The editorial error that became “metaphysics”

Did you know that the term “metaphysics” came about through an error by an editor? Not only that, but the entire project of trying to find the nature and origin of being and the universe is based upon this error.

The “meta” in metaphysical had meant “after” or “beyond”, which led it to be interpreted as meaning “beyond the physical world”. No such meaning was there, however, because the editor had only wanted to denote use the term to mean the chapter after the chapter on ‘physics’. So Western Civilisation has been chasing after God and the soul for over two-thousand years because of an error.

Consciousness is mundane

There is nothing special about consciousness. It is only the consciousness which wants to think so. In this sense I agree with Object-Oriented Ontologists.

But what I do not agree with OOO is that to think it is necessary (read: special) to be free (like a rock is) from subjectivity and objectivity.

I have found it gratifying to come to terms with my humanness and celebrate existence – without being anthropologically arrogant – as only a human being can.

The equality of objectivity

In objectivity everything has a value of 1. The problem is that it has a value. Choosing an equal value for everything is in itself a value-ladened choice, no different to choice unequal values.

To talk of nihilism is meaningless

If everything is meaningless (or if nothing has meaning) then to talk of nihilism is also meaningless. Is there not a tautological trap here?

“Philosophy”, East and West

Like all terms in any language there is no full presence of meaning.

Here are the three definitions of “philosophy” from LDOCE. They are distinct but related as all polysemy are.

1 [uncountable] the study of the nature and meaning of existence, truth, good and evil etc
2 [countable] the views of a particular philosopher or group of philosophers
3 [countable] the attitude or set of ideas that guides the behaviour of a person or organization

I think the first two terms are fairly straightforward (the first one at least) but it is the third which is of interest here.

One often uses the third meaning in sentences like, “my philosophy on life is …” or “his philosophy on the matter is that …”.

Interestingly this does not translate across languages.

When learners try to ask a question like “what is your philosophy on X” they often fail by literally translating the words.

In Japanese, for example, “X in taisuru anata no tetsugaku wa nan desu ka” sounds strange and unnatural. More natural would be “X ni kanshite wa dou omoimasu ka“, which would be literally close to “what do you think of X“, which would sound like asking for an opinion.

The term philosophy then entails some degree of objectivity, whatever that may be. This is not true of what do you think of X. The point being the possible structure of the language and the influence of it upon you must be taken into consideration.

Going back to the other two meanings too it would be hard to use the same structure as “the philosophy of Confucius” or “his management philosophy”. Different words would replace philosophy for this usage in Japanese and Chinese, and presumably in many other languages as well.

Physicalism

I believe everything is physical. I also believe that the physical is a priori. So I believe what are commonly called the mind, self and soul also derive from the physical and physical processes.

There are things. And there is space. Space is also seemingly a singular thing. These are the physical things. The physical processes is time or the measure of it.

Everyday and at every moment, I reaffirm this and see it as a kind of mysticism.

Religion is man-made

To me, religion is man-made, not god-made. It serves a purpose similar (if not identical) to that of philosophy and science, two other man-made concepts.

There is nothing “natural” to religion, philosophy or science. If the Christian God were natural then every person and culture would have naturally gravitated toward Christianity. That God is not known to people unless they are told about his existence is proof that God is a construct. If philosophy and being a philosopher is natural then it would have been of the same structure across all cultures. Again, the fact that Confucius is considered a philosopher is wholly a Western construct. The word and concept “philosophy” is Western, and completely foreign to Eastern thinking. Yet again, if science was natural it would have been the same across all cultures at all times. The fact we needed to discover and develop it means it is constructed.

The only thing not “man-made” is matter. We are part of the material world. We come from the material. So are we not part of nature? In other words, we are nature-made. And it is nature, ironically, which had made us to believe in things that are man-made and the god-made.