SECTION EIGHT OF A PHILOSOPHY OF GLIMPSES
What Can “(Meta)physical Beings” Uniquely Experience?
If free will exists and humans can be “toward” “lacks,” humans aren’t purely physical but “(meta)physical,” though that doesn’t mean humans are necessarily not an “emergent” product of ultimately physical forces (that would be a line of inquiry that exceeds the scope of this work). Considering this, we are capable of experiencing “(meta)physical” beings, events, etc. in ways that purely physical or purely nonphysical beings could not. What would some of those experiences entail? By identifying them, it may help us lay out some topics that a “New Metaphysics” may find worth exploring.
Please note that if we are “free” to be “toward” x but not y, then we are free to treat “non-physical” entities like they aren’t real, doing so of which would make them practically nonexistent (to us). If we believed beauty was an illusion, then we’d experience it as an illusion; if we thought morality was an expression of power over subjects, then we’d experience morality as a trap.
“Non-physical” beings are uniquely malleable and shapeable by my orientation to the world. I cannot make trees disappear based on how think, but I can make beauty vanish from my life. In this way, metaphysical topics are uniquely susceptible to confirmation bias, “tunnel vision,” and other cognitive biases, which suggests why it is that when the “spirit of the age” turns against metaphysical entities, they seem to easily and entirely vanish (while the evidence seems to suggest this effacement is “epistemically responsible”). Worse yet, when they vanish, the positions claiming metaphysical subjects are a waste of time seem justified. When metaphysics dies, it leaves no ghost.
Now, to approach the close of this treatise, let’s list out some subjects worthy of metaphysical consideration. The hope is that this treatise will stimulate some papers if not books to be written on the following subjects (and others I couldn’t think of to list):
Personally, this my favorite topic on which to orbit my metaphysical concerns, and it is also a field I think is least harvested. Like many subjects deserving metaphysical and phenomenological focus, beauty is often considered a “matter of taste,” suggesting that any effort to explore the topic will ultimately prove to be nothing more than expressions of subjective opinions. But beauty is conditional, not merely subjective, even though a subject is required to experience beauty.
Please see “On Beauty” by O.G. Rose for more. The Fate of Beauty is a book devoted to this subject.
Humans can hear the word “cat” and see an image of a cat in their minds. We can be told directions, remember them, and find our way to a location. What is it like to understand something? What is it like to misunderstand something?
Please see “The Phenomenology of Understanding” by Javier Rivera for more.
Humans are uniquely capable of using signifiers, and though perhaps we cannot close “the gap” between signifiers and the signified, we are capable of creating those “gaps.” How does language work? How is it that I’m able to turn noise into ideas with slight changes in tone? What’s it like to hear words? What is the difference between poetry and “small talk?”
Please see the work of Javier Rivera, who particularly focuses on how metaphysics and poetry can relate.
4. Ethics and values
What is goodness? Have we ever seen it? I’m sure we have, and yet how do we know that we aren’t just apprehending “good things” versus “goodness itself” (though perhaps that’s an unnecessary distinction)? What is it about how “good things” are experienced and “unfold” that make them “good” to us? How should a loving relationship “unfold?” What about evil? What about the heroic, the considerate, and the like? What are the patterns which “good things” share? How do we consider one thing “more heroic” than another?
For more, see “(Im)morality” by O.G. Rose.
There is no such thing as nothing, and yet nothing is an important dimension of our lives. We can “feel like” nothing, we can be “toward” nothing — nothing doesn’t exist but is very real. How is that possible? What is the difference “absolute nothingness” and “apparent nothingness” (that conceals a Transcendent Existence, perhaps)? Is nothingness always a disguised or misnamed being? Where can we observe it to tell?
For more, please see the work of Thomas Jockin on “lacks.”
6. Being (uppercase), being (lowercase), and becoming.
It’s hard to think of more loaded words then these, and arguably this trio is classically the main subjects of metaphysics and ontology. What is being? What does it mean to be? Is being always becoming? Is there a “ground of all being” (Being) which “unfolds” through becoming and being? Why or why not?
Even those who laugh at philosophy and metaphysics are willing to acknowledge that it’s hard to tell if math is created or discovered. There is a long tradition of using mathematical considerations to ground metaphysics, from Plato to Leibnitz to Kant, and to this day the existence of math makes it hard for positivists to do away with “non-physical entities” once and for all. Math indeed works so well that it’s hard not to think that mathematics somehow underpins the universe, but if that’s the case, then there is something “beyond the physical” that makes the physical operate.
8. Irony, paradox, and contradiction
If reality was simply “A is A,” meaning that things were what they were and existed one dimensionally, then irony, paradox, and contradiction shouldn’t be possible. And yet they are very possible and arguably the main concerns of great literature. What is irony? What is the nature of our ontology to make irony and contradiction possible? If things were simply things, things shouldn’t contradict: “A” should just be “A,” never stumble into “non-A”-ness, per se. What must the nature of reality be to “unfold” ironically, paradoxically, and full of contradiction?
For more, please see the work of O.G. Rose, particularly “A is A” and (Re)constructing “A is A” in general.
And so on.
This is a short list, but the hope here has been to suggest some topics that fall within the realm of phenomenological metaphysics as so defined within this treatise. It is also possible to transition from metaphysics into theology, and it is perhaps not by chance that the decline of metaphysics has corresponded with a separation in the fields of theology and philosophy. But that is another topic for another time.
Beauty, truth, goodness, understanding, language — can we observe these things physically in of themselves? No: we can only observe “beautiful things,” “good things,” “words about things,” and so on. We do no observe beauty, goodness, and language in of themselves, independent of representation. Instead, we see things participating in beauty, truth, and goodness, and we experience mysterious moments of apprehending beauty, truth, and goodness being present before suddenly being gone. Metaphysics is a study of glimpses and glances.
No, we can’t be sure that our experience of beauty aligns with “actual beauty” (and certainly Derrida would have a thing or two to say to us about that attempt), but we can say with confidence that we experience beauty, that “something just unfolded before me beautifully.” The fact this is possible, and the fact we have an ontology to recognize it, suggests there is metaphysical work to be done.