Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Universal Urge to Philosophize

Grand Palace area,
“In all men, as soon as their reason has become ripe for speculation, there has always existed and will always continue to exist some kind of metaphysics.”
- Immanuel Kant

The desire and need to philosophize is universal, according to Kant. The urge to engage in metaphysics is part of our humanity and wonder.

Metaphysics. Meta - physika.

"Meta" - "beyond."

"Physika" - "physical reality."

The metaphysical urge causes people to wonder things such as: Is this life all there is? What is right and what is wrong to do? Is empirical reality all there is?

Consider the second question: Is empirical reality all there is? The answer to that must be: No. This is because the claim that Empirical reality is all there is, as a truth-claim, is not itself empirical. That is, one cannot verifiy this claim by seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, or hearing. Philosophy came to this conclusion in its rejection of the verification principle of Logical Positivism.

Early 20th-century philosophers like A.J. Ayer and the early Wittgenstein presented us with the famous "verification principle," adapted from David Hume. The verification principle states: A sentence can only be meaningul if it can be empirically verified. If it cannot be empirically verified, then it is either a tautology ("analytical") or it is meaningless (all metaphysical claims). But the problem with the verification principle was that, on its own criteria, it is either tautological or metaphysical, since it cannot be empirically verified.

Welcome to metaphysics. Welcome to the Big Questions. In this we are, epistemically, eternally children. Sad is the day when childlike wonder is quenched in a human soul.