The word Metaphysics is derived from the Greek letter Ta Phusika which according to the online Compact Oxford English Dictionary (2008) means “the things after the Physics, referring to the sequence of Aristotle’s works”. It also refers to philosophy concerned with abstract concepts such as the nature of existence or of truth and knowledge. The very nature of metaphysics brings in a number of problems when we try to understand metaphysics in the light of normal day to day living.
Bertrand Russell (1910), very succinctly puts the problem into perspective by saying that “Metaphysics, or the attempt to conceive the world as a whole by means of thought, has been developed, from the first, by the union and conflict of two very different human impulses, the one urging men towards mysticism, the other urging them towards science.”
This statement is very true, science require of us to demonstrate the validity of knowledge of a particular concept or a principle through verifiable and rigid procedures of experiments which can be reproduced. But metaphysics deals with knowledge which can come to you spontaneously such as revelations, intuition or insights. So while the former can be quantified, the latter is incalculable.
Metaphysics strive to go beyond the normal ken of knowledge and try and establish the validity of concepts in an abstract way. Things that we take as common objects, matter, and the physical senses all are questioned by metaphysicians to arrive at the innermost intrinsic nature. Metaphysics consider time to be unreal and the world of senses as illusory. The concept that this world is an illusion is reflected not only in the musings of Hegel but also in Eastern religious thought. However, the same philosophers would readily agree that the physical nature of the world cannot be denied and therein lays the contradiction in trying to prove the reality or the illusory nature of the physical world.
One of the greatest problems of metaphysics has been that many philosophers have diverse views on the definition of God. For some, there was only one god, for others, god was a metaphor for the trinity comprising of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Hindus believe in more than a million gods. For some philosophers like Rene Descartes, the existence of Geometry was the proof that God existed. Then are others who say that they do not know either way and call themselves Agnostics.
We also have the Rationalists and the Atheists who demand solid demonstrable proof for the existence of God. So within the metaphysical traditions, not counting the rationalists and the atheists, there is no consensus on the concept or the existence of God. Differences in the metaphysical world later surfaced as conflict amongst its various followers, sometimes even leading to wars.
I tend to gravitate towards the metaphysical concepts of the Agnostics. The reasons I forward are that the world is too varied and there are too many things that we do not understand. There are many events which even science cannot explain and it would be wrong on my part to be judgmental over concepts which I fully may not comprehend. Even science at times especially in the field of Quantum Mechanics has no answers to why certain subatomic particles behave in the manner they do. God means many things to many people and to hold a belief that one’s god is the only real God is, in my opinion wrong. My world view therefore addresses the real world with pragmatism and the metaphysical aspects with Agnostic traditions.
Popkin, Richard. H & Stroll Arthur. (1923). Philosophy Made Simple. New York: Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group.
Russell, Bertrand (1910). Problems of Philosophy. Prepared by Keener, Gordon. Web.
Russell, Bertrand (1910). Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays. Produced by Howse, Jeannie & Mastronardi, Adrian and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. Web.
Other Internet Sources
Metaphysics. (2008). Oxford Online Dictionary. Web.
Wikipedia (2008). Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Web.