Category Archives: Metaphysics

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Do you believe in the supernatural?

While there are many ways people arrive at the conclusions that form their worldview — many people determine what they believe to be true about the world based on how their life experience has led them to answer the question: “Do you believe in the supernatural?”  That is what I want to discuss today.

Mauna Kea Hawaii

For many, the word supernatural conjures up all sorts of uncomfortable, at times even embarrassing and confusing feelings.  It evokes fear and mystery in others.  Some dismiss its existence as irrational and superstitious.  Either way, most people associate the term with something mysterious — something they do not fully understand, and for those who do not believe in it at all, something silly.

But first, I want to bring the conversation down to its basic level.  Dictionary.com defines supernatural with eight definitions.  For the sake of time, we will go with the first one: of, pertaining to or being above or beyond what is natural.  This of course leads us to define what we mean by natural and nature.  Again, let’s go with the first definition listed for both.  By natural, I mean anything that exists inside nature, and by nature, I mean the material world.

Pinning down these definitions of supernatural, natural, nature, and material world, is necessary for the sake of this discussion due to their multiple meanings.  If, when we use the word supernatural, simply as “anything that is above or beyond what is natural (material)” then I believe the only logical explanation is that at least on some basic, very fundamental level, the supernatural must exist.

Painted Desert, ArizonaThe primary evidence rests in the fact that we have a consciousness — a non-corporeal element of our being that is not material, not tangible to our five senses, and is the source for our ability to exercise rationality — namely to think and to do so with reason.

Defining what comprises one’s consciousness in totality is for another blog entry.  The main point here is that this invisible element of our being that puts our thoughts and desires into material action, displays our character and personality, is not a natural (in this context more precisely defined as material) thing.  It, therefore, lies outside and beyond nature or what is natural, and therefore must be supernatural according to the definition mentioned above.

Strict materialists will disagree with me.  Materialismreferring to the second definition listed, is a philosophical theory that posits natural matter is the only “thing” which comprises the universe and its inhabitants and that it alone is responsible for actions and events.  A strict materialist would make no distinction between a person’s brain and his mind; in fact, he would deny the existence of the mind.  But I see this as illogical because to deny the existence of the mind, is to express a thought — something that is invisible, intangible, and lies outside the bounds of natural reality; it therefore must itself be supernatural.

I will conclude by taking a rather strong stand and saying it is illogical and irrational to deny the existence of the supernatural, at least on some level.  To argue otherwise is to implicitly give credibility to your opposing belief, or thought, and that thought itself is not material, lies outside the scope of the natural, and is therefore, supernatural.*  do you believe in the supernaturalIt would be like concluding: “Natural matter is all that exists , oh, except for the conclusion that ‘natural matter is all that exists, and the instruments I used to draw that conclusion (namely, my mind and reason).”’

Either way, I would say that although there are various different worldviews, most fall into two main camps — those who are strict materialists, who deny the existence of the supernatural, and those who believe in some type of supernatural element to our existence.  I will call these people supernaturalists from here on.

**This issue of the necessity of acknowledging the credibility of something not a part of nature, i.e. a person’s reasonable thoughts, as a requirement to make a reasonable claim about the universe, is explored in greater detail in chapters 3 and 4 the book Miracles by C.S. Lewis.

Note, all links above will open in a separate window.

Copyright © 2013 RationalWorldview.com

Why metaphysics is for everyone

In previous posts, I have gone to great lengths at least on some general level to define metaphysics in its broadest of senses, but I believe in short, metaphysics is merely an evaluation of our view of the universe, or more simply the world and human existence.  Though vast and overwhelming, it is ultimately the pursuit of truth.

The study of unanswerable questions falling under the umbrella of metaphysics, which ultimately comprises one’s worldview (or framework of beliefs about the world) is for everyone — not just philosophers, scientists, and other academicians.

Metaphysics is unlike, say, accounting, sports, or music.  In other words, there is no special “gift” required or necessary talent to excel in understanding metaphysical matters — only the ability to use rationality and a devotion to the pursuit of truth  Sure, there will be some who have a better understanding of how to articulate better what they believe and why they believe it, but at this juncture, what I am claiming (and will support with future posts) is that no one — no matter how brilliant — has a monopoly on metaphysics.  It is, in general, a level playing field.

Metaphysics, by its nature, opens its discussion to everyone.  As human beings, we are forced to visit its study, first, because “we are” and second, because we are — or do that business of being — within the universe.  Everyone draws metaphysical conclusions, both implicitly and explicitly, acknowledged or unacknowledged, every day.  We have done it for years and cannot escape it, although I do think it true that many do not bother to examine, much less discuss, their metaphysical views.  Most of us are consumed with quotidian affairs, and justifiably so, with earning a living and taking care of the people and things important to us.  Many times, the monotonous, uninspiring but necessary demands of life prevent us from such examination and discussion — a discussion vital to our destiny.

Therefore, establishing that one’s understanding of the universe — in this context, mainly the how and why of its existence — are not totally and necessarily dependent on one’s intellect or whether a person excels — or has the potential to excel — in one specific academic area or another.  There are plenty of people who, as a rule, are horrible spellers, but excel very quickly in mathematics or in their ability to reason and debate.  How many times have we met or heard of a brilliant person who suffers with dyslexia? These two examples are meant to illuminate the fact that we all, as humans, have strengths and weaknesses, but we all have something to contribute to the most important philosophical questions that have plagued humankind as far back as we, collectively as a species, can record.

To disparage or even discredit someone’s contribution to the conversation based on the fact that someone lacks knowledge in physics, biology, theology, history etc. is, I believe, foolish.  To ask, debate, think about, and discuss such issues is to be human.  Someone may be an expert in say, neuroscience or quantum mechanics, but that does not qualify her to make definitive, absolute factual statements about important matters such as the existence of God or why and how the universe came into existence, because ultimately nobody can; further, being an expert in one academic field or another does not even make a person more qualified to make such statements either.

For example, to make the jump from “I am a credible source for knowledge about quantum mechanics because I have a PhD in the field” (a reasonable claim) to: “Therefore, I am more qualified to make absolute, comprehensive statements involving matters such as the existence of God and and why the universe came into existence” has no logical merit.  Such a person would, no doubt, be qualified to explain the theories, facts, experiments, and observations in her specific field, but could not possibly declare as fact her stance on the philosophical matters listed above because she cannot prove those philosophical ideas in the same way she is able to prove her scientific hypotheses in the lab.

This fact that no person can conclusively and definitely answer with absolute proof the numerous unanswerable metaphysical questions that plague us as humans is the nature of this beast.  Therefore, questions like “Does God exist?”; “Why did the universe come into existence?”; and other related questions are open to every single person to study, observe, speculate, and ultimately make conclusions about them.

A note on leaving comments

Finally, when leaving comments on this blog about metaphysics, one should not disparage the observations or comments of others that have already been widely accepted as true.  We are all in different stages and chapters of life.  What is apparent to a 50-year-old will not be so apparent to a 12-year- old.  Then again, what may be apparent to a particular 12-year-old may be news to a 50-year-old. We can all stand to learn something from each other.

This blog’s comments and eventual forum are meant for the young and old, experienced and inexperienced alike.  Because all humans are literally in different places in life, the general attitude should be one of openness to our differences both in our lives — both good and bad — and the level to which each wants to explore this topic and those which fall under its umbrella.

Copyright © 2013 RationalWorldview.com

Metaphysics defined… or not

Today, I’ve decided to write for the readers who want me to go into more detail about metaphysics and the branches of philosophy under which it falls.  If you are like me, you always want terms clearly defined in order to prevent misunderstanding and enhance communication.  On the other hand, others are  not as obsessive as I am and are content with a general definition of terms.  If you are that person, you may be bored with my next entry, so please re-visit me later in the week.

I should point out the term “metaphysics” has a long and complicated history.  It is unruly and it is almost impossible to pin down its precise all-encompassing definition.  However, that should not prevent us from talking about it.  If we never endeavored to know more about something simply because we know from the start we will never comprehend its totality, then no progress could ever be made in anything.

On my blog, I will be using the term “metaphysics” and “metaphysical” in a general sense.  Metaphysics includes, but is not limited to, four main branches of philosophy.  They are: ontology, cosmology, epistemology, and etiology.

Both the online version of Merriam-Webster and dictionary.com provide similar definitions, but I personally prefer dictionary.com’s definition for metaphysics and its related branches.  I see no need to write out their full definitions here, when you can click on the links below; they will open in a separate window.  I use:

For those who are not philosophy majors, all of this may seem a bit overwhelming.  The main point I am trying to establish here is that metaphysics is a broad and large part of philosophy, that raises important questions about how we think about the universe — or more relevant and closer to home — about ourselves and the world around us.  The conclusions we draw from our metaphysical views of the world shape our framework of beliefs, or what I will call from here on a worldview.

Copyright © 2013 RationalWorldview.com

My metaphysical journey

My metaphysical journeyFor the sake of clarity, I want to loosely define how I will be using the word “metaphysical” and “metaphysics” on this site.  I am using it in the most general of senses – anything concerned with the nature and origin of existence and the limits to our knowledge of that existence.  If you want a more comprehensive definition, the online version of Merriam-Webster provides it here.

Since this is my first entry, I guess a decent place to start is the beginning.  My metaphysical journey began around the age of five, when I realized that I am a unique, autonomous being expressed through my consciousness inside my body.  Although I lacked the vocabulary to put it that way at that time, I remember having that thought, or better yet the curiosity and wonder of what that meant, what my purpose for existing was and is, and who or what made this happen — more clearly, why do I not only have a body, but also a non-corporeal element that makes me who I am.

It is my opinion that such questions about reality and our existence affect all human beings at one point or other and in different ways.  I also believe that because we live in a world that most positively and regularly yields cruelty, horror, and disappointment (with intervals of or relative fleeting moments of happiness), we all long for something outside this world for relief from the suffering and injustice we either experience directly or observe.  Most people will agree they long for something this world cannot provide them, something otherworldly, even if they are unable to explain just what that longing consists of or is.

These common human experiences have inspired me to write about them with the hope that others will join the conversation and provide more insight.  Most curious people have questions, which continuously circle around in their heads, for which there will never be an answer, but I do not think that fact should prevent discussion about metaphysics — discussion that could possibly help others on their metaphysical journey and ultimately the conclusions they draw about the world from their metaphysical beliefs.

Copyright © 2013 RationalWorldview.com