Sunday, April 16, 2023

'IS' demonstrates that what is objectively true, is where the action is - 'What is Truth' pt4

So having established a couple basic metaphysical principles in the previous posts (here, here, and here): that Reality exists, and is intelligible, and Truth is our words in conformance with Reality, we now come to the central word in the trio of 'What is Truth' - where between defining 'What' our words refer to, and 'Truth' being what should be the point of using them, 'is', is the active focal point of where our words and reality are either meeting - 'it is raining', or where we hope and/or expect that they will meet 'what is happening here?', or the means of separating you from both (" shall be as gods..."). 'Is', is that point where an inattentiveness to metaphysics, enables the worst of us to 'untune that string', and leaves the rest of us watching on in amazement and able to do little more than '...hark what discord follows'.

Thirty years ago, Bill Clinton gave his master class in how to take advantage of modernity's metaphysical muddle, when he'd used 'it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is', is' to untune America's strings still further, while also giving them an additional strum for good measure.

Clinton of course wasn't carefully pointing out an important nuance of detail that the court had somehow not noticed was true, he was utilizing a post-modernist blend of technicalities & equivocations to lie by omission while also using his own lawyer and others as proxies to spread the lie and conceal the fact that he'd engaged in inappropriately intimate behavior with a young intern under his power. His words expertly exploited the assumptions of 'those who know best' in his fellow college educated judge, lawyers, and media, not to mention similarly muddled thought throughout society on matters of politics, party, and justice itself, which left enough people unable or unwilling to apply the principle of non-contradiction to his actions, in either a court of law or in the court of public opinion.

The effect of our president legitimizing a sordid lie by blatantly misusing and distorting the common understanding of our words, spread the seeds of a disdainful metaphysical blindness into every aspect of our society. From that point on, it seems to me, that those who'd already been visibly flinching at the mere mention of objective or self-evident truths, were emboldened to come out of their post-modern closets and openly treat those concepts and those still using them, with laughter and derision, as everyone else seemed to (shamefully) sigh and turn away as from a battle not worth fighting. Ideas have consequences, and the consequences of either torturing or turning a blind eye to the meaning of our words, was that meaningful discussions were that much less possible to engage in, and so people began looking no further than tribe and party for where to stand in every conflict that has since followed.

Word games and obfuscations aside, behind the verbiage there is always a 'What' that is being referred to, and the truth is that that is either real and so true, or it's nothing more than words, and that goes for objects and actions, and concepts as well - at some point they must connect with reality in order to be seen to be objectively true, or... not. It is essential for each person to understand that all of the intricately complicated and abstract ideals which civilized life requires and depends upon, from civility to principles of law, are ultimately traceable down to their rock hard foundations in reality, and without which its loftiest structures sway perilously in every tremor and breeze that comes along.

Every person who has a concern for what is real and true should also recognize that those who attempt to obscure or sew unwarranted doubts about those foundations, or to deny them outright, or even the possibility of them, are making a vicious attack upon the ability of every person within that society to live a life worth living. Such people as those who want to get away with the unreal, need you to not notice the lack of substance that underlies the webs that their words are spinning, and that requires distraction and misdirection on their part, and the more popular modernist and post-modernist means of doing that, is to involve you in attempting to argue how best to 'go further' than what can be demonstrated as being self-evidently true.

There are two very good reasons for you to not engage with their project:
1) As with the Turtle Lady and Bill Clinton, the argument they propose isn't intended to widen your knowledge, or to reveal nuances, but only to rattle your foundations and separate you from what is real and true.
2) You can't - not if you have any regard for logic and the issue in question.

If you allow yourself to be drawn into attempting to 'justify' or 'prove' their doubts about what is self-evident in the three Acts of the Mind, you'll find yourself stumbling into contributing to some form of a '... it's turtles all the way down!' argument yourself. There is no truth to be found in obfuscation and no logic to be found in circularity, and no value gained from giving the impression that greater understanding can be had by demanding 'more' than what is easily observed and intelligible for all reasonably healthy humans to understand - it already is -- wait for it -- objectively true.

It's also worth noting that in our society today we are far more likely to be directed away from making that observation ('What is a woman? Sorry, I'm not a scientist...'), than towards it, because so much of what we're intended to assume and accept, depends upon our not noticing that an obvious lie has some convoluted verbiage that 'justifies' it is 'true' (hello antiracism, men can be women, etc.).

At root, a self-evident truth is recognizably true, because it either denotes a perceptible fact that is apprehendable to the First Act of the Mind, from,
  • this is a chandelier;
  • what is real and true is intelligible;
  • actions produce reactions;
, or an observation from facts to a judgment that is self-evident to the Second Act of the Mind,
  • a chandelier is intended to be hung
  • what is true, is true, no matter who perceives it;
  • ideas have consequences
, or that as a result of a number of observations and judgments available to all, we engage in the Third Act of the Mind and reason from them to a conclusion which is also possible to be self-evidently true:
  • a chandelier is designed to bring light to a dark room;
  • all men are mortal;
  • each person is responsible for their chosen actions;
  • what results from your choices, materials, and actions, establishes your claim upon it, AKA: Property;
Important Note: What is Self-Evidently True at the level of observation, judgment, or reasoning, is not a claim to infallibility, but a recognition of what is self-evident within the context of the observations that have been made. A challenge to that certainty may rightly come from further observations that reveal more information, not less, or none, which will bring still more certainty to what is self-evidently true. What is evidently three oranges, at 50 paces, becomes apparent at 5 paces to be 2 oranges and an orange tennis ball, but that is not a repudiation of the earlier judgment, or a denial of your ability to make any such judgments, it is a clarification of both observation and judgment as a result of having more information, which provides you the means of making a better judgement.

Someone with an honest question or misunderstanding about a matter of observation, judgement, or reasoning, may have reasonable doubts or questions about those, which further explanations might enlighten them (or perhaps you) about, but that is a very different thing from the person who doubts or denies whether or not the chandelier in your hand is a chandelier, or that or that it is designed to be hung, or that having done so its purpose is to bring more light to the room than darkness. For the person that hurls comments such as 'you just think that, but you can't really know it, no one can know anything for certain!', what is there to argue with such a person about?

Any 'argument' that is focused only upon denying or pretending an unnatural and arbitrary doubt ('well it could be!'), can serve nothing other than the eradication of your ability to argue for what is true. To doubt or deny the self-evident truth that the chandelier in your hands is in fact a chandelier, or that it is to be hung to provide light, is no different than their doubting or denying the self-evident truth of mortality, or responsibility, or property, or anything else that is true. The doubts of such philosophical conmen are not meant to bring understanding, their purpose is to degrade your understanding and return you to the darkness they take cover in ('it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is', is' ).

But while you can't and shouldn't attempt to prove what actually is self-evidently true, you can, and should, demonstrate that their denials violate what is true. One means of doing so is through a method which was pioneered by Socrates, and perfected by Aristotle, and Aquinas, and has been employed down to our day by everyone from the Jesuits, to Ayn Rand, called 'Retortion', or sometimes 'Retorsion'. It derives its effectiveness through a metaphysical attention to the abstract defaults which hasty rhetoric tends to leave unexamined, empty, or even deliberately concealed, and by drawing attention to the fact that their claims depend upon what isn't actually there, or that they depend upon what is true in order to deny it, it uses the skeptic's and relativist's own words, to reveal what they'd left unsaid.

For instance, for the skeptic or relativist (same coin, different side) who claims (and I've actually had several people insist this to me) that:
"You can't prove that reality exists!"
, every word they used in saying that: 'You', 'can't', 'prove', 'that', 'reality', 'exists', presumes that reality does exist, and that something about it is communicated by those words within it, to someone else who exists in the same reality as they do, and such full-on self-contradiction invites the retort:
"Why would I need to prove what you just demonstrated?"
And for those who'd say that, they might follow it up with another gem like:
"You can't know what's real and true for me!"
, which invites a retort of:
"How do you know what's true for me?"
And if they retreat into:
"No one person can know that their judgment is true!"
, fully deserves a retort of:
"Is that true in your judgment?"
, and of course their replying with either a 'Yes' or a 'No', or simply glaring silently at you, is a use of their judgment, which again contradicts and invalidates their own claim. Call them on that, and they'll likely retreat again into non-sense (which is their ideal), claiming that:
"Truth is relative and your truth is not my truth!"
, which fully deserves a retort of:
"So you're saying that 'your truth is not my truth' is true for everyone?"
, which might bring out their big guns:
'No one can be certain of anything!'
, which is easily disarmed with:
"Are you certain of that?"
It's like doing philosophy with Henny Youngman. And if they persist in attempting to confuse logic with reasoning by doing logic in an illogical manner, claiming that:
'Nothing can be proven!'
, as their own statement presumes the existence of logic and the high value which even they place on proof, which presumes and admits both, you need only ask:
"How certain are you that you can prove that?"
How embarrassing. It's really not rocket science, it's barely philosophical, and requires no expertise in logic, only a smattering of ability to pay attention to the words and grammar being used for most people to do just fine (which is why both have been dropped from the curriculum).

Even attempting to deny your ability to know anything, is itself a claim to know something, reaffirming human nature once again with the opening line of Aristotle's metaphysics: 'All men by nature desire to know', and it brings the skeptic face to face with the self-refuting nature of their own positions. As Aristotle pointed out, for a skeptic to behave consistently with their 'ideals', they'd have to sit silently and motionlessly awaiting death to take them away, as taking such ideals seriously would permit nothing less, and that of course would be far too opposed to the nature of human nature, for anyone to do.

And for the skeptic and relativist who takes the bait and attempts to deny the reality of human nature, you can deliver the verbal beating they've been begging for by drawing their attention to the universal fact that everyone, everywhere, by nature, engages in the same three mental operations, all at once, in apprehending what exists, making judgments upon that, and reasoning what to do about it - even prior to the Three Acts of the Mind. Ask them to close their eyes, hold your hand up, and tell them to open their eyes and tell you what they see, and without going any further than that, they will have to admit that their mind engages in three inseparable operations, and by inseparable, I mean that you cannot even conceive of one of the three, without also engaging the other two, as with tweaking an observation of Ayn Rand's (as what she calls 'axiomatic concepts')
  1. Reality exists. - You perceive that the hand before you exists (and yes Neo, even if it's only a computer simulation, the simulation, or a dream, in that context, it exists)
  2. Identity - What reality exists as, entails its identity - They don't see the reality of your hand as an undistinguished whole, they identify it - from non-contradiction this isn't that, runs from a silhouette to a molecular scan - through perceiving the elements of your palm, fingers, thumb, etc.
  3. Awareness - observing what Reality exists as, engages our awareness of our conscious selves - we become aware that there is a self that's observing the hand before them, and that they too exist within reality.
Note that these three points don't strike you in three sequential steps, all three - Reality, Identity, Awareness - are always simultaneously implicit in, and entangled with, every thought and observation we make. It is how we apprehend reality in any Act of the Mind, and outside of the biomechanical means of perception, which, though fascinating, add nothing to how we consciously understand what we do, there is nothing more that needs to be added to the matter, nothing further to analyze or demonstrate, and any attempt to do so, would involve an endless spiral of circular references, which would of course invalidate the effort of attempting to do so. If you doubt that, just try describing anything at all, without implicitly referencing all three.

Luckily... wait, what's that? Oh, ok, I hear a couple of you out there, so you think you can affirm or deny one of those points without utilizing and confirming them all together? Ok, go for it, I'll wait... on second thought, long-form blogging isn't so interactive. I tell you what, I'll just go ahead and argue the matter for you. So, here we go: You'd argue that:
Ok, hold on, sorry, but I've gotta stop you right there - what or who do you mean by 'you'? "Well.. [you point at me]...". Ok, so you're pointing in my directions as if I'm really here?, [you nod in agreement], So... you're pointing at something "Here" that exists? [you reluctantly nod again], Meaning that you are identifying me, as a person who exists, and you are doing so because you are consciously aware that I am aware of you, just as you are aware of me? [you nervously clear your throat, nod again].

Ok, so summing up your tightly argued refutation against the fact that the three - Reality, Identity, Awareness - are implicit in the nature of every human being's observation, necessitated your pointing into the reality which exists and contains yourself and who you are pointing at, to identify me, as someone who you are consciously aware of, and who is aware of you.

Is that about right? [... you nod again]. And all of that was implied in your very first word? [c'mon man, nod again]. Nice... soOo... we're done here, right? Alrighty then. Moving on.

Luckily enough you don't need a formal grasp of logic for any of this, only need a rudimentary grasp of grammar - even my feeble grammatical skills will do just fine - and a willingness to pay attention to what is (and isn't) being said. Elaborate arguments and proofs aren't the point of, or a necessity for, anyone to be albe to live their life well, the point is only to not allow what 'is not', to appear to aquire substance and consequence in your life, and all that's truly needed for guarding against that, is to notice and point out contradictions where they exist. And that is afterall, the very first rule of logic - that if the premises are not true - meaning that they contradict reality - there is no logical method that can be performed with or upon them!

By deriving self-evident truths from observations, to judgments, to a reasoned understanding of matters, an observant and informed person who's also willing to further develop their understanding against those thoughts as might be found " the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c...", is very likely to find themselves reasonably connecting the conceptual dots to reveal that higher understanding which forms the basis of Individual Rights,
  • "as the nature of being human comes by virtue of being human, rather than from circumstance of birth, it justifiably follows that living life well, requires respecting every other persons need to do so as well;"
, and other such thoughts as the West was formed from and upon, and which was more eloquently formulated at America's founding, with:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness..."
For those who do honestly balk at what you can see is self-evidently true, the posing and pursuing of a few questions may eventually reveal their error to them (and yes, many honest people adhere to and peddle lies, because they once believed a liar who taught them that they were true), and while they may hesitate to acknowledge it, if they're asking and considering the questions, they're half way there. It might be worth reminding them - especially if they paid attention in our modern schools - that finding what is meaningful requires going beyond merely scanning for information, you must involve your active attention with the words you are reading, and consider them, to gain an understanding of them, in order for them, and you, to fully inhabit your life.

But, for those others who merely and obnoxiously deride and deny that '...Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness...' is self-evident, scoffing at everything from our ability to choose our own actions, to denying that anyone can know that anything is true, and for those who have no reply to those retortions that reveal the errors and dishonesty within such positions, who reply primarily with anger and/or deliberate defitional evasions - there truly is no reasoning with them. Such folk will likely soon resort to asserting that 'what everybody knows' as 'a people', is a more significant 'standpoint' than what any one individual can know is real and true (which is where 'systemic power' enters into the picture, but that's for the upcoming posts on Epistemology), and you're better off just letting them know that you've seen the emptiness behind their mask, and then simply move along.

Reality - what exists - is the fundamental Object of our thoughts, and our thoughts indicate our relation to it, as the subject which knows the object. It's not an issue of Objective vs. Subjective, it's more like the Objective and Subjective operating in concert, that enables our minds to work. Our judgments about reality can be true, and our perceiving that there's a relation between one judgment and another, can lead us to yet another judgment between that and another thing we've judged to be true, and so on, building up to the reasoning that is the Third Act of the Mind, and doing so should bring two very important points to mind - one obvious, and one that's soOooo obvious that it usually escapes our attention altogether:

1) The merely obvious point, is that the reasoning that we build our judgments upon can be impressive, can be eloquent, persuasive, and even stirring, and yet, even the most persuasive and stirring reasoning can be utterly and completely false. And conversely, as Socrates demonstrated to the point of being put to death for doing so, a thoroughly true and well-reasoned argument can be misunderstood, ignored, or flat out denied.

Obviously, that's a problem.

However impressively reasoned and logical an argument seems to be, if its premises are not true, and/or if those you're reasoning with do not realize (or care) that they are true, then all is for naught. Aristotle's first rule of logic - the one that is usually ignored today - is that we must first ensure that our premises are true, and then and only then, can you begin to say something logically worthwhile about it.

What Retortion is effective at doing, is dealing with the perceptible aspects of the abstractions in those too often unexamined premises, which are what both the honest error and the deliberate lie are built upon, and that's why the importance of being familiar with metaphysical concepts is so important. For as the abstract nature of 'chandelier' encompasses the various differences in style and materials of hundreds or even thousands of very physically different chandeliers, a concept such as 'is', which potentially encompasses all of existence and being in itself, it's vital that the appropriate levels of abstraction that could otherwise be smuggled past your awareness, be identified, within the context of the moment, because carelessly leaving those in the abstract, which is the habit that our schools have helped to instill in us, is the very thing that the unscrupulous count upon using to exploit us.

Those who persist in claims that minimize or ignore metaphysics, are not engaging in philosophy - the love of wisdom - but only a deliberate sham of avoiding and attacking it, aka: Sophistry [see the 'nothing new under the sun' nature of the pre-modern state of post-modernism's 'i. Nothing exists, ii. Even if existence exists, it cannot be known, iii. Even if it could be known, it cannot be communicated', as the IEP notes was being taught by the sophist who was confronted by Socrates in 'The Gorgias']. It should also be no surprise that those who exist in continual conflict with reality, and the continuous need to fake it, while attempting to hide it behind those words they fake it with, tend to be rather bitter and hostile - their own thoughts are actively alienating them from the real world that they actually do live in, no matter how much they might want to deny it. Having rejected Truth, they have only the illusion of power to appeal to, which endlessly depends upon your not noticing the ever-present reality that they must endlessly obscure and deny, through the force of their words alone. That has got to be exhausting.

Don't consent. Don't submit. Don't enable those who desire the power to play God with their own lives, to unleash chaos amongst ours.

Do recognize that to devalue or deny Knowledge and wisdom, is an attack upon every aspect of your ability to live a life worth living. Take the time to think through the placeholders to what is true. To identify and respect the nature of what is, enables your mind to integrate with what is real and true, and conversely, to ignore or deny what is, is to alienate your mind from existence, and from truth, and from yourself, imprisoning you in the same faked world as theirs. Truly, when we carelessly and negligently misuse metaphysical abstractions, we're heading into a whole world of trouble, stepping into a jail cell and locking the door behind us. Fortunately for us, the Truth will set you free - if you engage with it.

2) The too obvious point that I mentioned, is one that's rarely given the attention it deserves, is that we all place a value upon what we know is true - even Marxists listen to who knows the truth about how best to sell a lie - and we do so because it's an accurate reflection of some aspect of reality as it is. People are judged to be fools or wise, based upon how well their thoughts and actions corollate with and conform to what is objectively real and true. The wisdom of that bit of obviousness was apparent even in Aristotle's day, as he noted in his Metaphysics, book 1, chp 1,
"...that all men suppose what is called Wisdom to deal with the first causes and the principles of things; so that, as has been said before, the man of experience is thought to be wiser than the possessors of any sense-perception whatever, the artist wiser than the men of experience, the masterworker than the mechanic, and the theoretical kinds of knowledge to be more of the nature of Wisdom than the productive. Clearly then Wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes..."
, and the man with more experience in what they know to be true, is thought wiser than the one who knows nothing, or knows it only 2nd hand. IOW, we all know that Truth is objective, and that it's true because it conforms to what is; to existence, to being, which Is intelligible to all of us. We all routinely act upon that; it's only when we put ideology over wisdom, that we profess to doubt, deny, or devalue, what is objectively true, and for those who'd deny it, the truth of it burns... as it turns out that not only do ideas have consequences, they have causes.

How the causes of those ideas go about producing consequences in our lives, is what we'll look at next.

Friday, April 14, 2023

What is Truth: 'it is what it is' or it's 'Turtles: all the way down' - 'What is Truth' pt3

In the previous post we began taking a metaphysical dive into the phrase 'What is Truth?', by beginning with the role that 'What' plays in that - what is being referred to, how well we know it, and how easily we fool ourselves into mistaking what we assume we know, for what we actually know about that what - and it's the role of metaphysics, to keep those unconscious assumptions to a minimum, and the clarity of our thoughts to a maximum. We'll look at what it is that we mean by 'Truth' itself in this post, and then at how 'Is' actively puts 'What' and 'Truth' together in the next post, to see more clearly how our inattention to metaphysics today, has made it so much more difficult to put these three words together in a meaningful manner.

How we determine what is true with some degree of confidence (which should not be mistaken for infallible certainty - that's not an option for the human mind), is more of a question for epistemology, than for metaphysics. Before attempting that, we first need to be more mindful of how it is that these concepts and first principles of metaphysics help us to integrate our ideas, and add clarity to the process of thinking, and how disintegrated, unnecessarily complicated, and confused, even hostile ('That's "your truth", not mine!'), our thinking becomes when we're neglectful of them.

In previous posts concerning the progressive regress of education in America, I've covered a fair amount of the 'Why' behind why we're no longer taught to be mindful of the basics of metaphysics, and it was with his awareness of the causes behind a similar widespread lack of that clarity in his day, that Aristotle wrote of the need for a science of first principles (in his day, 'science' meant only a methodical study, it'd be nearly two thousand years before the term 'science' would break off from the mother-ship of philosophy and become the quantified method of experimentation that it is today), in Book 1, Chp 1, of his Metaphysics, that:
"...And these things, the most universal, are on the whole the hardest for men to know; for they are farthest from the senses. And the most exact of the sciences are those which deal most with first principles; for those which involve fewer principles are more exact than those which involve additional principles, e.g. arithmetic than geometry. But the science which investigates causes is also instructive, in a higher degree, for the people who instruct us are those who tell the causes of each thing..."
Being unfamiliar with the metaphysics which Aristotle noted most people were least likely to have a solid understanding of, leaves us with an illusory cushion between our thinking and the gritty details of reality. But as with the 'chandelier' noted previously, those assumptions too easily lead us to behave as if we 'somehow' grasp enough of the details contained within them, when in fact we know more about our assumptions, than the realities which our inattentiveness is shielding us from. On a related note, despite the caricature of moral and virtuous people being cluelessly 'above it all', because true morality and virtue are rooted in sound metaphysics, those who are truly moral and virtuous are far more aware and connected to reality than the supposedly 'hard edged' skeptic ever will or can be. But that's for a later post as well.

Keeping the Western mind more focused on and in touch with what's real and true, was a lot easier when we consciously kept one foot firmly in each of our culture's Greco/Roman - Judeo/Christian foundations, and the first principles which they were formed from. As noted previously, we aren't ignorant of these concepts because they're difficult to grasp, but because they go untaught, and it's because they go untaught, that we're enabled to remain ignorant of their importance in our lives. Fortunately, the concepts themselves are mostly simple - that's why they work - and we only need to develop the habit of attending to what they otherwise keep out of sight, to benefit from them. For instance, there's nothing complicated about Aristotle's simple test for whether or not a fact is true:
“To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”
True or False, it is what it is, right?

OTOH, their simplicity and similarity to other concepts, is where our attention is required in order to make those distinctions between them that inattentiveness otherwise too easily lets slip past us, and equivocation - false equivalents - can introduce small errors that can grow, or be exploited into, larger ones. One such difference that's worth noting, is between what we can see is 'True', and what is meant by 'Truth' - do you see the distinction? We say something is true, as a judgment about a claim, but what Truth is, is what it itself is, which is different from a judgment about it.

Taking up the thread from Aristotle (and Plato), Thomas Aquinas put what it is we mean by what Truth is, as being when our thoughts correspond to what is real:
“Veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus” (Truth is the equation of thing and intellect)
, meaning that Truth itself is the general quality of our understanding conforming to what is real; and True is that particular judgment which identifies that a particular thing 'is what it is' - if you hold up an orange and say "This is an Orange", I'll acknowledge that this particular judgement of yours is True. As Aquinas put it, restating from Aristotle, that:
"...the judgment is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality. Moreover, the intellect judges about the thing it has apprehended at the moment when it says that something is or is not. This is the role of "the intellect composing and dividing."..."
When you give the matter some consideration, it seems obvious enough, but it turns out that this most commonsensical of concepts, is ground zero in the philosophical and spiritual battle we've been engaged in for nearly all of modernity.

So with just a few basic metaphysical principles: that reality exists, that what exists is intelligible, that Truth is our understanding conforming to what is real, and that discovering and acknowledging what is true is of the utmost importance to a life worth living, we have what were and are recognized as being vital by both halves of our Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian cultural foundations. I'll save the details for later posts, but the first significant shot felt around the world in modernity, was fired upon those foundations by Descartes, with his claim that since reality could always be doubted, the only thing that couldn't be doubted, was whether or not you were in doubt about something within it (or 'it' itself) - meaning... that... rather than Truth being what you have when your thought conforms to reality (and is therefore able to be verified against reality as being true), the new arbiter of 'truths' became whether or not you clearly and distinctly believed that your own thoughts agreed with your own thoughts, and were therefore 'true'.

Through this new doubtful formulation, people soon began imagining that their own thoughts could subdue reality simply by doubting it, as what you don't doubt about what you think, became the 'truth' - 'my truth' - that the remainder of your thoughts should conform to (and of course if some fudging of 'facts' was needed to maintain that conformity, so long as you didn't doubt that it was needed... it was. (Shhh!)). Descartes' blending of pervasive skepticism with strident certainty in his philosophy and 'Method of Doubt', has intrigued Modernity into a labyrinth that soon after began to enclose and imprison us within it, and in a very real sense, only the earlier understanding of Truth can set us free of it.

Not surprisingly, the weapon that the modernist most often uses against what is real and true, is an inexhaustible supply of artificial and causeless doubt. Since Descartes' day, Kant gave the term 'doubt' a more respectable suit of clothes in the form of 'the critical question' (and which Marx much later weaponized as 'subject everything to relentless criticism'), and any reality the modernist desires to be free from respecting (made easier by Kant's declaring we can never really know reality 'as it is'), they simply and endlessly doubt the truth of it, typically by demanding endless 'proofs' of the self-evident.

But what more can be said about Truth, than that it conforms to reality?

Believe it or not, that question is a bit of a metaphysical minefield which you should approach very carefully, because as ideas have consequences, so does engaging with ideas that don't respect the metaphysical guardrails of reality that are meant to keep you on the road to objective truth. The question that should be asked before going down such paths, is not what more can be said about Truth than that it is what conforms to reality, but what would the attempt look like, and should we attempt to say anything more about it, than that?

What would attempting to do so entail? Wouldn't seeking 'something more' require either using some notion that's even more abstract and so further distanced from what is real and true, or by using something... else ... that'd require referencing something that doesn't exist and so is unreal... to verify what is real? Wouldn't you need to know what is real (i.e. self-evidently true), in order to identify what isn't real, in order to use what isn't real, to verify what is really true? Didn't that thought just take our thoughts and spin them around in a circle?!

There are of course some issues that require us to come at them from other perspectives, but a perspective that requires circular thinking and endless regress, will never be one of them. Such practices that lead into self-evidently circular reasoning, will quickly sweep your mind up along with it, but as a general rule, what is even better than exiting such loops, is not entering into them in the first place. A grasp of metaphysics helps us to avoid such traps by identifying their hazards and keeping our attention upon what is real, while exposing what is not true, and cannot be.

The stubborn fact is that it is unreasonable to ask for an argument to demonstrate what is already self-evident, it is unreasonable to demand a 'proof!' that by definition cannot be logical, because the attempt would fall into an endlessly circular regress of 'explanations', which could add nothing more meaningful to the discussion than the endless assertions of the Turtle Lady. The Turtle Lady being the apocryphal story of an old woman chiding an astronomer for saying that the earth revolves around the sun, when, as she says, 'Everyone knows the earth rests on the back of a turtle!'. The astronomer peers at the old lady over his glasses and says to her "If the world is resting on the back of a turtle, what is the turtle standing on?", and she replies 'A larger turtle, of course!", and before he can ask what that turtle's standing on, the Turtle Lady replies as anyone who seeks the comfort of meaningless circularity, does :
"I know what you're doing sonny, but it's no use, it's turtles all the way down!"
Truth is thought conforming to reality, and it's not being thoughtful or deep to seek something 'more' through an endless circularity of ever-receding series of explanations which must mean less than that. It is important to realize that the Turtle ploy isn't about the 'turtles' - it's about getting away with an infinite regress of 'all the way down', which enables them to seem to say that there is something that they mean to say, without ever identifying what it is that they say that they mean. The ploy is deployed by modernists & post-modernists alike to distract you from the nullity of the assertions they're perpetually spinning their wheels in, as a surefire means of getting away with their signature circular spiraling down into nothingness - which is what everyone from Hegel to Heidegger to Kimberle Crenshaw have used and do use to separate minds from what is real and true - and they'd like nothing more than to suck you down into that infinite loop so that you'll become as miserably lost within it as they are - misery, and nihilism, love company.

If you want to get a firm hold upon the truth that modernity has alienated itself from, then brush the likes of the Turtle Lady, Descartes, and the rest of modernity aside, and return to the metaphysics which gave us our first solid grasp on our world in the first place, and which will steer you clear of spinning your wheels in such follies.

The key to keeping your premises conforming to reality, is to begin by adhering to the first principle of thought, which Aristotle identified in the fourth book of his Metaphysics, as the law of non-contradiction:
"...For a principle which every one must have who understands anything that is, is not a hypothesis; and that which every one must know who knows anything, he must already have when he comes to a special study. Evidently then such a principle is the most certain of all; which principle this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect; we must presuppose, to guard against dialectical objections, any further qualifications which might be added..."
That a thing cannot both be, and not be, in the same manner and context, is inarguable and incontrovertible, and is the fundamental requirement of all knowledge. Even attempting to deny that (which Hegel did, and the Woke still do - we'll get to that in the next post), is to entangle oneself in inconsistencies and contradictions which simply cannot be, and once we acquire the habit of making ourselves aware of the simple concepts involved, no honest person would or should support any such claims.

What we know of reality begins with what we can perceive of it, and however high-flying an ideal might be, if it is a valid one, it can be traced back step by step to a less abstract and more concrete concept, until you finally reach its foundation in what is objectively real and true, and there's no need to pretend that it's possible to go any further down that road than you have, and it would be unwise to attempt it. As Aristotle goes on to say of those who demand proof of the self-evident:
"...Some indeed demand that even this shall be demonstrated, but this they do through want of education, for not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education. For it is impossible that there should be demonstration of absolutely everything (there would be an infinite regress, so that there would still be no demonstration); but if there are things of which one should not demand demonstration, these persons could not say what principle they maintain to be more self-evident than the present one..."
As with the abstract lighting concept of a Chandelier, is built upon a lower level abstraction of a lighting fixture, which is built upon a lower level abstraction of a lamp, which is built upon a lower level abstraction of a candle, all of which are intended to output some measure of that concrete reality of light which emanates from them, as it does from the sun, moon, and stars - the abstract concept of a Chandelier allows for thousands upon thousands of variations on that theme, but what do you say to the person who demands more proof that the chandelier in your hand, is a chandelier?, or who demands that you prove that light provides light? They aren't seeking after what is true, they're attempting to cause you to doubt that anything at all can be known to be true.
Note: Investigating deeper into understanding how something comes to be what it is, as a prism demonstrates that white light is made up of a spectrum of colors, adds to our understanding of the nature of light, it doesn't invalidate or give cause for us to doubt our ability to perceive that light is light. Don't permit a misosophical hacker to instill doubts in you with comments such as "Physics proves that nothing is solid, as what you think is solid, is mostly empty space between molecules! It's all an illusion!", when the fact is that what physics actually shows us, is that solidity in the context of our lives, is made possible by how molecules form and interact across the molecular space between them - that 'emptiness' is what solidity is formed from.

That some people do this by either demands or doubts is undeniable - several post-modernists like Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, all authored papers doubting the reality of authors - but why? Shakespeare, with characters like Iago and Edmund in his head, nailed the point well::
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows.
Each thing meets In mere oppugnancy [loud opposition over the merest trifles].
, which the philosopher Peter Kreeft put more plainly in that what confusing or doubting the meaning of our words 'accomplishes' in our thinking, in his book 'Socratic Logic', :
“Definition is crucial to logic. For a definition tells us what a thing is; and if we do not know what a thing is, by the first act of the mind, we cannot know what to predicate of it in the second act of the mind, and thus we have no premises for our reasoning (the third act of the mind).”
It's worth taking notice that very few skeptics or relativists would dare doubt the self-evident injury and pain that your punching them in the nose would cause them to truly experience, yet they'll loudly demand that you fill the rest of your thoughts with doubts about every other self-evident reality you might experience.

What such skeptics, relativists, and out & out liars all depend upon, is being able to slip some detail past us within the abstract, to involve us in positions that contradict some aspect of reality, identity, consciousness, which a more careful attention to the metaphysical details can help spare us from, if we pay attention to what it is that they are saying.

What the meaning of the word 'IS' is, in the phrase 'What is Truth?', is what we'll get into in the next post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

What the Reality of the Abstract is - 'What is Truth' pt2

The point of turning our attention to metaphysics (see previous post), is not to wrestle with fancy concepts or to see which big brained person said what impressive (or baffling) thing about this or that obscure issue, but so that when we are talking about something as if it is something worthy of our attention, we will have more clarity on whether it actually is something or not, and if so, grasp whether that discussion is taking us towards, or away from, it becoming realized - and is either prospect a good thing?

In proposing to get the hang of this by looking at the three words of:
"What is Truth?"
, we'll come at the phrase itself last, after first working through the words individually and from an angle, looking less at the word 'What' itself, than with whatever it is that we use it to refer our thinking to.

We of course use 'What' as a placeholder for anything, usually something that hasn't yet been identified, but which the question expects, or at least hopes, will be identified - and while that 'What' can potentially refer to anything, we expect the reply we receive to refer to a particular thing within the context of the question being asked. In short, 'What' is referring to some part of, and by extension to all of, existence itself. That something exists and that we can know that, is the fundamental principle of metaphysics, and leaving a few big-brained fools aside for the moment, few doubt that because it is absurd to question the reality of existence, but it is absurdly common for us to confuse some idea in our heads, with it being real, and seeing how we do that, and how to keep from doing that, is what we're using 'What' for.

If I point at something and ask "What is that?", depending upon the context, the answer received could be anything from applesauce, to a 'bottom operated clapper valve', and while I know enough about applesauce to safely assume many delicious details about it (though depending on who I'd asked that of - waitress or friend or foe - other questions might be asked before taking a bite of it), the other merely names something whose concept means little more to me than the "what" I'd asked of it to begin with, right?

The natural reaction towards the unexpected or unknown, is - demonstrating what Aristotle said that all men desire - to ask more questions in order to make the unknown meaningful enough for it to fit into our understanding. How much is enough, depends upon the context, and fitting some unknowns into your world might not require much at all - if they reply, 'It's something found often on railroad cars', unless I had a deeper interest or need to know about trains, that'd be enough to make this particular "what" real enough in my mind for me to move on to the next squirrel.

But what about when the concept is a familiar one? How often do we assume we know something about what's being discussed, when we actually know little more about the familiar term, than we do of the unfamiliar one?
To get the gist of this, let's imagine a simple example of using a mostly abstract concept, where my wife tells me there's a problem with a room in our house. "What's the problem?" I ask, "it's too dark", she says. "Too dark", I nod. "What we need is a chandelier to brighten the room up" she says, and I nod my head, yep, we need a chandelier.

In this case, the unknown 'What' was filled in by 'chandelier', but annoyingly enough, knowing that we need this general kind of thing called a 'chandelier', though its familiar to me, it hasn't told me enough to even leave the room with, let alone run off to buy one, because although I've got a vague image in my mind of what a chandelier could be, it's no more concretized in my mind than a 'bottom operated clapper valve' is. Far too many of its potential properties are still too abstract in my mind, meaning that - in my mind - they can still hold 'any' value, though you can bet she has a very particular chandelier in her mind, and if I don't want to be left in the dark I need to turn my attention to filling in some of the hazy blanks, such as its price range, or how low it should hang, or whether it should have a simple on/off or dimmer switch, and so on.

The human mind (especially that of conmen) delights in lazily leaving those sorts of abstract details populated with nothing more than our tendency to accept our assumptions as being enough. But for our thoughts to be worth thinking, we need to develop the habit of fleshing those defaults out with questions that direct our attention to filling them in with realistically specific values, or value ranges - concretizing them - in order to identify, to make known to ourselves, the particular 'What' that should be pointed to by the 'what' that we as yet only 'think' we have in mind. Only after doing so can we knowledgeably say "Yes' to this chandelier, and definitely No to those chandeliers, and without doing so, we truly do not know the 'What' that we're talking about.

How appropriately abstract it is for a concept to remain, changes with the context. By that I mean, having no real interest in trains, knowing the 'bottom operated clapper valve' had to do with trains, was all I needed to know about it in that context, whereas in the context of my wife first identifying the solution of a "chandelier", even though the word told us nothing about the many possible details that were as yet entirely abstract in our minds, it was appropriate enough in that context to simply name the concept of a hanging lighting fixture, to distinguish it from all other possible options such as a lamp, skylight, candle, etc.,. But in the context of budgeting and going out to shop for a chandelier requires concretizing it further, even if only generally for issues like price, size, etc., in order to get a clearer understanding of what to look for and where. And yet even that somewhat more concretized status which would be appropriate enough for narrowing the field, would still be inappropriately abstract for the context of my going out to select this or that particular chandelier: what about its material - wood? metal? crystal? - or its shape - round? square? multiple arms? - how about color? size? number of lights?.

Those conceptual details whose concrete values had not yet been shared between our minds (if they were even in my mind at all), not to mention those several other properties that she'd be sure to have in her mind that'd never, ever, cross into my mind, would guarantee that if I were to trot out myself and buy what only seemed to be in my mind, her reaction to what I brought home would be anything but abstract.

To avoid such mishaps, requires our noticing that the same flexibility that enables concepts to be so mentally productive in identifying enough of what we have in mind in a given context (especially in the more specialized fields of science, technology, and literature), is the same feature that makes them so dangerous when we're not sufficiently wary of the abstract nature of the concepts we're using - it's too easy to think (or to give others the impression) that what we have in mind (if anything), is what they do as well. Those abstracts which default differently from one person to another, are what enable those peddling supposedly wise advice, such as the scientistic "...You should only believe a truth that is scientifically verifiable!" assertion, to sound sensible enough to those who habitually think no further upon them than whether or not their sound is pleasing enough to the ear to win their approval. We too easily fail to give those too familiarly used & abused metaphysical concepts the respectful attention they require. Of course the mischief that can result from leaving too many abstract components unpopulated in the concept of a chandelier, are but a pup-tent in comparison to the veritable skyscrapers that metaphysical concepts enable us to carelessly presume we know enough about, and the real world consequences of doing so (such as scientism and Eugenics) can be infinitely worse than confidently buying what you mistakenly thought was the right 'chandelier' at Home Depot.

Developing an attention to metaphysics helps to heighten our conscious awareness of the difference between what is metaphysically real (this physical chandelier), and what is still metaphysically abstract (any chandelier), the abstract is a valuable means for moving towards what's real, but we need to guard against it being mistaken for the real thing. Doing so begins with a conscious awareness of whether our grasp of 'What' + 'Enough' + 'Context' = a calm, or a doubtful state of mind.

One example of a lack of context is the cartoon I've got in the graphic with this post, of two characters standing on either end of a numerical shape and pointing, as one insists '6!' and the other '9!', and the caption invites you to take the relativistic view of 'it's all a matter of perspective', but however useful it is to realize that perspective can influence perceptions, what's more useful is to look for the wider context involved - if the shape is laying on a parking lot, then one end will designate which end is up, and if there is no such context available, then it is only a shape that can be used as either a '6' or a '9', in which case both are wrong for insisting it is one way or the other. That seemingly 'reasonable' path towards relativism is a favorite of modernists (that on the molecular level, a solid is 'akshually!' mostly space is another, more on that in later posts) - reject the ploy and look for the context.

And for those who wish to put feelings and preferences first, there's the other cartoon from the graphic, which shows 'your house' as it's preferred to be seen by you (a nice comfy house), by a buyer (a cheap shack), a lender (an only slightly better shack), and by your tax collector (who prefers to see it as a palace). When you leave too much to the abstract, you lose, bring your ideas into contact with reality, especially question what you assume to be 'true', don't leave your understanding to be defined by feelings and preferences - of theirs or yours - concretize them, or in the end they'll come crashing down on you like a ton of bricks.

Get into the habit of asking a few conscious questions: Does this belong with that?; Is the meaning clear or opaque?; What am I assuming about this from what I've been told, and how much of that was I actually told?; When being advised to do or accept something: Did they provide substance to support their urgency, or did they focus on fanning feelings of peril? Am I being expected to make assumptions about what they didn't say? What reasons do I have to believe that the reality which will follow from this advice, will match up with what they led me to assume about it?

Acting in accordance with reality
Not being so careless as to neglect the metaphysical basics, is a simple, and valuable, habit to learn and acquire, and the good news is that by giving just a little more conscious attention to what those too familiar words of 'is', 'trust', 'should', etc., can provide an otherwise inappropriate cover for, we can eliminate the insubstantial weeds that a careless inattention enables to take root in our minds - especially regarding advice given by 'those who know best'.

How we've come to be so careless and ignorant of metaphysics, is largely due to our schools having pragmatically ensured that we would, and sadly with very little push-back from We The People. If you want to test whether I'm being too harsh or inaccurate, just ask yourself and your friends about what the 'Three Acts of the Mind' are, I'll wait.

Oh... hi again. That was quick.

Were you familiar with it? How many of your friends were? If some recognized the term, how well did they know what it referred to? That's but one of many commonplace fundamentals that 'every school boy' once knew, and the reason why they did, was because familiarity with such concepts was a known means to aiding us in knowing better, what it is that we mean, when we say that something is true.

For those who aren't familiar with the term, here are the three acts that our minds routinely perform:
First Act: Apprehend (Understand) - We open our eyes, and whether seeing something for the first time, or understand that we know it by name, a Rock for instance, we apprehend it, conceptualize, identify it
Second Act: Judgment - The act of mind which combines or separates two terms by affirmation or denial. 'Rock is hard' is a judgment
Third Act: Reasoning - From our observations and judgments, we move towards further conclusions and applications of them. 'As rocks are hard, I should avoid striking my toe against them.'
(To the Logic folk: Correct, that isn't a syllogism, and Reasoning is not synonymous with Logic - logic is a power tool of reasoning, but that comes much later in the process we're looking at here)
We aren't ignorant of these terms because they're difficult - the Three Acts of the Mind isn't all that difficult to grasp, some might even rank it on a scale from the simple to complex, as a mere 'duh', but most of us aren't ignorant of the concept because it's difficult to learn, but because our schools deliberately stopped teaching it - I sure as heck didn't learn of it in any of my schools, did you?

It's rather telling that running multiple searches under different engines for videos on the subject, only two videos specifically about 'The Three Acts of the Mind' pop up on YouTube, one coming from the Catholic Thomistic Institute: The Three Acts of the Mind (Aquinas 101)
, and from a professor at a Catholic college, Christopher Anadale, who addresses it from a logical point of view: Intro to 3 Acts of the Mind
Lots of other pages can be found on it, such as a study group for C.S. Lewis on the Three Acts of the MInd, and even an Artificial Intelligence enthusiast grasps how vital the Three Acts of the Mind are to actual intelligence, but for videos, only those two.
And what of the person who's ignorant of it and/or denies it's importance? Just thank them for affirming its relevance to their life. And if they look at you blankly, you can point out to them that in responding to you, they clearly affirmed that they:
1st) apprehended what you said,
2nd) made a judgment about it, and
3rd) reasoned out a response to it.
And if they continue to stammer or stare slack-jawed at you, you can ask them why it is that their education has left them ignorant of, or even ridiculing, something which they're now unconsciously employing in everyday life? And do they think that their thinking is more likely to be improved by being ignorant of such matters, or by consciously employing and improving the use of them?

So what more can we now know about scientism's advice that: "We should only believe to be true that which can be scientifically proven"?

We can imagine that the image which the phrase expects us to have in mind regarding science being able to provide efficient and reliable answers to us, but we can also see that many important questions and answers which those 'should' (would) apply to, are being left for us (and especially for them) to simply assume, and for everyone to assume that all would go well, without looking any closer at their advice.

If you do give some attention to moving past the abstract defaults by asking some questions, you'll find yourself engaging the Three Acts of the Mind to identify what something is, to understand enough of its nature and purpose, and to reason your way through how such details would and should (and can't and shouldn't) be applied to what, and how, you're understanding of the reality which such unscientifically vague possibilities would entail, and that will likely lead you to so some stark metaphysical clarity about where following such advice might lead you to.

For as you begin reasoning your way through a number of scenarios, you'll surely begin to notice that men in lab-coats are not particularly suited to scientifically examining and testing whether or not you love and believe in your spouse or your children, or whether the issues you care to speak out on are quantifiable or verifiably of value under laboratory conditions (and can you 'scientifically verify' something outside those conditions?). You'll surely also soon discover that other issues such as your own preferences for food and drink and entertainment, are somewhat less than scientifically justifiable, let alone 'scientifically verifiable' (are they even the kinds of values that are 'scientifically identifiable'?), such as what you might choose to read, or what you might think your child's 'education' should entail. You may rest assured though, that the lab-coated ones, who after all, 'do know best' (as they'll authoritatively tell you), will surely have many calculations available, as well as a number of equally 'scientifically verifiable' advisories attached to them, by one committee (soviet?) or another, regarding what they've determined would be best for you, and your family, to do, and what not to do, for the greater good (quantities over qualities!).

Likewise, you'd soon find that they have no ability whatsoever to scientifically test the need or value of your having an individual right to freedom of speech, or whether and what church to attend or if government should establish one (or perhaps a more appropriate alternative) for you, or of the value and need for individuals to petition their government for a redress of grievances, or anything else related to what our Bill of Rights secures for us in the 1st, or any of its other amendments to our Constitution (BTW, is that a 'scientifically verifiable' document? Ummm... no, it's not. Neither, BTW, is 'Justice', hence the addition of 'Social', to transform it into a quantity, rather than a quality).

What you'll see instead, should you dare to apply the metaphysical eye for the Western guy, is that there are plenty of people who're exceedingly happy to don the lab-coat and clipboard garb of scientists, to formulate tests no matter how untestable they might be (which, BTW, is how the 'Teaching Laboratories' in our Teachers Colleges have come up with how to teach what is taught to those who teach you and your kids what not to think about), and they're quite happy to substitute many quantities for any qualities at issue, and then to cite numerous studies so as to tally up very impressive numbers which will be claimed to show that the greater good would be best served by some fraction of, or total and complete infringement upon, one or more or all of those issues of individual rights and property that Western Culture in general, and our Constitution in particular, secure for us.

You'll also find yourself being tut-tutted that 'individual rights' are passe, and that 'Human Rights' are what we... er... 'should'... concern ourselves with today - for the greater good - and that you 'should' be happy with the pleasant efficiencies which they secure for and impose upon you.

"Shhh... don't be a science denier! And stop messing around with such old fashioned ideas as 'Metaphysics'! That's an unscientific subject which you shouldn't believe in!"
Get the picture?

The undeniable fact is, that with regard to what we mean by the concepts we use 'What' to refer our attention to, not only does it matter that we have enough clarity in our minds about what we're expected to make judgements upon within our minds, but that what that 'What' designates - the metaphysically real vs the metaphysically abstract - allows or leads us to contextually define, or leave undefined, matters which matter a great deal to our lives.

It's essential to know how we engage with, or else flee from, the reality that is inherent in our consideration of What Is Truth?, and we'll look at the 'Truth' of that, next.

Friday, April 07, 2023

The Real Choice - Metaphysician: Heal thyself!

'All men by nature desire to know'
Aristotle's Metaphysics, Book 1, line 1
The first line of Aristotle's Metaphysics is "All men by nature desire to know", but while the desire to know comes naturally to all men, not all men desire to know or acknowledge what is actually true. It should come as no surprise then that much, if not most of the narratives that we're struggling against in education today, come from those who habitually put scare quotes around the words 'objectively true' - is it really surprising that a person who's less interested in what is real and true than with how they'd prefer things to be, would deliberately obscure or conceal any truth that'd frustrate their desires? What might actually be surprising, is that what lies at the root of our clarity or confusion over what is real and true, are the almost forgotten concepts of metaphysics, and no narrative could long persist without their use or misuse. In the previous post, I'd mentioned that the choice to engage with or ignore metaphysics and epistemology, was yours, but for us to make an informed choice about them, requires first giving some attention to what it is that our society has made such a concerted effort to steer us clear of.
By Metaphysics I'm not referring to what's in the 'new age' section of your book store, the latest notions of theoretical physicists, or any alleged 'metaphysics' of post 1600 philosophers, those, rather, are the modern means of evading the metaphysics that followed from Aristotle's consideration of First Principles

So what sorts of grand and powerful terms are we talking about here? Well... I think 'grand and powerful terms' are part of the problem, as to anyone but academics, the terminology itself (ontology, nihilism, correspondence theory, empirical, existential, causal... ) stands squarely in the way of people being able to grasp and use what it is that they refer to, even as what it is that they refer to - how we all 'do' metaphysics from moment to moment and day in and day out - is routinely handled by each and every one of us through very simple, familiar, commonplace terms. As I list a few of these, keep the adage in mind that 'big things come in small packages' and try not to laugh, because Metaphysics' study of First Principles involves giving respectful attention to concepts that seem to be anything but impressive, a few of which, in no particular order, are:
'is', 'isn't','Truth', 'true', 'false', 'why', 'cause', 'effect', 'identity', 'confirm', 'change', 'experience', 'good', 'bad', 'because', 'therefore', 'sensible',...
, and other such equally lofty and dazzling nuggets as those.

My warnings aside, you might be tempted to smile at these seemingly simple terms, but their simplicity can be deceiving (innocently or intentionally), as respecting these concepts are the very things which make a good life attainable and our specialized fields & sciences possible, and they are key to whether our minds can be depended upon to operate intelligibly and smoothly, or instead are prone to become easily confused and abused.

Scientism is unscientific
One concrete example of confusing and abusing these concepts, is something you've probably often had recommended to you, which is some formulation of this:
"You should only believe a truth that is scientifically verifiable"
, and perhaps the first thing to notice is that this statement is itself a verifiably unscientific and self-refuting statement - how would you formulate an experiment to scientifically test that with, and with what weight, measure, or Bunson burner, would you quantify its results? Still more worthy of notice, is that neither Truth, nor Verifiable, nor Should, are concepts of science. 'Truth' is a metaphysical concept, 'Verifiable' comes from epistemology, and 'Should' comes from Ethics, and their function is to tell you what is, how you know it, and what to do about it, which when taken together describes how to verify 'the science!', meaning that it's science that is subordinate to metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, not the other way around! And as ludicrous as the notion is of scientifically verifying all of your beliefs (how is your belief in the value of art to be justified scientifically, by weighing it on a bathroom scale perhaps?), do we even need to note what 'believe' applies to?

The upshot of this is that by attempting to take their statements seriously, their own words are telling you to not believe or take their own words seriously. The problem with laughing such carelessness off though, is that it probably indicates how unaware they are of how far their own beliefs have led them out of the realm of Science, and into the ideology of Scientism, whose "excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques" bestows upon its believers the heady power to define Truth itself (not to mention 'right' and 'wrong'). It is especially important to realize that these people who claim the authority to speak for 'science', are, knowingly or not, in hot pursuit of the power to impose their opinion of what the 'smart thing to do' is, upon you, who, after all, lack their credentials for making those decisions about your own life. Case in point, if past performance is any indicator of future results, you'd do well to do some homework on Eugenics, as that is just one example of the horrific mistakes of history which they will be repeating in your future, if our continued carelessness and ignorance of these concepts permits them to do so.

The takeaway here is that when you hear otherwise intelligent people like David Hume, C.S. Peirce, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, making such metaphysically nonsensical statements as that above, you should understand right away that not only do they not know what they are talking about, but that they have probably never given any serious thought to the meaning and potentially dangerous consequences of their own thoughts, or, if they have, they don't think it matters, as with this leading advocate of scientism, ticking off 'reasons' for his belief:
"...What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them.
Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral..."
, or, the same sentiment is re-worded in such a way as to shift around the location of the error, to make a distinction without a difference, as Tyson frequently states:
"The good thing about Science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it."
, and the problem with this is that it is not proper to say either that 'Science' is true or that 'Science' is the kind of thing one should 'believe' in - neither is true! What Science is, is a method for formulating and determining the accuracy of propositions whose results are measurable, and as every scientist should be well aware of, history has frequently demonstrated that as our ability to measure those results improves, and as changing contexts cause scientists to rephrase those propositions more appropriately, we often find that the results of 'the science' does not in fact continue to warrant belief in the original proposition. That's not a problem with science - that's its strength - that's a problem with those who're carelessly misusing the powerful concepts which 'Science', 'is', and 'belief', are! Even more problematic is that the smugly dismissive statements of representatives such as Tyson, smuggle equivocations and errors into popular thinking, which can all too easily lead those who have even less familiarity with these concepts than they do, into unwittingly believing what should not be believed (hello again eugenics), and that road cannot lead to a good destination (we should give dishonorable mention here to Al Gore and Dr. Fauci).

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder on the group think of scientists' Lost in Math
Having even a moderate grasp of metaphysics & epistemology (and again, more their focus and processes than technical aspects) would arm you against being conceptually mugged by such notions as that, but more to the point is how easily the careless (or intentional) misuse of metaphysics & epistemology can be used to subdue & subvert those who're unaware that they should be paying close attention to how those concepts are being used, and how we are being led to use them. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that without a basic understanding of metaphysical concepts such as what Truth is and is not, no field of science would even be possible, and even 'small' metaphysical errors that are missed or ignored, have huge consequences for those sciences and scientists attempting to build upon them. Their error - if it is an error - is that they've allowed the abstract nature of the metaphysical terms they use and abuse to mislead them into shadowy areas which they assume their own cleverness will be bright enough to illuminate their way through. Either that, or they are counting upon our unfamiliarity with such concepts, to enable them to nudge us into submitting to what we should not - for 'the greater good', no doubt. Either way, these are not roads we should travel down.

The good news is that the circular reasoning of Scientism is self-refuting; the bad news is that the views that such people have popularized in our society, have left a great many people blind to their falsity, and such metaphysical blindness has real world consequences. Giving more careful attention to the metaphysical & epistemological concepts which are so used & abused around us today, would reveal a number of misleading, impractical, and downright dishonest efforts being advocated for, which puts us all at the mercy of ideologs who've become used to the convenience of our enabling them to slip their half-baked notions right past us, and too often with our approval and support.

Metaphysician: Heal thyself!
Metaphysics matters because it helps us to take notice of those big things that so often hide, or are hidden, in small conceptual packages, which, once they've been slipped past us, have an outsized impact on our ability to live lives worth living. Recovering those abilities doesn't require us to learn technical terms or famous disputes over them, it simply requires that we do metaphysics, and to that end I'm proposing a mini metaphysical 'back to basics' exercise over the next few posts to see how the fundamentals are being used around us, against us, and by us, by focusing upon the use of three simple words, which, not to go all Pontius Pilot on you, are:
"What is Truth?"
These three words, separately and together, are in one way or another essential to our every thought and action, and muddying their usage has been central to the traps of circular reasoning and unsound beliefs & practices, which those claiming to be '*those who know best*', have used to lead our society into becoming so lost within, and imprisoned by, our own thinking. And for those who're not sure what I mean by muddying their usage, circular reasoning and unsound beliefs & practices, if nothing strikes you as unsound in "fiery but mostly peaceful protests', or that 'this trans Bud is for you', you really need to stick around for the next few posts, as what we're going to do is focus on how each word can be used to either conceal, or reveal, our world to us. By doing so I think you'll also see why it is that I think that the most important philosophical stands that you and I can take today, have less to do with waging grand public battles against Leviathan, than with consistently making small, often very small points, in daily conversations, so that each of us will see more clearly what it is that is actually being talked about.

IMHO, if 'We The People' are to escape the muddy traps of our public discourse, it'll be as a result of our reclaiming our ability to deliberately engage in taking small, sure, steady steps upon solid metaphysical ground, because that's what has the best chance of bringing about the one thing that truly can defeat the grand Leviathan looming up all around us today - a widespread popular outbreak of sound reasoning, that's primarily concerned with what is real, and true, and right.

Up next: 'What' we are talking about.