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Metaphysics and Art: A Philosophical Examination
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Stefan Molyneux
Published 3 months ago |


There is an old saying in philosophy, which is that metaphysics is not a problem to be solved, but a disease to be cured.

Metaphysics is notoriously tricky, but eminently solvable.

The definition of metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. This naturally begs the question: what is reality?

Now there are definitely challenging problems in philosophy, such as the definition of ethics and virtue, and morally appropriate actions in ambiguous circumstances, and so on. However, philosophy should at least be able to answer the question that is easily and instinctually answered by every other living being. Single celled organisms can tell the difference between themselves and others, between food and debris – insects can navigate from one continent to another – as can birds – and babies can very quickly figure out the difference between themselves and the world around them.

It is reasonable to hope that philosophy can answer a question easily solved by tiny-brained organisms. Ethics is a discipline peculiar to human beings, but the need to differentiate between dreams and reality is common to countless creatures who never need to bother their minds about virtue.

In other words, if little brains can solve a problem effortlessly, surely big brains can solve it as well! If a six-month-old baby can lift a weight, surely an adult can as well.

The failure of philosophy to resoundingly answer a question easily solved by your average bee has not done much to enhance the reputation of philosophy. The general perception that philosophy is an abstract and useless discipline that has little or nothing to do with practical life is only further embedded in our minds when we wake from a nightmare, knowing for certain it was not real, and philosophers wag their fingers at us and claim that we have no way of actually knowing that!

The vast majority of people have no trouble whatsoever navigating empirical reality – in fact, those who claim they cannot do this – who see visions or believe that they can fly – are defined as mentally ill, and treated as such.

The everyday tools and machines that we use to navigate empirical reality and survive within it are all designed, created, marketed, transported and sold by people with a full and complete ability to differentiate waking reality from subjective impressions. Try giving a child the "idea" of candy rather than a actual piece of candy, and see how he or she reacts. Even a toddler has no trouble differentiating between the contents of a mind – an idea – and something in reality – a piece of candy.

We can only hope that giant-brain philosophers can achieve the empirical wisdom of an 18-month-old toddler.

The first thing to understand about metaphysics is that it is the study of everything in the universe except the human mind. Subjectivity by definition is that which occurs within the mind, and therefore is not reflected or reproduced in external reality. You may prefer the colour red, I prefer the colour blue – the objective wavelengths representing red and blue exist in the world, and can be measured objectively – but the preferences exists only in our minds.

Now you might be screaming at me and claiming that I am begging the question or jumping the gun, because I have just casually tossed off a definition of subjective and objective without proving anything – and you might cry that these are all just assumptions without evidence.

If you've ever played golf, and really worked to improve your swing, one of the things a coach will do is take a video of you, and then slow it down so that you can see every detail of your movements. Slowing down to see the details is essential for improvement – in both sports and thought.

You are reading this using your eyes, or listening to it using your ears. Your reaction that I have not proven anything proves that you have already proven everything...


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