The Observation of Metaphysics

Metaphysics is at once the most abstract and theoretical form of study imaginable, and yet also the most concrete and practical form of knowledge possible. In considering only essence, metaphysics has very general applicability. In being about essence, it is at the center of everything, at the core of the very nature of being itself. The knowledge and truths developed from metaphysics are more certain, firm, unchangeable, and substantial than literal physical 'concrete'. The descriptions and correspondences of metaphysics are absolute, even while they are also relative.

For example, metaphysics is abstract in that it considers expression and choice independently of who is choosing or what is chosen. A knowledge of metaphysics cannot be used to describe any particular perception, expression, or experience, for the study is not about specific people, places, or things. The descriptions of metaphysics do not cover anyone's personal viewpoint, or the individual basis of anyone's choices. However, the concepts, descriptions, and principles of metaphysics are applicable to any and all instances of choice; they apply to all choices, made by everyone, everywhere. Metaphysics is specific in that anything that is inherent in the essential nature of choice itself is applicable to every choice that one makes. In that choices are involved in all aspects of life, a true knowledge of metaphysics is inherently and eminently practical, potentially influencing and enhancing the process of life itself.

Metaphysics is a search for fundamental symmetries (invariants) and continuities (intrinsics) in the relation between self and reality. For example, the invariants and intrinsics of experience would be those notions and descriptions which remain applicable even when changing either the content or the context (or both) of experience (as in the definition of symmetry).

For example, as soon as someone makes an assertion "I experienced X", some aspects of metaphysical principle and insight are immediately applicable regardless of how rarified, special, spiritual, or mystical that experience may be. Anything which inherently intrinsic to the nature of any experience is validly applicable to all experiences. For descriptions of essence to be applied, it only matters that a notion of "experience" has been used at all. It does not matter who (as a subject), or what (as an object), the assertion regarding experience happens to refer to.

However, to develop the concepts of metaphysics, a metaphysicist must do more than simply "have experience", she/he must also intellectually think about and reflect on the nature of experience in itself. Rather than being a reflection on what is (or has been) experienced, a metaphysicist would reflect on the 'fact' that there are these events called 'experiences' at all.

The reflection of a metaphysicist is more than the practice of the scientific method. As aspects of knowing and experience, the metaphysicist must also consider the nature of measurement, observation, and objectivity, prior to assuming the usage of these notions in a given practice of thinking and reflection. As such, to study metaphysics is to seek the intrinsic, essential, and invariant aspects of experience (perception, measurement, observation, causality, etc). It involves a consideration of the very basis on which knowing itself rests, including that particular method of knowing which is called 'the scientific method'. For example, one cannot use the scientific method to 'prove' and 'validate' the correctness of the use of the scientific method itself. Metaphysics extends beyond, and yet provides a semantic foundation for, a more conventional physics.

To study metaphysics is to consider and describe the essential nature of perception, expression, knowing and knowledge, etc., as they are in themselves. It is an attempt to develop comprehensive and essential descriptions of these notions. For example, part of the aim of metaphysics is to consider experience, regardless of 1) who is having that experience (i.e., as the subjective context of experience), 2) what they are experiencing (i.e., as the subjective content of experience), 3) why they are having that experience, and not some other, 4) when they have it, 5) where they have it, or even 6) how (i.e., the process, method, or sensory channel, by which) they have that experience.

An interest in metaphysics is an interest in the nature of experience as a relation between self and reality. Questions like "What is experience?", and "How is the process/concept of experience related to other processes/concepts?", are central to the study. Where considering perception, it does not matter how rare or dis-similar the content of a person's perception is relative to the norm, the nature of the inherent aspects of the process (and concept) of all of perception will be the same.

However, there are some aspects of observation and experience are not in themselves directly observable, empirical, or repeatable. In the same sense that there are some things (or aspects of life) that can only be known by personal (empirical) experience, (i.e., by some sort of non-reasoned, non-intellectual 'direct intuition' of the nature of nature), there are also some things that can only be known by analytic and abstract methods, (i.e., by some sort of reasoned form of intellectual and logical deduction). Neither empiric or analytic knowledge by itself is enough to completely understand the essence of the nature of experience. Only a complete synthesis of intuition and intellect can provide a true knowledge of the nature of being.

Therefore, to be fully effective, personal experience, intuition, and deep insight must be combined with the techniques of analysis and logic. Only in this way can the metaphysicist appreciate a complete description of the intrinsics and invariants of metaphysics. While an understanding of the invariants of metaphysics cannot be conveyed or defined by any one single form of logic, analysis or intellect, or even in the terms of anyone's particular experiences, intuitions, observations, or measurements, the intrinsics of metaphysics can be conveyed by a proper synthesis of a multiplicity of these.


The Reformation of Metaphysics

Metaphysics begins as an inquiry into the nature of the relationship between self and reality (world). It is this relationship which is the essence of the study. Insofar as this relationship is not a 'thing' this conception of metaphysics is in keeping with tradition as the study of that which is 'beyond' the physical.

As a generalization, the concepts of self and world (reality) can be considered as 'the subjective' and 'the objective'. Metaphysics is, therefore, a study of the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity. A successful metaphysics (as contrasted with a successful physics) will be one which provides a clear description of the essential nature of this relationship. Metaphysics emphasizes description (what relationship is), rather than explanation (why relationship is). It is a consideration of the being of the relationship between the subjective and objective in terms of intrinsic aspects: those characteristic descriptions (and patterns of description) which are both necessary and sufficient (complete) for that relationship to be semantically meaningful in all contexts. Metaphysics does not attempt to account for how or why these intrinsic patterns of description have the form and qualities that they do.

To consider the nature of what the essence of a relationship is, it is necessary to consider it in terms of what it does. This is, in effect, a methodology by which being is considered in the terms of doing. The study of metaphysics is, therefore, directly involved with both ontology and epistemology.

Ontology is the study of beingness. It considers the nature of what something is in itself. Epistemology is the study of knowing and the nature of knowledge. The essential questions of epistemology are "how does one know?" and "what is knowing, known, and knowledge?". Insofar as epistemology is about methodology and process (a doing; the process of knowledge), then metaphysics is effectively the application of epistemology (a technique of knowing) to ontology (being in itself). Thus, metaphysics studies (a doing) the being of relationship (the relationship between self and world).

More generally, metaphysics extends to consider the relationship between being and doing itself. As such, metaphysics (as a being) considers (as a doing) the being and doing of relationship (a relationship which is itself between 'things' which are also in themselves a being and a doing). Therefore, for a metaphysics to truly be effective, the scope of its description must include a description of the nature of the process of its own description (metaphysics is a relationship as well as being about relationship). Metaphysics must be able do coherently describe itself; it must be as semantically complete when it is its own subject as well as when it is its own object.

As a case example of the above, consider the nature of consciousness (as in relation to 'the subjective' above). Consciousness is never 'just consciousness', rather it is always 'consciousness of'. It is always a consciousness of something, even when that something is itself. The subject (the observer, consciousness) is never without an object (the observed; that which is regarded as being other than self). Being, as the being of consciousness, is never without doing, ('consciousness of' is an activity). Thus, as an observation (a description) on the nature of consciousness, metaphysics can include a concept of inseparability between being and doing; that the being of something (in this example, of consciousness) can be described in terms of its doing (in this example, the action of consciousness as being always 'consciousness of').

As a second example, consider the nature of existence (as in relation to 'the objective' as used above). Historically (until very recently) the connotations associated with the term 'existence' implicitly included an idea of independence: that something will 'be existing' regardless of anyone's observation of it (a doing). In actual practice, however, the independent significance of the term 'existence', or the absolute independent existence of any 'thing' has never been directly substantiated. Insofar as practice in itself (pragmaticism) must ultimately be considered as more significant (more real) than the philosophy of realism, metaphysics must consider the nature of the significance of this term 'existence' (the being of that which exists) in terms of the manner by which it is pragmatically established (in other words, a doing). Metaphysics cannot consider ontology (being and existence) independently of (without relationship with) epistemology (a doing), the manner by which the metaphysicist (as a subject) comes to know about the existence of the object (as objective).

Therefore, insofar as the nature of relationship itself is primal to the study of metaphysics (by these examples and many others; hence the definition), the significance of a concept or a description (a being) cannot be considered independently of the manner by which it is arrived at (a doing). In order to consider significance, or something as being significant, it must be positively distinguished from non-significance (that which is non-significant). In this essay, this requirement is known as the 'principle of identity': that which cannot be distinguished must be the same. The significance of a term, concept, or state of being can only be established by some method or activity (a doing) which can, at least in principle, distinguish between it and that which is not it. A definition which does not distinguish between that which is defined, and that which is not (everything else) is not a definition (it has zero semantic content; it is not meaningful). Minimally, the actuality of an identity must be defined in terms of the possibility of its distinguishability (being is comparison; comparison is a doing).

As such, Metaphysics must consider (it cannot not consider) 'that which exists' (being) in terms the manner by which that existence is established (a doing). In more pragmatic terms, the actuality of the semantic meaningfulness of the concept 'X exists' cannot not be defined by (at a minimum) the real possibility of interacting with X. To claim that X exists is to claim, at a minimum, that it is at least possible in principle to interact with X. In other words, X must have measurable properties (a potentiality of interaction) in order for the assertion 'X exists' to have any semantic meaningfulness.

Suppose, for example, that someone were to propose that there is this substance 'Q'. Suppose that they were to further claim that even though they had some of this Q on hand, that it was in the nature of Q to have no measurable properties: "Q has no shape, color, or density" and "Q is invisible and undetectable to all instruments, scientific or otherwise, directly and indirectly". If no one has any means by which they could interact with Q, by what basis can it be claimed to exist? What is the personal functional significance of something which, by never interacting with anything, will never interact with oneself. When there is no possibility of distinguishing between the states of "Q exists" and "Q does not exist", there is no significance in the difference; pragmatically, they are the same.

The actuality of existence cannot be considered independently of the possibility of interaction. Furthermore, it is the action of measurement (a doing) which is the very basis of the meaning of 'X exists' (a being). The significance of the concept of existence, therefore, is not independent of interaction, but is rather dependant on the concept of interaction. The concept of existence cannot be considered without having already (at least implicitly) involved the significance of the concept of interaction. The concept of interaction is fundamental to the concept of existence. The notion of interaction (doing) is more fundamental than the notion of existence (being). These two notions (being and doing) cannot be considered separately (in either being or doing).

This idea of relationship and inseparability is so basic to the nature of these examples (and many others) that it is regarded as an Axiom of this metaphysics:

Axiom I: Relationship (doing) is more fundamental than identity (being).

In returning to the relationship between the subjective and the objective, Axiom I asserts that the nature of both the subjective and the objective must be considered, understood, and defined in the terms of the relationship between them. Axiom I asserts that to consider the being of the subjective, the objective, and their relationship, there must be a 'doing', a methodology; that beingness cannot be, or even be considered as being, independent of doing. There is no true independence; there is at best interdependence or dependence.

As the primary example of a methodology of this type, consider the philosophers program (a process) by which only those things which cannot be doubted would be considered as 'truth'. By defining Truth as "that which cannot be doubted", Rene Descartes established a basis of methodology (a doing) specifically designed to cut away all that was false leaving only (the being of) Truth as the remainder. This methodology is an epistemology -- a theory of truth -- which when enacted and implemented would identify to the philosopher all of those truths which could be known with certainty; those things which would provide a basis for all other forms of knowing. Truth in this sense is intended to be the 'bedrock foundation' (an ontology, a being of Truth) upon which all other forms of knowing (itself as a process) could be built.

Note that this theory of truth (an epistemology) posits as a principle that there are only two ontological states of being: a dualism of truth and falsity. Furthermore, the concept of 'having doubt' in Descartes' methodology included the notion of 'can be doubted in principle'. As such, anything which could be doubted on the basis of any principle (reasonable or not) would be regarded as 'doubtful' and therefore as 'not-truth' (possibly false, and therefore as not-certain). By this methodology, Descartes was searching for that which could be known with absolute certainty, without any possible doubt -- anything which could not, even in principle, be doubted.

After much examination (books on the history of philosophy can describe the details), Descartes arrived at his famous dictum: "I think, therefore I am" as being the only thing which could be known with absolute certainty. In effect, the dictum is a description of a relationship between doing (thinking) and being ('I am') which is so infinitesimally small that it cannot be disturbed (a doing) without inherently damaging its very nature (its being). It is a ring between the subjective and the objective (between epistemology and ontology) which is so infinitely microscopic as to be atomic ('inherently un-splitable', as per the etymology of the term 'atom'). At this scale of relationship which is infinitely microscopic, the relationship between being ('I am') and doing ('I think') is described as a being in itself (that self as an object, the perceived, and self as a perceiver are the same as the process of perception; a relationship). Descartes concluded that this monism of identity (the dictum itself, or rather, what it represented) was the only thing which could be known with certainty, and therefore as absolute Truth (that which cannot be doubted, even in principle).

However, in the context of the present essay, it is noted that there are in fact at least three other absolute certainties of truth. In particular, anything which is inherent in the very process of doubt itself, which is intrinsic to that process -- or more generally, to any process at all -- must also be (cannot not be) considered as Truth. For example, the being of doubt -- as a process (a doing) -- inherently involves an assumption of both truth and falsity as notions in themselves. Doubt (as a process) also assumes that there are two subjective states: unknown and known. Doubt, as a method of enacting and instantiating a theory of epistemology (a theory of knowing in the terms of both knower, as subjective, and known, as objective) is understood to distinguish between truth and falsity, as aspects which are objective (things as they are in themselves), and known/unknown as aspects which are subjective (things as they are perceived to be). Finally, the dynamic of doubt must also implicitly assume that there is a distinction between doubt as a process and that which is doubted as a being.

These intrinsic aspects of doubt can be described in various terminology. For example, the concepts of truth and falsity can be considered as being about, in essence, the concepts of sameness and difference. Truth is where there is a sameness of being and principle. Falsity is where there is a difference between being and principle. The epistemology of doubt can also be regarded as a transition, a movement, from the unknown to the known in terms of time. Doubt (and Descartes' method in general) can be regarded as a means from moving from antecedent states (the unknown that is before) to consequent states (the known which is after). Also, in distinguishing between the action of doubting and the being of that which is doubted, there is a distinction between content and context, the subjective and the objective.

All of these notions are inherently involved in the process of doubt. Insofar as these notions are intrinsic to the being of doubt as a process (a doing), any action of doubt cannot not instantiate (already pre-assume) these notions as objective, as things other than doubt, and which therefore are not -- in themselves -- doubtful. Thus, the intrinsics of doubt cannot be doubted, for the very action of doubting them requires that they have already been established as assumed (not doubted). The intrinsics of doubt are beyond doubt and therefore, by Descartes' own definition, they cannot be regarded as other than absolute Truth (as that which cannot be doubted). There is more to absolute truth than one's own thinking about one's own being.

The action of doubt and its intrinsics as a process, can be understood more exactly as an instance of the process of comparison. The concept of comparison involves as its intrinsics three pairs of other concepts: sameness and difference, content and context, subject and object. These intrinsics, which are inherent in the relationship between doing and being (between subject and object) are generally inherent in the nature of relationship itself (and therefore of both being and doing). They provide the basis of metaphysical description and are at the root of both epistemology and ontology. The persistent presence of these sets of concepts at all levels of consideration is formalized as its own Axiom:

Axiom III: Intrinsic in all relationship, being, and doing are three concepts (being, doing, and relationship themselves being examples) which are distinct, inseparable, and non-interchangeable.

As a last example of this relationship between being and doing, (a metaphysics of the relationship of subject and object; self and world), consider the process by which these concepts themselves are developed. It is an examination of the being of metaphysics in the terms of the doing of metaphysics.

A detailed examination of metaphysical process (for example, as written in this essay) begins with a consideration of the relationship between being and doing. Eventually, this relationship itself is defined as a being, a being which is then (by inseparability) related to a doing. For example, epistemology can be considered as a theory about the nature of theory, including itself among the theories to be so considered. At this point, the relationship between the being of relationship and the doing of relationship may itself be considered as a being, which again is related to a doing. This process of regress proceeds through multiple levels of consideration until it is realized that the dynamics of explanation at a given meta level are exactly isomorphic (the same as) the dynamics of explanation at a previous meta level. In actual practice of meta-theorization, there is a point at which the description 'wraps'; that the method of description includes a description of the method of description.

This type of regressive structure, where multiple levels of meta-consideration are involved, is inherent in the nature of process, and it occurs frequently. Comparison can be a comparison of comparisons, which are themselves comparison of comparisons, etc, etc. There is a common mutual reciprocity between doing, being, and the relationship between them (the concept of comparison can easily hold all three roles in succession). Insofar as this relationship is known to be basic and inherent in the nature of process itself (the doing and being of truth; a being of sameness across multiple levels of consideration), it also is considered to be an Axiom of this metaphysics:

Axiom II: The concepts of being, doing, and relationship undergo a definite sequence and progression of transitions when moving from one level of meta-consideration to the next; this sequence forms a closed ring of exactly three such steps.

The manner in which the Axioms are described here can be further refined by additional progressive applications of these concepts to themselves and to other domains of consideration (extending the space of examples). Insofar as the dynamics of the Axioms are themselves directly tied into the nature of both epistemology and ontology, the Axioms themselves have a direct epistemological and ontological status. Insofar as it is not possible to not involve the three Axioms in all process (doing) and being (relationship) they are necessarily considered to be 'Absolute Truth' as the basis inherent to the nature and consideration of truth itself. As such, these Axioms form the most basic level of the metaphysical consideration and description of the nature of the relationship between self and reality.



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