ‘Why does the World exist?’ is meaningless.” Ibid, Pg. 5, 6

[7] “Human beings are complex configurations of matter. Since the World is eternal, the existence of complex configurations of matter is not surprising, for in an infinite period of time, all possible configurations of matter will come to exist. Human beings are just one of those things that happen from time to time. They serve no purpose, for their existence and their features are as much accidents as the existence and shape of a puddle of spilt milk. Their lives – our lives – have no meaning (beyond such purely subjective meaning as we choose to find in them), and they come to an end with physical death, since there is no soul. The only thing being said about the place of human beings in the World is that they are – very temporary – parts of it.” Ibid, Pg. 6

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One thought on “Metaphysics as Seeing: The Importance of Metaphysics

  1. Pingback: Metaphysics as Seeing: The Christic Center | The Socratic Catholic

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