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What is Metaphysics?

Metaphysics is the study of being, identity, change, space, time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It involves concerns regarding consciousness and the nature of thought and substance. In Greek, metaphysics means “after or behind or among [the study of] the natural”. After the Physics, an editor of Aristotle’s works, may have invented the phrase Metaphysics (, meta ta physika, lit. ‘after the Physics’). Metaphysics explores what it is to exist and what sorts of existence exist. Metaphysics aims to answer the following questions: 1. * What? 2. * How is it? Existence, things and attributes, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility are all metaphysical topics. Aside from epistemology, epistemology is one of the four major areas of philosophy.

Metaphysics signifies the branch of philosophy that researches the foundational nature of reality, the principle of being, space and time, causality, necessity, identity, change, and possibility.

This branch of study consists of essential questions about the relationship between substance and attribute, the equation between mind and matter, the nature of consciousness, and the association between potentiality and actuality. In the etymological sense, the term ‘Metaphysics’ originates from two Greek words that mean “after, behind, or among the study of the natural.”

Metaphysics and its studies are mainly related to the questions of existence. Some of the crucial questions that metaphysical studies have been seeking to answer are – What is it like to exist? And what types of existences are there?

Some ideas on which metaphysical investigation dwells are existence, objects, properties, cause and effect, space and time, and possibility. Metaphysics as a branch of philosophy is considered one of the primary four branches, along with Epistemology, ethics, and logic.

Ontology (Being)

This branch of philosophy, known as Ontology, studies concepts that range from existence and becoming to being a part of one’s reality. Other questions included in these studies are how specific entities are grouped into basic categories? Which of these entities can exist on the foundational level of being? Occasionally referred to as the science of being, the branch of study is more of a general metaphysical realm than the special one.

Ontologists primarily work towards determining a system of categories to classify all entities in this universe. For instance, some of the proposed categories for these entities are properties, substances, relations, events, and states of affairs. These entities are generally presented based on their characterization in the fundamental ontological concepts. These concepts include particularity and universality, possibility and necessity, or abstractness and concreteness. There have been various discourses and disagreements on whether the entities that belong to a particular category exist and, if they do, then what is their relationship with each other.

Identity And Change

Another fundamental metaphysical concern is identity. Some of the critical questions related to this topic are — What exactly does it mean to be identical to oneself, or more importantly, to something else? Other questions are related to the existence of an entity and its identity across the concept of time and other criteria.

Metaphysicians have also investigated questions like — How does one determine their identity? And how does this reality of identity intersect language expression? These metaphysical positions and their takes on identity have undeniable implications on notions such as personal identity, ethics, the mind-body problem, and law.

Initially, several ancient Greeks took radical positions on the nature of change. While Parmenides was against the concept of change, Heraclitus argued that change was ubiquitous.

Identity is occasionally referred to as numerical identity. This numerical identity is the concept of a relationship that a thing develops to itself based on its virtue of being similar in theory. This concept can also be denoted as the sameness that a thing bears to nothing but itself.

Modern philosopher, Leibniz, made a lasting impact on the study of this branch of philosophy by postulating the Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals. This law on the philosophy of identity is accepted widely even today. Through this law, he stated that if an object X is similar or identical to another object Y, both these objects will have the same properties. However, considering that change is inevitable, one can readily stipulate that everything will change over time. Perdurantism and endurantism are the two rival theories that describe the relationship between evolution and identity. While the former stands for the tree as a series of stages during the course of time, the latter maintains that the same tree is present at every stage in its history.

Space And Time

The concept of time and space generally stipulates that only objects appear to be concerning space and time. Other abstract entities such as classes, properties, and relations exist outside of the concepts of space and time. Some metaphysical questions associated with this concept are — How do space and time serve this function as a foundation for objects? Are space and time entities themselves? Do they exist before objects? How can one define them? How is the time associated with change? And is change necessary for time to exist? Causality Causality, which is often referred to as the foundation for the philosophy of science, aims to understand the causes and effects of various entities and then make predictions based on these answers.

Metaphysics has been linked with several causes in classical philosophy, including future teleological causes. In fields of studies such as special relativity and quantum field theory, the ideas of space-time and causality intersect each other time and again. Thus, through the entanglement of these notions, various temporal orders of causations depend entirely on the observer and not the context.

Researchers have postulated that the laws of physics are symmetrical in time, so they can also be used to denote time as running backward. Hence, the essential questions in this context are — Why does one perceive time as flowing in one direction? And if somehow, it does flow in one direction, then can one denote causation to be flowing in the same direction or not?

Necessity And Possibility

Scientists who study Metaphysics are known as Metaphysicians. Metaphysicians have investigated various questions about the potential of this world and numerous other alternate possibilities through the ideas of Necessity and Possibility. David Lewis postulated the notion of Modal Realism in one of his works.

According to this notion of Modal Realism, facts about the potentiality of an alternate universe could have been made true by the existence of other concrete worlds of parallel realities. Other philosophers, such as Gottfried Leibniz, have also dealt with this idea of other possible worlds. Other possible worlds exist on the foundation of a necessary fact which remains true across all these realities. On the other hand, a possible fact is valid only in some worlds and not all. An example of a possible fact is a cat having two tails or the existence of a particular variety of apples.

In close contrast, certain propositions are necessarily true. These propositions are called analytic propositions. For example – ‘all bachelors are unmarried.’ Other than this, the concept of self-identity is necessary throughout all realities. This is because it is fundamentally incoherent to claim otherwise. One can never postulate that X is not identical to itself, so it becomes a mandate. This is recognized as the Law of Identity or a putative ‘First Principle.’



Ramiel Angel

Daveithai Angel