Metaphysics

Metaphysics is often associated with the study of the divine, spiritual or supernatural. Meta- (from the Greek meta ‘beside, after‘) physics, is usually related with a world that lies beyond and transcends this physical world. But not in the present. In the present we are going to consider metaphysics as the study of the most general and fundamental aspects of the world; and not of a supernatural world, but of this physical world. The problem with the physical world is that we don’t know it directly. What we know about it, is what it appears to us from perception. Metaphysics then, is about what lies behind the world of appearances. It is the study of those invariable and universal aspects of the world common to all particulars. In the following then, when we talk about the universe’s metaphysics, we are referring to the universe’s constitution at its most fundamental level.

We shall begin our enquiry from two premises:

First Premise . There is an objective reality in the world which is independent from our thought.

Second Premise . Truth is an approximation to reality and never an identity with it.

These premises might seem trivial, although until we properly justify them they remain a matter of opinion. Eventually we shall justify them, but for the moment they serve as a starting point.
And they are a useful starting point for they introduce the perspective on which we are looking the world. We begin with the idea that there is a world out there which is independent from our thought. It doesn’t matter if we are watching it or not, if we are awake or asleep, if we live to experience it or not; there is an objective world that is independent from us. Not only that, it happens that we don’t know this world directly. We only know it through approximations. So the mystery for us is, not the nature of a supernatural world, but the nature of this tangible immediate world all around us.

Right from the beginning we can make certain distinctions with other points of view. The first premise, for example, goes in opposition to idealism, the idea that the world reality has a mental nature. Unlike idealism, we sustain that the world has an objective reality independent from our thought. Our world-view also differs from subjectivism, the idea that knowledge is subjective and there is no external truth. We sustain that our thought is indeed subjective, but this doesn‘t preclude the existence of an objective reality. Furthermore, truth might be subjective but it progresses, and the progression of truth is the gradual approximation to the world’s external reality. And our world-view is also compatible with relativism, the idea that truth, knowledge and morality are not absolute but depends on culture, society and historical context. Despite of existing in an objective reality, our thought is both subjective and relative.

And here we enter into one of the most fascinating aspects of human nature. We all live in a common world, yet no one sees it in the same way. We all share the same reality, yet we all see it differently. Each individual, each family group, each culture, and within each culture, each social group, sees the world in a different way. Each one of us lives in a world of its own, with our own values, beliefs and ideas. Why does this happen? First of all, at an individual level, we see the world differently, simply because our minds are physiologically different. Each one has different sensitivities and cognitive make-ups. This means that we might all perceive the same world, but we all interpret it differently. Second, we all have different world views because we also have different experiences in life. Cognition is not fixed but it develops with time. Development in turn, is shaped by experience and different experiences makes different world-views. And then, at a more general or at a human level, our mind evolved to ensure our self-preservation, and objective world-views are not a necessary condition for this. For example, on its most basic approximations, a self-centred and self-regarding mind tends to see the world in anthropocentric and anthropomorphic ways. We can grow out of this. But even in our most sophisticated and objective approximations, cognition is still pray of rationalising, categorising and idealising the world; which are useful mechanisms to interpret the world, but not real. So we are not just limited by individuality and experience, we are also limited by the way our mind evolved to think; that is, rationalising, simplifying, idealising and in a self-centred and self-regarding way. Furthermore, our mind not only didn’t evolve to form true conceptions of the world, but it evolved so that we naturally tend to escape from reality and actively pursue realities that satisfy our needs. The widespread consumption of drugs, the insatiable demand for entertainment, the need for religious beliefs, or the general inattention to the imminent devastating effects of overpopulation and environmental degradation are all examples of this. Reality is one and common to us all. Yet, we don’t naturally pursue a common realistic world-view. Instead we are more concerned with short term and individualistic ways of escaping from the pain and suffering of our particular reality and looking for world-views (and self-concepts) that are comforting and that satisfy our needs. Furthermore, not only out of self-preservation we naturally tend to construct realities that satisfy our needs but, because self-preservation is occurs within society, the prevailing world-views are those ones that the ruling minorities use to legitimise or consolidate their power (e.g. religion, nationalism, etc.) and the majority follow for their own convenience; nothing of which has any dependency to reality. These then, are some of the reasons why we all share one common reality, yet we live in different worlds, and why is natural to conceive the world in unrealistic ways.

So from the premise that we live in an objective world independent from our thought we are going to propose the following principles:

First principle (about Space)
. Space is a substance, and is all that there is in the world.

First of all we have to defince what is a substance. One way of defining a substance is as an element that only needs itself to exist. That is, a substance is an element that is self-contained, ungenerated and imperishable. Another quality that is usually associated with a substance is its inalterability. That is, a substance is an element that is not affected by time and it is always the same. Furthermore, inalterability is a sufficient condition for self-containment. If an element is not affected by time, then it is ungenerated and imperishable.

We propose that a substance has yet another quality: unicity. If there is a substance then it has to be unitary unitary. Furthermore, being a self-contained and inalterable substance is a necessary and sufficient condition for being unitary.
The sufficient condition would be, that if A is unitary then it is a substance. If A is unitary and all that there is in the universe, then there is nothing to affect A. A is unalterable, self-contained and a substance.
And the necessary condition would be, that if there is a substance, then it is unitary. Suppose that A and B were substances: any information between A and B would mean an exchange of energy and a variation on both A and B; which is impossible for they are invariable substances. So if A and B are substances there is no information between each other. From the point of view of A, B doesn‘t exist and  A is all that there is in its universe. And from the point of view of B, A doesn’t exist and B is all that there is in its universe. From the point of view of our universe, if there is a substance it is unitary and all that there is in it. And this is what we propose:

Now that we have defined what a substance is, we propose that physical Space is the universe’s unitary substance. Space is unaffected by time; therefore it is ungenerated, imperishable and unalterable. Space only needs itself to exist because it is unitary and self-contained. Space is also irreducible: everything can be reduced to its spatiality and Space cannot be reduced to anything more fundamental than itself. So we propose that Space is a substance and all that there is in the world.

Corollaries from the first principle
. We began our enquiry from the premise that that there is an objective reality independent from our thought. Now we are in a position to justify this premise. If Space is a substance then it is independent form our thought. And if Space is all that there is in the world then it males a reality independent from our thought.
.  We also began by considering metaphysics as the study of the most fundamental aspects of this physical world, rather than of a supernatural world. And we can justify this too. If Space is all that there is in the world and if Space is physical, then the physical world is the only real world. In a monist universe there is no other world than the physical world. Supernatural worlds are not real and they don’t have an objective existence.

Second Principle (about Nature)
. Nature is an order on the behaviour of Space.

Space is not an ideal invariable substance. Space is a real, physical substance characterised for being dynamic. Space is not a static expanse. Space is constantly changing and evolving. Nature then, is the order on the behaviour of Space.

Corollaries from the second principle
. We know that Nature is universal. Wherever we look in the universe, everything responds to Nature. We can now explain this is so. Nature is universal because it is the behaviour of a unitary and universal Space. The whole universe is constituted by the same Space, so Nature is present everywhere in the world.
. Another quality of Nature, that might not be so obvious, is its immanence. Nature is not an external order, but it is an immanent order of things. And this is because Space is not external to elements. Space constitutes things and has a dynamic nature. Therefore things, rather than being passive elements responding to an external order, are dynamic elements with a natural behaviour.
. And another consequence of monism is that there are not a multiplicity of natures, but only one Nature. Nature is unitary. Everything in the universe is constituted by the same Space so everything responds to the same Nature. A monist universe is a natural world where nothing exist out of Space, therefore nothing behaves out of Nature and where everything responds to the same Nature. Science (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) is the study different manifestations of the same Nature. Human nature is is a natural phenomena that cannot be isolated from the natural world. Human society too. And the human mind is also a natural phenomenal where there is no duality mind-matter (if we understand by matter a natural physical occurence). And finally, our subjective thought, a thought that thought that not only is confined to a subjective view of the world but it dindn’t even evlove to think objecitvely, is also a natural occurrence.

The nature of Space

Classical metaphysical theorie


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