[ExI] metaphysics, and de meanings of words

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 21 09:13:42 UTC 2010

Apologies for not changing the subject line (again) in my original reply.

Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com> wrote:

> On 6/20/2010 9:54 AM, Ben Zaiboc wrote:
> > what is 'meta' to physics?
> Ontology and epistemology.
> > (trick question).
> Well, no, not really.

They are branches of philosophy, which wouldn't exist if there were no people.  The physical universe would.  The only thing which can be beyond the physics we know of, is more physics that we don't, surely?

Max More <max at maxmore.com> asked:
> Ben: Metaphysics is one of the major branches of
> philosophy, so I'm 
> puzzled when you say philosophy is good, but metaphysics 
> "double--plus baad". Do you mean all of philosophy minus
> metaphysics 
> is good? Or do you mean "metaphysics" in some non-standard
> way? (For 
> instance: In the way New Agers talk of "metaphysical"?)

Yes, exactly.  This 'new-ager' use is what most people mean by it.

Looking it up doesn't really help:

"Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that is not easily defined..."
"It is not easy to say what metaphysics is..."

and in common practice it's used to refer to mystical things.  It's synonymous with the supernatural.  I know what you're saying about it being a part of philosophy, but I included philosophy as a good thing.

My point is, it's a word best avoided because of it's baggage.  Heh, another one.  I seem to be collecting them.  Simulation, Dualism, now Metaphysics.

I'm thinking we're constantly banging up against the limits of our own language.  Or at least constantly getting tangled up because of the multiple possible meanings (and de-meanings) of many words.

I suppose it's too much to expect even the people on this list to start rigorously defining the words we use, to minimise this kind of thing, but it might be worth considering that many apparent disagreements are in fact nothing of the kind.

How can we minimise this kind of miscommunication?  Any ideas?

Ben Zaiboc


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