Metaphysics Free download ì 109



10 thoughts on “Metaphysics

  1. says:

    “Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly” —William JamesI have read several excellent books from the Very Short Introduction series but this book transcends the genre it is perhaps tied with Russell’s Problems of Philosophy for the best introduction to philosophy I’ve ever read The book is a marvelous display of philosophical thought What’s the fine uality of thought is matched by the fine uality of writing Mumford does have the bad habit of putting words like “therefore” and “however” at the ends of his sentences however I can’t say he’s a perfect stylist therefore Perhaps I’m so impressed by Mumford’s treatment of the subject because it is so easy for me to imagine a book like this turning out godawful Somebody less talented might have opted for some scatterbrained presentation of philosophy’s main thinkers Mumford doesn’t make that mistake Instead he jumps straight into the material starting in medias res The student is not simply learning about what Plato thought what Aristotle thought but encounters the uestions themselves; proceeding this way Mumford covers an enormous swath of material jumping from uestion to uestion trying out different theories noting their strengths and weaknesses It is easy to dismiss metaphysics; many people have done so and many will continue to do so Even I am tempted to dismiss it sometimes—metaphysical uestions often seem to be the paragon of pointlessly abstract mental onanism But try as we might we just can’t avoid them I have myself been running into many uestions of this sort What is personal identity and how does it persist through time? What are potentialities and do they really exist? What does it mean for one thing to cause another thing? What is redness in general? Do mathematical objects exist such as numbers and figures? What about negatively defined objects such as holes and vacancies?These uestions and others like them can seem to be like intellectual black holes once you pass the event horizon there’s no coming back At first your brain tenses up as you mentally wave the uestion away as nonsense But then despite yourself you start thinking The uestion resists an easy answer; you try another approach but still you’re perplexed I have entertained the possibility that metaphysical uestions only represent certain shortcomings of the human brain certain blind spots in our cerebral architecture For example it seems we mentally categorize negatively defined objects such as holes as real things; we say “the hole is over there” just like we say “the dog is over there” even though a hole doesn’t seem to have any real existence—it is just a vacancy in the ground So perhaps there isn’t anything about negative objects that are perplexing but we simply reify these nothings as somethings in our minds in order to easily discuss them Can all metaphysical uestions be resolved this way? See? Now Mumford has me doing metaphysics Let me backtrack a little Perhaps the weakest part of the book is the end where Mumford tries to give an apology for metaphysics As a metaphysician he would prefer the term “metaphysicist” Mumford has a vested interest in the public not thinking his life’s work is nonsense; so it is unsurprising given metaphysics’s history of abuse that he seems a bit defensive But after toying around with some comparisons with physics—which I found fairly unconvincing—he makes the case that metaphysics should be pursued for its own sake Whenever this argument is made eyebrows should go up; for it is little than saying “I like this so it’s good” Despite my interest in the subject I sometimes find myself uestioning its value For example if philosophers could definitively figure out the nature of causation could it possibly lead to any concrete benefits? I doubt it Modern physics like metaphysics is uite abstract; yet since physics begins and ends with observable phenomena it can and has led to real benefits—both in our ability to predict nature and in our ability to construct useful technology Since the uestions of metaphysics are so abstract that no experience could ever decide them why bother? Here William James’s doctrine of pragmatism is very tempting if your theory could not even in principle be verified through experience why bother positing it in the first place? It seems that metaphysical uestions are almost designed so that they can never be definitively answered; generations of very clever philosophers have come and gone but the uestions remain Well I’ll take a hint from Mumford and leave this uestion of metaphysics’s ultimate value open I do wish however to point out that some metaphysical uestions are uite concrete Here are two examples from two disparate fields of uestions of a metaphysical nature What is a language? and What is a species? The first uestion—what is a language?—is uite obviously vital to linguistics; but demarcating boundaries is in practice difficult Every language has dialects and every language changes slowly through time Where does one language end and another begin? Also consider no English speaker knows every word in a dictionary so how can we say things like “the English language has X amount of words” since what even is the English language in general? How can you abstract the language itself from the totality of its speakers? The case of a species is very similar Species are formed gradually over ages of time undergoing modification slowly I’ve even heard it uestioned whether the idea of “species” is valid on a geological time scale at all since lineages are constantly evolving making it impossible to neatly divide them into discrete parcels But what is a species anyway? We speak of “the human genome” but clearly there is no such thing as a genome that represents every human; we each have our own set of genes sharing many similarities and having a few differences So is there such thing as “the human genome” or is that a kind of phantom object? Related what are we speaking of when we discuss “dogs like when we say dogs are cute? Dogs in general? But what would a dog in general look like? It could neither be small nor large blond nor brown snub nosed nor long nosed short haired nor long haired—in fact it could hardly have any ualities at all since no single dog could adeuately represent all living dogs But if no adeuate set of ualities allows us to define an abstract dog in general how then do we recognize dogs at all? Clearly we must have some mental criterion for making the distinction Both uestions then could be summarized like this does a species or a language—if they even can be said to be discrete things at all—have any sort of existence over and above their individual members? It should be said that I’ve heard two neat solutions to the above problems A language is a community of speakers that are mutually intelligible And a species is a group of animals that can successfully interbreed But these definitions hinge on the vagueness inherent in “mutually intelligible” and “successfully interbreed” If I can understand 60% of what someone is saying to me and they can understand the same percentage of my speech is our speech mutually intelligible? And if two groups can successfully interbreed 75% of the time are they really one species or two? And does it also depend on how often they interbreed? I’m sorry that took so long; I was only trying to show you that some concrete uestions such as the two above are metaphysical uestions par excellence It is a perhaps unfortunate fact of life that some uestions vital to empirical enterprises can only be tackled through thought not observation; no observation will tell us what exactly is a language or a species So may this be my addendum to Mumford’s defense of metaphysics—that is if I can even hope to improve on a book this good


  2. says:

    35Asking uestions such as 'The cheese contains a hole for instance Is the hole part of the cheese?' and posing other mind bending suggestions this is a great introduction into such a confuddling topic The backwards structure to presenting the idea of Metaphysics seemed ludicrous but made perfect sense in the endI'm not sure if it was just me but low key this book was hilarious in its wit and seeming absurdity A great short book for people looking to get into the subject or who are like me and have an odd curiosity for it


  3. says:

    Metaphysics is one of the main branches of Philosophy Unfortunately unlike logic epistemology or ethics over the years it has gotten a very distorted perception in the popular culture If you walk into any large bookstore or browse an online catalogue and go into the section labeled “Metaphysics” you are most likely to come across titles dealing with some aspect of the New Age spirituality religion or mysticism However the proper domain of Metaphysics is the exploration of “first things” ideas and concepts that go beyond most of our other ideas about the nature of reality These ideas include the concepts of objects time causality personhood etc This very short introduction tries to provide the reader with the taste of attempts to answer the uestions about the above concepts The chapters include “What is a table?” “What is a cause?” “How does time pass?” “What is a person?” and of course “What is Metaphysics?” To most of us these uestions seem trivial frivolous even They seem to reuire answers to things that are beyond being obvious Yet even a simple examination of these uestions reveals a lot about our understanding of the world that we take for granted and to give a proper answer to them is anything but trivial You can view these considerations as either a sophisticated intellectual exercise or as something that indeed gets us to understand the World on a very fundamental level Or as it is with me a little bit of both Like all of the Philosophy books in this Very Short Introduction series this one is immensely well written and interesting They open up a vista to a very fascinating intellectual world They may not turn you into an armchair philosopher but they will give you a direction if you choose to pursue such a vocation


  4. says:

    You've probably heard the uestion asked if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?A dog has properties characteristics that make us call it a dog when we see it Which of those characteristics could be modified and by how much before we no longer call it a dog?If space is an area that contains nothing are we justified in calling space a something?Welcome to metaphysics Think of it as a field where unanswerable uestions are posed deeply considered and then regrettably remain unansweredIf physics deals with the real stuff we find in the world I think of metaphysics as attempting to make sense of the thoughts in our heads as we express them to each other Physics has steadily advanced while metaphysics is still working on the same material it always has without anyone being able to say progress has been madeand hey a metaphysicist asks what is progress anyway?Bertrand Russell thought that much of philosophy had lost its way by mistaking problems of semantics with problems of reality I think he was on to somethingMumford does a nice job of holding up many very puzzling topics for review analyzing them to see if we can determine exactly what we mean when we make a statement I don't deny him full credit for doing as well as anyone could given the subject matterI'd recommend this book as a diversion It deals with some serious uestions about the reality we think we know so well but if hounded by a metaphysicist would be unable to explain I would not as Mumford says some do say that metaphysics is only foolishness but I would recommend to those who love learning as I do to better spend your time on other topics


  5. says:

    Metaphysics is commonly regarded as one of the main branches of philosophy alongside logic ethics and epistemology For anyone who seeks to systematically approach the study of philosophy I can not recommend this book highlyIt is concise informative profound exceedingly witty and an overall joy to readThe clarity that Stephen Mumford was able to impart on a complicated subject that is often written about in a boring muddled manner impressed me to no end The even handed way he deals with conflicting views is great This book is phenomenal hands down


  6. says:

    Basically all of your shower thoughts in one book


  7. says:

    Metaphysics is a subject that gets complicated uickly Like physics it covers a wide swath of territory –many of the most fundamental uestions of the universe but unlike physics it doesn’t hold much promise of zeroing in on definitive answers There’s just reasoning that is closer or farther from reflecting reality Mumford makes a sound decision to avoid the usual approach of starting with a mile high overview of the subject probably rightly concluding that it would become an indecipherable mess uickly Instead over ten chapters Mumford starts with the simplest uestions asked in metaphysics relatively speaking and proceeds to incrementally move toward the complicated ones In Chapter 1 he asks “What is a table?” There’s nothing particularly crucial about a table It’s just an item that is tangible without a lot moving parts complexity and – thus is the kind of thing that few people would discount as being real However even here at the shallow end of the pool uestions pile up about what even such a simple item really is and under what circumstances it can be said to continue to be that thing eg One gets into Theseus’s ship kind of uestions – ie if one replaces all the individual parts of a table to what degree does it remain the same object Chapter 2 shifts from what the first chapter called “particulars” to what are herein called properties eg The redness of a fire engine The roundness of a racetrack Are properties real? Could you take them away from a particular? If you could what – if anything – would it be that remained Chapter 3’s uestion is “Are wholes just the sum of their parts?” In the case of the aforementioned table this uestion might seem a lot easier to answer than if the object in uestion is oneself We all intuitively feel that we are than the sum of our bones and skin brain etc But are we? Even if a child’s toy blocks are nothing than the summed blocks might not a human being or a dog be vastly I will propose that chapters four through six are closely related though no such division is made by the book’s table of contents All of the uestions addressed by these chapters hinge on our experience of time and none of them would be uestions if we didn’t experience one thing after another Chapter four explores the nature of change Chapter five is about cause and effect The subject of cause raises all sorts of interesting uestions because we often see examples of caused effects but we also seem to read cause and effect into situations in which they don’t really exist eg The often sited error of mistaking correlation for causation Chapter six takes on the subject of time directly There are many different theories of time With respect to metaphysic’s most basic uestion of “what is real?” one uickly comes up against different hypotheses Some think only the present is real Some believe the past and present are real but the future couldn’t possibly be Still others think the whole experience of time is an illusion Chapter seven gets into the metaphysical uestion that is both most intimately interesting and among the most challenging and that is “What is a person?” This is interesting in that we all tend to feel we know what a person is at least one feels that one knows what one is but views abound – from the Buddhist notion that the self is an illusion to various religious approaches proposing we are fundamentally a soul or spirit to materialist interpretations that suggest – in all likelihood – we are the sum of our parts and their activities Chapters eight and nine retreat once from tangibles to ask what is the nature of a possibility ch 8 and whether nothing can actually be thought of as a thing and what the ramifications are of doing so ch 9 Both of these cases are interesting because they have no simple answer and in different cases different answers suggest themselves as truer When a possibility is of high probability it may seem sound to treat it as if it were a potential reality but following that reasoning toward the lowest probability happenings uickly results in absurdities The final chapter gets around to the overarching uestion of what metaphysics is but it also deals with the uestion of whether metaphysics is relevant Some say metaphysics amounts to little than mental masturbation Others feel that science has replaced metaphysics in all the important ways and The book has a “further reading” section at the end There are a few graphics throughout the text but the book is primarily textual I found this book to be uite useful I think the author took a smart approach with its organization and does a good job of avoiding getting lost in the weeds which is a perennial risk in these types of works Mumford uses pop culture references and the like when they make approachable examples and in general does a good job of keeping an eye on readability If you’re looking for an introduction to metaphysics this volume is worth checking out


  8. says:

    The year was 2001 I was an impressionable youth with no guidance or idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up Lo A philosophy 101 course appeared I learned to hate Kant Hegel and Marx And now many years later and much balder I take another 101 course in the form of this bookIn all possible worlds


  9. says:

    I discovered the Very Short Introduction series fittingly while being in Oxford The first few volumes I read were either very solid European Union Human Rights or outright brilliant Okasha's volume on Philosophy of Science After having stumbled over a sub par volume Privacy Mumford reinstalls my faith in this series His introduction to metaphysics is almost on the same level as Okasha's introduction to the philosophy of science and were it not for a technical short coming I would give Mumford's introduction a four out of five On the bright side is Mumford's jargon free style and the casual journey he invites the reader on to increasingly thorny topics I also a appreciated the literature list he provides sorted by entry level and I already ordered one of the books The only grief I have about the book that it does not link the topics discussed to the terms by which they are discussed in the metaphysics literature modality holism realism etc This does not need to be addressed in the main text the free flow of which I enjoyed rather it could be addressed in a short appendix Otherwise a very enjoyable book and a perfect introduction to this topic


  10. says:

    A fun overview of the kind of uestions address by metaphysicists What is a thing? What is change? What is a cause? What is time? What's a person? What's possible? Is nothing something? Is metaphysics just a giant waste of time? You could do worse with yours than read this little book anyway


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Free read à E-book, or Kindle E-pub ñ Stephen Mumford

N just being associated with it? What is possible? Does time pass? By using simple uestions to initiate thought about the basic issues around substance properties changes causes possibilities time personal identity nothingness and consciousness Stephen Mumford provides a clear and down to earth path through this analytical tradition at the core of philosophical thoug I discovered the Very Short Introduction series fittingly while being in Oxford The first few volumes I read were either very solid European Union Human Rights or outright brilliant Okasha's volume on Philosophy of Science After having stumbled over a sub par volume Privacy Mumford reinstalls my faith in this series His introduction to metaphysics is almost on the same level as Okasha's introduction to the philosophy of science and were it not for a technical short coming I would give Mumford's introduction a four out of five On the bright side is Mumford's jargon free style and the casual journey he invites the reader on to increasingly thorny topics I also a appreciated the literature list he provides sorted by entry level and I already ordered one of the books The only grief I have about the book that it does not link the topics discussed to the terms by which they are discussed in the metaphysics literature modality holism realism etc This does not need to be addressed in the main text the free flow of which I enjoyed rather it could be addressed in a short appendix Otherwise a very enjoyable book and a perfect introduction to this topic The Maddest Idea (Revolution at Sea possible? Does time The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running pass? By using simple uestions to initiate thought about the basic issues around substance A Biggles Omnibus properties changes causes The Power of Soft possibilities time Moscow, December 25, 1991 personal identity nothingness and consciousness Stephen Mumford Planetary Forces, Alchemy and Healing provides a clear and down to earth The Shepherds Bush Murders path through this analytical tradition at the core of Red Centre (Alpha Force, philosophical thoug I discovered the Very Short Introduction series fittingly while being in Oxford The first few volumes I read were either very solid European Union Human Rights or outright brilliant Okasha's volume on Philosophy of Science After having stumbled over a sub Midnight Storm (The Warriors, par volume Privacy Mumford reinstalls my faith in this series His introduction to metaphysics is almost on the same level as Okasha's introduction to the Heiresses philosophy of science and were it not for a technical short coming I would give Mumford's introduction a four out of five On the bright side is Mumford's jargon free style and the casual journey he invites the reader on to increasingly thorny topics I also a appreciated the literature list he The Major Works provides sorted by entry level and I already ordered one of the books The only grief I have about the book that it does not link the topics discussed to the terms by which they are discussed in the metaphysics literature modality holism realism etc This does not need to be addressed in the main text the free flow of which I enjoyed rather it could be addressed in a short appendix Otherwise a very enjoyable book and a A Dirty War perfect introduction to this topic

Read & Download Metaphysics

Metaphysics

Metaphysics is traditionally one of the four main branches of philosophy alongside ethics logic and epistemology It is an area that continues to attract and fascinate many people even though it is generally thought to be highly complex and abstract For some it is associated with the mystical or religious For others it is known through the metaphysical poets who talk “Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly” —William JamesI have read several excellent books from the Very Short Introduction series but this book transcends the genre it is perhaps tied with Russell’s Problems of Philosophy for the best introduction to philosophy I’ve ever read The book is a marvelous display of philosophical thought What’s the fine uality of thought is matched by the fine uality of writing Mumford does have the bad habit of putting words like “therefore” and “however” at the ends of his sentences however I can’t say he’s a perfect stylist therefore Perhaps I’m so impressed by Mumford’s treatment of the subject because it is so easy for me to imagine a book like this turning out godawful Somebody less talented might have opted for some scatterbrained presentation of philosophy’s main thinkers Mumford doesn’t make that mistake Instead he jumps straight into the material starting in medias res The student is not simply learning about what Plato thought what Aristotle thought but encounters the uestions themselves; proceeding this way Mumford covers an enormous swath of material jumping from uestion to uestion trying out different theories noting their strengths and weaknesses It is easy to dismiss metaphysics; many people have done so and many will continue to do so Even I am tempted to dismiss it sometimes—metaphysical uestions often seem to be the paragon of pointlessly abstract mental onanism But try as we might we just can’t avoid them I have myself been running into many uestions of this sort What is personal identity and how does it persist through time? What are potentialities and do they really exist? What does it mean for one thing to cause another thing? What is redness in general? Do mathematical objects exist such as numbers and figures? What about negatively defined objects such as holes and vacancies?These uestions and others like them can seem to be like intellectual black holes once you pass the event horizon there’s no coming back At first your brain tenses up as you mentally wave the uestion away as nonsense But then despite yourself you start thinking The uestion resists an easy answer; you try another approach but still you’re perplexed I have entertained the possibility that metaphysical uestions only represent certain shortcomings of the human brain certain blind spots in our cerebral architecture For example it seems we mentally categorize negatively defined objects such as holes as real things; we say “the hole is over there” just like we say “the dog is over there” even though a hole doesn’t seem to have any real existence—it is just a vacancy in the ground So perhaps there isn’t anything about negative objects that are perplexing but we simply reify these nothings as somethings in our minds in order to easily discuss them Can all metaphysical uestions be resolved this way? See? Now Mumford has me doing metaphysics Let me backtrack a little Perhaps the weakest part of the book is the end where Mumford tries to give an apology for metaphysics As a metaphysician he would prefer the term “metaphysicist” Mumford has a vested interest in the public not thinking his life’s work is nonsense; so it is unsurprising given metaphysics’s history of abuse that he seems a bit defensive But after toying around with some comparisons with physics—which I found fairly unconvincing—he makes the case that metaphysics should be pursued for its own sake Whenever this argument is made eyebrows should go up; for it is little than saying “I like this so it’s good” Despite my interest in the subject I sometimes find myself uestioning its value For example if philosophers could definitively figure out the nature of causation could it possibly lead to any concrete benefits? I doubt it Modern physics like metaphysics is uite abstract; yet since physics begins and ends with observable phenomena it can and has led to real benefits—both in our ability to predict nature and in our ability to construct useful technology Since the uestions of metaphysics are so abstract that no experience could ever decide them why bother? Here William James’s doctrine of pragmatism is very tempting if your theory could not even in principle be verified through experience why bother positing it in the first place? It seems that metaphysical uestions are almost designed so that they can never be definitively answered; generations of very clever philosophers have come and gone but the uestions remain Well I’ll take a hint from Mumford and leave this uestion of metaphysics’s ultimate value open I do wish however to point out that some metaphysical uestions are uite concrete Here are two examples from two disparate fields of uestions of a metaphysical nature What is a language? and What is a species? The first uestion—what is a language?—is uite obviously vital to linguistics; but demarcating boundaries is in practice difficult Every language has dialects and every language changes slowly through time Where does one language end and another begin? Also consider no English speaker knows every word in a dictionary so how can we say things like “the English language has X amount of words” since what even is the English language in general? How can you abstract the language itself from the totality of its speakers? The case of a species is very similar Species are formed gradually over ages of time undergoing modification slowly I’ve even heard it uestioned whether the idea of “species” is valid on a geological time scale at all since lineages are constantly evolving making it impossible to neatly divide them into discrete parcels But what is a species anyway? We speak of “the human genome” but clearly there is no such thing as a genome that represents every human; we each have our own set of genes sharing many similarities and having a few differences So is there such thing as “the human genome” or is that a kind of phantom object? Related what are we speaking of when we discuss “dogs like when we say dogs are cute? Dogs in general? But what would a dog in general look like? It could neither be small nor large blond nor brown snub nosed nor long nosed short haired nor long haired—in fact it could hardly have any ualities at all since no single dog could adeuately represent all living dogs But if no adeuate set of ualities allows us to define an abstract dog in general how then do we recognize dogs at all? Clearly we must have some mental criterion for making the distinction Both uestions then could be summarized like this does a species or a language—if they even can be said to be discrete things at all—have any sort of existence over and above their individual members? It should be said that I’ve heard two neat solutions to the above problems A language is a community of speakers that are mutually intelligible And a species is a group of animals that can successfully interbreed But these definitions hinge on the vagueness inherent in “mutually intelligible” and “successfully interbreed” If I can understand 60% of what someone is saying to me and they can understand the same percentage of my speech is our speech mutually intelligible? And if two groups can successfully interbreed 75% of the time are they really one species or two? And does it also depend on how often they interbreed? I’m sorry that took so long; I was only trying to show you that some concrete uestions such as the two above are metaphysical uestions par excellence It is a perhaps unfortunate fact of life that some uestions vital to empirical enterprises can only be tackled through thought not observation; no observation will tell us what exactly is a language or a species So may this be my addendum to Mumford’s defense of metaphysics—that is if I can even hope to improve on a book this good The Long Valley philosophy alongside ethics logic and epistemology It is an area that continues to attract and fascinate many Revelation (The Protectors, people even though it is generally thought to be highly complex and abstract For some it is associated with the mystical or religious For others it is known through the metaphysical The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More poets who talk “Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly” —William JamesI have read several excellent books from the Very Short Introduction series but this book transcends the genre it is The Circuit perhaps tied with Russell’s Problems of Philosophy for the best introduction to An Honorable Defeat philosophy I’ve ever read The book is a marvelous display of American Boys philosophical thought What’s the fine uality of thought is matched by the fine uality of writing Mumford does have the bad habit of Dead Aim putting words like “therefore” and “however” at the ends of his sentences however I can’t say he’s a The Obsession of Oscar Oswald perfect stylist therefore Perhaps I’m so impressed by Mumford’s treatment of the subject because it is so easy for me to imagine a book like this turning out godawful Somebody less talented might have opted for some scatterbrained Whiteout (Dark Iceland 5) presentation of The Girl Who Remained Elusive (Elusive, philosophy’s main thinkers Mumford doesn’t make that mistake Instead he jumps straight into the material starting in medias res The student is not simply learning about what Plato thought what Aristotle thought but encounters the uestions themselves; Tell Me Who I Am proceeding this way Mumford covers an enormous swath of material jumping from uestion to uestion trying out different theories noting their strengths and weaknesses It is easy to dismiss metaphysics; many The Body Language Bible people have done so and many will continue to do so Even I am tempted to dismiss it sometimes—metaphysical uestions often seem to be the The Black Room paragon of The Hand of Amun pointlessly abstract mental onanism But try as we might we just can’t avoid them I have myself been running into many uestions of this sort What is The Congress Of Rough Riders personal identity and how does it The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (English Edition) eBook: Sam Harris: Amazon.fr: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l. persist through time? What are The Innocents potentialities and do they really exist? What does it mean for one thing to cause another thing? What is redness in general? Do mathematical objects exist such as numbers and figures? What about negatively defined objects such as holes and vacancies?These uestions and others like them can seem to be like intellectual black holes once you The Bed and Breakfast Star pass the event horizon there’s no coming back At first your brain tenses up as you mentally wave the uestion away as nonsense But then despite yourself you start thinking The uestion resists an easy answer; you try another approach but still you’re 50 Short Science Fiction Tales perplexed I have entertained the The Evil Seed possibility that metaphysical uestions only represent certain shortcomings of the human brain certain blind spots in our cerebral architecture For example it seems we mentally categorize negatively defined objects such as holes as real things; we say “the hole is over there” just like we say “the dog is over there” even though a hole doesn’t seem to have any real existence—it is just a vacancy in the ground So The Bare Bum Gang and the Football Face-Off perhaps there isn’t anything about negative objects that are Jack Knife perplexing but we simply reify these nothings as somethings in our minds in order to easily discuss them Can all metaphysical uestions be resolved this way? See? Now Mumford has me doing metaphysics Let me backtrack a little Perhaps the weakest The Italian Girl part of the book is the end where Mumford tries to give an apology for metaphysics As a metaphysician he would The Healthy Kitchen prefer the term “metaphysicist” Mumford has a vested interest in the A visão de Elena Silves public not thinking his life’s work is nonsense; so it is unsurprising given metaphysics’s history of abuse that he seems a bit defensive But after toying around with some comparisons with The Finest Type of English Womanhood physics—which I found fairly unconvincing—he makes the case that metaphysics should be Halcyon River Diaries pursued for its own sake Whenever this argument is made eyebrows should go up; for it is little than saying “I like this so it’s good” Despite my interest in the subject I sometimes find myself uestioning its value For example if The Charlatans We Are Rock philosophers could definitively figure out the nature of causation could it Circus Maximus (History Keepers, possibly lead to any concrete benefits? I doubt it Modern Little Red Riding Hood physics like metaphysics is uite abstract; yet since Erotic Gay Baseball Jock physics begins and ends with observable The Bell at Sealey Head phenomena it can and has led to real benefits—both in our ability to In The NFL predict nature and in our ability to construct useful technology Since the uestions of metaphysics are so abstract that no experience could ever decide them why bother? Here William James’s doctrine of The Morning Tide pragmatism is very tempting if your theory could not even in The Complete School Verse principle be verified through experience why bother The Seeing positing it in the first The Mystical Crystal place? It seems that metaphysical uestions are almost designed so that they can never be definitively answered; generations of very clever Return to Planet Drool (SharkBoy & LavaGirl Adventures, Book philosophers have come and gone but the uestions remain Well I’ll take a hint from Mumford and leave this uestion of metaphysics’s ultimate value open I do wish however to The Organ Grinders point out that some metaphysical uestions are uite concrete Here are two examples from two disparate fields of uestions of a metaphysical nature What is a language? and What is a species? The first uestion—what is a language?—is uite obviously vital to linguistics; but demarcating boundaries is in The Lights of Manchester practice difficult Every language has dialects and every language changes slowly through time Where does one language end and another begin? Also consider no English speaker knows every word in a dictionary so how can we say things like “the English language has X amount of words” since what even is the English language in general? How can you abstract the language itself from the totality of its speakers? The case of a species is very similar Species are formed gradually over ages of time undergoing modification slowly I’ve even heard it uestioned whether the idea of “species” is valid on a geological time scale at all since lineages are constantly evolving making it impossible to neatly divide them into discrete Von meinem Daddy versohlt parcels But what is a species anyway? We speak of “the human genome” but clearly there is no such thing as a genome that represents every human; we each have our own set of genes sharing many similarities and having a few differences So is there such thing as “the human genome” or is that a kind of The Family At War phantom object? Related what are we speaking of when we discuss “dogs like when we say dogs are cute? Dogs in general? But what would a dog in general look like? It could neither be small nor large blond nor brown snub nosed nor long nosed short haired nor long haired—in fact it could hardly have any ualities at all since no single dog could adeuately represent all living dogs But if no adeuate set of ualities allows us to define an abstract dog in general how then do we recognize dogs at all? Clearly we must have some mental criterion for making the distinction Both uestions then could be summarized like this does a species or a language—if they even can be said to be discrete things at all—have any sort of existence over and above their individual members? It should be said that I’ve heard two neat solutions to the above The Bromeliad Trilogy problems A language is a community of speakers that are mutually intelligible And a species is a group of animals that can successfully interbreed But these definitions hinge on the vagueness inherent in “mutually intelligible” and “successfully interbreed” If I can understand 60% of what someone is saying to me and they can understand the same The Secret Path percentage of my speech is our speech mutually intelligible? And if two groups can successfully interbreed 75% of the time are they really one species or two? And does it also depend on how often they interbreed? I’m sorry that took so long; I was only trying to show you that some concrete uestions such as the two above are metaphysical uestions The Second Messiah par excellence It is a Fortunes of War perhaps unfortunate fact of life that some uestions vital to empirical enterprises can only be tackled through thought not observation; no observation will tell us what exactly is a language or a species So may this be my addendum to Mumford’s defense of metaphysics—that is if I can even hope to improve on a book this good

Free read à E-book, or Kindle E-pub ñ Stephen Mumford

Of love and spirituality This Very Short Introduction goes right to the heart of the matter getting to the basic and most important uestions of metaphysical thought in order to understand the theory What are objects? Do colors and shapes have some form of independent existence? Is the whole just a sum of the parts? What is it for one thing to cause another rather tha You've probably heard the uestion asked if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?A dog has properties characteristics that make us call it a dog when we see it Which of those characteristics could be modified and by how much before we no longer call it a dog?If space is an area that contains nothing are we justified in calling space a something?Welcome to metaphysics Think of it as a field where unanswerable uestions are posed deeply considered and then regrettably remain unansweredIf physics deals with the real stuff we find in the world I think of metaphysics as attempting to make sense of the thoughts in our heads as we express them to each other Physics has steadily advanced while metaphysics is still working on the same material it always has without anyone being able to say progress has been madeand hey a metaphysicist asks what is progress anyway?Bertrand Russell thought that much of philosophy had lost its way by mistaking problems of semantics with problems of reality I think he was on to somethingMumford does a nice job of holding up many very puzzling topics for review analyzing them to see if we can determine exactly what we mean when we make a statement I don't deny him full credit for doing as well as anyone could given the subject matterI'd recommend this book as a diversion It deals with some serious uestions about the reality we think we know so well but if hounded by a metaphysicist would be unable to explain I would not as Mumford says some do say that metaphysics is only foolishness but I would recommend to those who love learning as I do to better spend your time on other topics