“It’s not easy to say what metaphysics is.”
So begins the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on metaphysics.
The Mighty Wikipedia sayeth,
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:
- “What is there?” and
- “What is it like?”
The reason I’m confronting this issue right off the bat in my series on The Possibility of Christian Universalism is because I think most of us in the West are caught between the biblical classical world, steeped in myth, and the postmodern world, after the “death of metaphysics.” I’m also chastened by David Opderbeck’s comment on last week’s post, in which he wrote,
…the entire conversation is loaded or moot or something if you want to rule out “metaphysics” tout court. I mean, if you “reject metaphysics,” then there is no point to having this conversation, or any conversation, at all. Nobody who believes he actually exists in some reality can “reject metaphysics” because there is no such thing as actuality or existence or belief or reality without “metaphysics.”
What David is accusing me of, I think, is “self-referential incoherency.” That is, to claim that “metaphysics is false,” or “metaphysical statements are meaningless,” are themselves metaphysical statements. They beg the question (in the actual meaning of this phrase, not how you hear it used in common parlance.)
This is nothing new for me, for it is the foremost problem in postmodern (anti-)logic. E.g., “You say there’s no truth, but saying that is in itself a truth claim.” The same thing goes for statements about reality.
So maybe David has a point. For me to attempt to deconstruct metaphysics here might be a losing battle. So let’s just leave it at this: a premise of this series of posts is that I have a very weak view of metaphysics, based primarily in my conviction that the human mind is finite and only able to grasp a very small percentage of what is really going on in being and in the world (cosmos).
Next up: Is a belief in Hell premised on an ancient cosmology?