Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why I Study Metaphysics

So, I've often heard a lot of people say one sort of thing or another about philosophy. The general consensus, however, seems to be that it's something reserved for the intellectuals, those people who like to think deep thoughts, and that it really has no place among the more practical. There's others who feel discouraged by what they feel is philosophy's confusing nature, and its plays with language. Still others thing that philosophy throws intellectualism where it doesn't belong, taking the beauty out of life. In all honesty, I think these are indeed valid objections to a degree. Why? Because there are those who profess to follow philosophy and who do all of these things. You have the intellectual snobs, the argument sharks, and the overexplainers in philosophy. But I'd like to posit to you that there is far more to philosophy than those select few. (They're just the ones who make the most noise)

I'll also note that my studies of philosophy never really went a whole lot of anywhere cool until I got to metaphysics. People, if you ever have to study any one field of philosophy, study metaphysics. It is literally the entire underpinning of life, and probably the most beneficial of all of the philosophies that I have come across. All of the others seem to have some degree of heavier systemization, putting things into categories, which makes them prone to the argument syndrome. And I could really stand to have less of that, because I don't care that Joe Schmo's Essential Proposition states that you are a dog. Philosophy isn't about digging up a piece of evidence to support your position. It's about thinking. You can perform philosophy regardless of how much knowledge you possess. In fact, you probably have. And metaphysics is the easiest to embark upon, because metaphysics is the study of Being itself.

If you've read my more recent posts, you'll be familiar with the many topics that I've covered. I've talked about infinity, perfection, freedom, and God Himself. Earlier on, I've talked about JPII's metaphysics of Love. And all of this leads up to Being itself, what it means to be. To be is to experience these things, to touch infinity, perfection, love, in some way, shape or form. And really, metaphysics is all about learning in regards to these things, to learn how we can experience them, and understand them even though we can't get a handle on them. There's no way we'll be able to analyze love, or freedom, and truly understand it. No possible way.

And that's one of the major problems of some philosophies. When Keats wrote that "Philosophy will clip an angel's wings," this is what he meant. That we use philosophy to dry out reality, to explain it away, and to make up a sterile world where everything fits into our own definitions. And I see this as totally contrary to philosophy. In fact, it should enlighten our lives, infuse us with a greater grasp on reality, and help us to understand everything in the light of Truth. To me, metaphysics is the poetry of life, that which is a light shining on the wings of angels.

Even farther, I'm reminded of something which Aristotle wrote, when discussing metaphysics. He said that metaphysics was the "divine science". And that, to me, is one of the most profound things you can say about metaphysics. I'm sure you could notice it working as I wrote out my posts, that as I continued my metaphysics, I drew a conclusion closer and closer to God Himself. And really, that's the ultimate reason why I metaphysicize. It's a way in which I can contemplate God as all that is good, a way in which I can essentially delve into the great Infinity, a way to enter into God's presence by learning about Him.

I go back to something which the thinker Gabriel Marcel stated, something we learned on the last day of metaphysics class. It was the difference between a "problem" and a "mystery". In his distinction, a problem is something which man seeks to solve and overcome. He places it outside of himself, so as to study it objectively, and he then tries to figure it out, to dominate it, through his actions. A problem's very end, then, is to be solved, and to be completed. This is the unfortunate approach that many take to metaphysics itself. They want to figure out reality, and reduce it to something beneath humanity. This is the materialist thinker, who believes that the solution is that only material things exist, and that everything else is a fabrication of our minds. This is the systemist, who believes that all reality falls into categories, definitions, and syllogisms. These are the true clippers of angels' wings.

A mystery, on the other hand, is far different. A mystery is something which we know is beyond our bounds, and so it cannot be examined from the outside. It must be examined from within, because it is greater than us. We must enter into it, instead of forcing it to enter into us. And so we enter, and we contemplate, and we think, and as we do so, we continue to discover more and more and more about the thing. We sit there, and engage it, and the insight pours in, and we come closer and closer to a grasp of Truth itself!

It is as if we were standing on the edge of a canyon, feeling the wind rise higher and higher, until finally it drew us up into it, and we ascended to still greater heights. That, that is why metaphysics is the poetry of life and being. When you enter into metaphysics, it's not just an abstract examination of things outside of you. No, on the contrary, it is the least abstract thing you could possibly do, because everything you study there is something which you experience through life! It is the understanding which peeks through in bits and pieces when you learn something new. As you pursue the understanding farther and farther, connections form between what you know, and everything starts to fit into a coherent whole that makes sense. You discover the meaning of being itself, and you discover that there is still far more to discover. And, in fact, there was a very important phrase which I ended my metaphysics notes with, when we finished the last of the lecture. It was a phrase written by C.S. Lewis, one which shows just how much of a grasp on the concept of "mystery" that he had. And if you don't recognize it, do yourself a favor and at least read the Chronicles of Narnia. Because these words that follow, in a sense, completely sum up my prayer, my life, my very being. It is something that I began when I was born, and something which I will continue after my death. Five simple words.

"Further up and farther in!"

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