From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science, traditionally including cosmology and ontology. It is also concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of being and the world.
The first known philosopher, according to Aristotle, is Thales of Miletus. He taught that all things derive from a single first cause or Arche (origin or beginning), and that this first cause was in fact moisture, frequently translated "water." Thales also taught that the world is harmonious, has a harmonious structure, and thus is intelligible to rational understanding.
Parmenides of Elea held that the multiplicity of existing things, their changing forms and motion, are illusory. The true underlying reality is that “all is one”. From this concept of a single unitary Being, Parmenides went on to say that non-Being is logically impossible, and therefore change is in fact impossible. In spite of these counter-intuitive claims, Parmenides is considered one of the founders of metaphysics, because he introduced the method of basing claims about appearances on a logical concept of Being.
Scientific questions in ancient Greece were addressed to metaphysicians, but by the 18th century, the skeptics' How do you know? led to a new branch of philosophy called epistemology (how we know) to fill-out the metaphysics (what we know) and this led to science (Latin to know) and to the scientific method (whose precision is still being debated). Skepticism evolved epistemology out of metaphysics. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical inquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.
Metaphysics as a discipline was a central part of academic inquiry and scholarly education even before the age of Aristotle, who considered it "the Queen of Sciences." Its issues were considered no less important than the other main formal subjects of physical science, medicine, mathematics, poetics and music. Since the beginning of modern philosophy during the seventeenth century, problems that were not originally considered within the bounds of metaphysics have been added to its purview, while other problems considered metaphysical for centuries are now typically subjects of their own separate regions in philosophy, such as philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, philosophy of perception, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science.
In some cases, subjects of metaphysical scholarship have been found to be entirely physical and natural, thus making them part of science proper (cf. the theory of Relativity).
We generally regard metaphysics as some subject related to an outer world of discourse. Aristotle's early writings called, metaphysics in fact formed the base of a metaphysical enterprise. He had divided his work into four categories namely, the frist cause, the final cause, the subject and the truth. Aristotle's Metaphysics was divided into three parts, which are now regarded as the proper branches of traditional Western metaphysics:
- The study of Being and existence; includes the definition and classification of entities, physical or mental, the nature of their properties, and the nature of change.
- Natural Theology
- The study of a God or Gods; involves many topics, including among others the nature of religion and the world, existence of the divine, questions about Creation, and the numerous religious or spiritual issues that concern humankind in general.
- Universal science
- The study of first principles, which Aristotle believed were the foundation of all other inquiries. An example of such a principle is the law of noncontradiction and the status it holds in non-paraconsistent logics.
Universal science or first philosophy treats of "being qua being"—that is, what is basic to all science before one adds the particular details of any one science. Essentially "being qua being" may be translated as "being insofar as being goes" or as "being in terms of being." This includes topics such as causality, substance, species and elements, as well as the notions of relation, interaction, and finitude.
- Concerning existence of material things, and real distinction between mind and body (Descartes)
- The Metaphysics of Sexual Love
- Personal identity (philosophy)
- Philosophical logic
- Philosophical theology
- Philosophy of Mathematics
- Philosophy of physics
- Pluralism (philosophy of mind)
- Philosophical realism
- Substance theory
- Time travel