The case against metaphysics having a method

1.) The inductive case: we haven’t found one in spite of doing it by name since Aristotle.

2.) Methods belong within specialized experience; metaphysics does not appeal to specialized experience.

3.) Methods in speculative science lead to transliterated terms. We don’t translate “hydrogen” or “Hilbert space”, and there is no need to. We don’t even translate “circle” as mathematics defines either, in spite of having many words for it. It’s not translated for the same reason “docecahedron” wasn’t translated in the older mathematics. The reality one was speaking about is not given outside the theory or conceptual structure in which we came to understand it. But metaphysics does not have transliterated terms of this sort.

4.) I’m appealing to Davidson’s marvelous argument against conceptual schemes and doing some violence to it. I think his argument really comes to that there is no scheme of all schemes, or that “a scheme” really only exists in a limited domain of specialized experience. I’m driving at the idea that Davidson is giving us a way to understand being as being, and, by implication, a way to understand the infinity of mind. So in response to Kant’s objection that, say, causality cannot have a transcendental value, we could say “yes it does, because causality is not given within a conceptual scheme, for there are no such things (at least outside of specialized experience)”.

5.) Conceptual structures are limits of what can be known. Being is not a limitation on what can be known.

6.) Method makes various thing unintelligible or meaningless. There is, for example, no meaning to four-dimensional quantity in Euclidean Geometry. It is not in a position to judge four-dimensionality as wrong or ridiculous, it is simply non-cognizant of it. Like dividing by zero, it’s simply non-defined. But in metaphysics things are not meaningless but only wrong or ridiculous. This is one of the deep errors in the modern drift toward wanting to say things are “meaningless” or “unintellgible” when in fact we see, or think we see, that they are ridiculous or absurd. Note that this arose out of the desire to have a bona fide method for metaphysics, or to dismiss it for not having one. Here I’m thinking of John Oesterle’s two-part argument against meaninglessness in one of the old editions of The Thomist. 

7.) The name “metaphysics” indicates some desire to transcend categories – to go from physics to something else – which involves a heterogeneity of objects under consideration. The role of analogy in metaphysics points to a renunciation of domain. But method consists precisely in a limited and specified domain.

8.) Terms that drift away from experience make metaphysics loathsome and decadent. The same such terms in other sciences are crucial to their advance.

We’ve drifted away from defining discourses by their objects and have tended to define the objects themselves by their methods (e,g, the universe is whatever can be physically modeled, weight is whatever causes numbers on scales). So taken, metaphysics will seem ridiculous, and certainly unscientific.



  1. Eness said,

    July 3, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Thomas says that the first 9 aporiai from Beta are methodological problems, ie. having to do with the determination of the method of the science. These aporai are then solved in Gamma.

  2. Maureen said,

    July 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    From Aristotle, Metaphysics, Chpter V, Ross, 1908)
    “But, on the other hand, the body is surely less of a substance than the surface,
    and the surface less than the line, and the line less than the
    unit and the point. For the body is bounded by these ; and
    they are thought to be capable of existing without body, but
    the body cannot exist without these. This is why, while
    most of the philosophers and the earlier among them thought
    that substance and being were identical with corporeal
    matter and that all other things were attributes of this, so
    that the first principles of bodies were the first principles of
    being, the more recent and those who were held to be wiser
    thought numbers were the first principles. As we said, then,
    if these are not substance, there is no substance and no being
    at all..”

    If a former or a latter; whether it is an act of becoming; How would one render a dimensional drawing reflecting the dimension of the Trinity?

    As such, there are any number of empty Platonic solids without demonstration of dimension; To behold the beauty of arriving from one place to another; line by line to embody the motion as argued for centuries and feel the emergence of such dimensions of newness – may certainly be misunderstood and used for material gain or otherwise – hence, Virtues and Vices. Not that we are celestial or moving, but because it moves us somehow.

    Reflecting on the Liturgical messages of Trinity Sunday and Epiphany and onward, the means for the method of Metaphysics is alive and becoming.

    Without the dimension of a Second Person, nothing is possible. The recurrence is no accident.

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