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.
'All men by nature desire to know'
Aristotle's Metaphysics, Book 1, line 1
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|
"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., 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:
Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral..."
"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
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.
Up next: 'What' we are talking about.