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A 200 year-old challenge to Metaphysics

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posted on Jul, 26 2005 @ 12:25 PM
Another member wrote a thread questioning how believable any of the posts in this topic are.

I want to point out that a German Philosopher named Immanuel Kant published a pamphlet on this in 1783, and issued a challenge to the whole field of metaphysics. He called it Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. You can find an english translation here:

It really is worth reading, and I strongly recommend it.

Basically, here's the gist of several of his arguments:

1. All forms of inquiry become formalized into a science or art. Kant argues that alchemy became chemistry, that astrology produced the science of astronomy, and that traditional remedies produced modern medicine. The fact that metaphysics has never become a solid body of knowledge proves that it is a chimera, a phantom with no substance.

2. Science advances by forming a hypothesis that explains the data, then testing the hypothesis against new information. The work is repeated by other people, who prove to their own satisfaction the validity of a hypothesis. Metaphysics never makes "progress" because none is possible.

3. Kant argues that all instruments are basically an extension of the 5 human senses. If something is extra-sensory, there is no way to analyze it. So, progress in the sense of number 2 above is impossible. Not only has metaphysics not progressed, it NEVER WILL.

4. A second type of logic is synthetic rather than analytical. Synthesis means adding up all of the data until a new, cumulative hypothesis emerges. In modern times, quantum physics is an example. But synthesis is impossible in metaphysics, since there is no way to test a hypothesis (number 3 above.)

5. Basically, items 3 and 4 mean that metaphysics in not logical, and doesn't proceed by using reason. Now logic is the basis of human communication. Even when we discuss our feelings, we do so in a logical way, so that others will understand what we mean. If I tell my wife that I am sad, I describe the physical sensation, or remind her of a time when she said that she was, herself, in a state of sadness. But since metaphysics is non-repeatable, non-verifiable, and non-logical, there is no way to even begin to express metaphysical truth so that another person wil know it. At least with emotion, I trust that my wife has had similar sensations. But Metaphysics in NOT universal to the human condition, or else progress would have been made according to numbers 1 and 2 above.

. . . . . .

So, what response do you make to Kant's attitude?

Personally, I affirm the underlying reality of metaphysics or "fringe phenomena." I am just wondering how Kant's arguments strike the rest of you on this board.

posted on Jul, 26 2005 @ 12:57 PM
Well, there are acouple of initial responses. I am not necessarily a firm believe in the paranormal, but I am a firm believer in God, and much of Kant's work was an attempt to understand the human belief in God. He wrote out in more detail many of the concepts you mentioned here in his book "A Critique of Pure Reason", which is an incredibly long and frustrating read, as the conclusion reached is basically "I don't know". But I digress.

1 - First of all, Kant limits himself to the basic five senses, sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell (I believe he refers to them as "A Priori"), through which all men receive information to be stored and processed by the human brain. But unfortunately, these senses are not universal, as he pruports. First of, perception of color alone is impossible to knwo if it is universal. What is red to me could be green to you, but since we both see these colors uniformly, we both label them as "Red". Also, there are clear exceptions to this rule. For instance, my Dad is colorblind to green, so he sees it as gray. So is this a good basis for him to believe the green does not exsist? According to Kant's methedology, i.e. what is observed is what is correct, it would be.

I'm not saying that there is or isn't something called the 6th sense, but I am sayign that there certainly is the possiblity that there are people who do have a sense that the rest of us simply have not developed enough to notice. I don't know. But I don't believe Kant's ideas necessarily mean this sixth sense cannot exist.

2 - I find his explanation of emotion as a physical experience to be both deceitful and ignorant. Much respect to Mr. Kant, I enjoy his work, but I think he is wrong in this case.

For example, when I am afraid, my body has a very distinct physical reaction to the emotion. My hands sweat, my face flushes, and I sometimes feel a clenching or "butterflies" in my stomach.

Yet I find this same physical reaction is present when I feel the strong emotion of love. When I'm near someone who I care a great deal about, my hands get sweaty, my face flushes, and I get butterflies in my stomach. It's almost an identical physical reaction, to two extremely different emotions, one which I enjoy, and one which I dislike.

So why is there that difference?

Well, my personal explanation is that there is more to our selves than this physical body, and this thing, call it what you want, spirit, soul, whatever, is capable of feeling emotions more complex and subtle than our physical bodies are capable of displaying. And like anything that has to be translated form a more complex language to a simpler one, redundancies become necessary.

Those are just a few quick thoughts on the subject. I'm interested to hear what other people have to say.

posted on Jul, 26 2005 @ 12:58 PM
The inherent and subtle nature of metaphysics and spirituality is highly experiential and cannot be duplicated in a laboratory. For example, no physical instrumentation can measure love, gauge telekinetic energy directly, or film the discarnate dimensions.

But that doesn't make the world of Spirit and the principles of metaphysics invalid, only beyond the scope of the traditional scientific method that is limited to only using physically based technologies.

posted on Jul, 26 2005 @ 01:02 PM
I always thought that Kant had very valid arguments in the ongoing quest to find a way to test "metaphysics" I hate that word by the much as I hate "paranormal"...but there's really not a better way to say it.

I think that with all things a time of understanding will come. Herbalism evolved into medicine not because it should have, but because it's what it always was. Astrology was always rooted in Astronomy, but even it branched into 2 areas of study who, while siblings, would not be recognizable as such now....

I agree that metaphysics is a chimera and therefor completely un-understandable in any true scientific terms that we know today or have known for the past several centuries.

I also know that these things happen and are valid....I can't explain the experience to you until you experience it yourself...and I think that's where the rub comes in so often. I gave advice in the thread I believe you are referencing for the questioner to basically quit asking and go find that proof that he/she wants.

Kant even states himself that one will reach their own conclusions, and I think that's what it boils down my experiences have lead me to my conclusions versus someone elses experiences leading them to the exact opposite....both are valid on any level and can co-exist with each other, yet my truth is different and I can't explain is the other truth..valid, but unexplainable.

I just think that we don't have the ability to fully comprehend the study or the ramifications of the results of any study at this point in time.

So I agree with him completely yet I reserve the right to believe that even metaphysics will eventually evolve into whatever science it always has been...and that we just don't know what to call it or how to research it properly yet.

posted on Jul, 26 2005 @ 09:30 PM

1. All forms of inquiry become formalized into a science or art. Kant argues that alchemy became chemistry, that astrology produced the science of astronomy, and that traditional remedies produced modern medicine. The fact that metaphysics has never become a solid body of knowledge proves that it is a chimera, a phantom with no substance.

I suppose it is a matter of how you define your terms. I did read a few pages of the full document and I did not see a specific def, perhaps I missed it. But if you are going to challenge something it is helpful to define what it is you are challenging.

To me #1 settles the matter, Astrology and the others listed are part of Metaphysics. So if you admit that they have evolved into a hard science it seems only logical that this trend will continue.


posted on Jul, 27 2005 @ 10:03 AM
I think Kant's argument is that sciences grew out alchemy and astrology, but no progress was ever made in astrology itself. No new techniques, no experiments to determine if a "trine" alignment between the sun and Jupiter is better for your finances that a "square" aligment is.

Kant would say that alchemy produced the science of Chemistry, but only by shucking the very ideals of alchemy itself. Chemistry relies on public disclosure of results, and an ongoing dialogue about the underlying paradigms of the science.

For instance, the periodic table grew from the dialogue between theoretical and lab chemistry. A hundred and twenty years ago, the "Russian table" of elements was in vogue. It was a three-D map of the elements, and was shaped like a helix(!). As elegant as the Russian model was for explaining the relationships within metals and halides, it could never explain the progression of atomic weights. Eventually, that diagram was discarded.

But consider alchemy. One of the mottoes is "obscurum per obscurius," or "explaining the obscure by means of the even more obscure." If a researcher believed he had found the recipe for gold, he would not publish it in a journal--he would hide it in code, even from his own pupils. Any "progress" made in the art was a jealously guarded secret, and not discussed in the salons of Europe. In fact, many historians of chemistry date the origin of the science from the birth of the "Royal Society," when the King of England made publishing more important than secrecy.

One of the requirements for science to exist is to have a community in dialogue about the field of inquiry. In addition you need some way that a newcomer or sceptic can critique someone else's work.

How does one critique the concept of horological astrology?

how does one critique the quatrains of nastrodamus?

How does one critique the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Tresmegistus?

If there is no process for review and critique, then there is no progress.

An excellent example is the work of C. J. Jung. His material is a brilliant description of the "group subconscious" and "world soul." His work on synchronicity is inspired.

Yet in the 80 years since he began publishing, no one has found a way to "test" his propositions. Some elements of his dream analysis have been ammended by his students, but not rigorously critiqued. So how does one make any progress in the study of synchronicity?

Kant's answer is that no progress is possible.

posted on Jul, 28 2005 @ 12:03 AM
To say that no progress has been made in Metaphysics is incorrect. Only if you define progress via the tenets of Science could this hold true. When one makes up the Rules it is easy to make the game play as you desire.

I acknowledge the great strides made by Science and the usefulness of it's methods but there are truths which, while real and valid, simply are not easy to contain with the 'box'. If something happens to me, a one time event that leaves no physical evidence, or any other way for Science to investigate, does that mean it did not happen? Of course not, but as far as Science is concerned it is untestable and of no consequence.

To accomplish the goals set for it, Science must constantly expand it's boundaries, the rules change, because they must. But no matter how far those boundaries extend they remain a finite attempt to explain an infinite Reality. The further Science looks, the more of Metaphysics that is accepted as valid. Chaos theory anyone?

how does one critique the quatrains of nastrodamus?

Just to pick a single example, but like anything these should be evaluated based on their contents. If someone makes a prediction, or better yet, a set of predictions then the test is 'Are they correct'. If they are then there is something there, if not, then there is not.

The goals of Metaphysics do not, to me anyway, really align with those of Science. The former is about people and their connection to Reality, while the latter is a study of Reality from an objective, hence non-personal point of view.

What I have seen happening is that over time Metaphysics has been moving from the 'spooky' to the accepted. The best example I can think of involves the concept of Stress and physical illness. It has long been accepted in Metephysics that your emotions have direct physical consequences. These extend far beyond a flushed face when angry. If you sustain a Stress-filled life you will eventually find your physical form breaking down, you get sick.

How many people here are old enough to remember when medical Doctors scoffed at this idea. Anyone besides me have to listen to a MD say 'that is a bunch of mystical nonsense'? Not today though, questions about Stress are involved in any basic medical exam. There is no throwing away of the basic concept, it is simple and exactly the same thing that mystics have been saying since time began, only now it has the AMA seal of approval.

The progress that Metaphysics makes is slow, we are hampered by old beliefs, but it is progress.

Astrology is one of those things that remains mysterious. I am not talking about the future prediction part which every seems to fixate on, I am speaking of the personal understanding that is really what it is about. I have never seen anyone who, upon having a full chart drawn by a skilled worker, was not to some degree amazed.

But I can make it even simplier, I have a book that with a set of basic charts, allows anyone to look up both their Sun Sign, and their Moon Sign. Even at that level, completely lacking the Intuition that is considered by most to be essential, the results are never anything less than surprising. What is even more amazing is that people change as they grow, they adopt new attitudes and other changes in personality. So you would think that the older a person is, the more likely such a simple book-based method would become less and less accurate. This is the case to a small degree, but much less than makes logical sense.

Why does this work? I really do not know I just know that it does. And for anyone who does not believe me I can only suggest: Try It. You need both Sun and Moon signs but if you find the results are better than 50% accurate (better than random chance) then you might want to rethink.

After you have done that, try something else. Randomly flip to another page with a different Sun/Moon Combo and see how accurate that is. If this is just random guessing then you should be able to easily find a different combo that is just as accurate.

Oh, and to avoid self-delusion, ask someone who knows you to evaluate your results. Compare their analysis with your own.


[edit on 7/28/05 by Alexander Tau]

posted on Jul, 28 2005 @ 12:18 AM

Originally posted by dr_strangecraft

So, what response do you make to Kant's attitude?

Personally, I affirm the underlying reality of metaphysics or "fringe phenomena." I am just wondering how Kant's arguments strike the rest of you on this board.

The raitonalism, or reason of people like Kant, Hegel, Marx and Husserl, as far as philosphically conerned, have been negated , and are responsible for the rise in existential thought that is primarily resopnsible for much of postmodern western thought.

Whilst Kant, as many others of his time did realize signifigant problems with the underlying nature of metaphysics, he, like many of his contemporaries works and ideals have been disreguarded. Mainly due to their inability to realize the signifigance of the subjective or individual.

This all of course has proven to betray itself, in the very language which it is spoken, as espoused by the likes of Derrida, and such, but that is neither here nor there is it?

posted on Jul, 28 2005 @ 10:18 AM
I'm thinking of Art. From a Kantian perspective, art is the exemplar of personal achievement that cannot be matched by another individual. Artistic genius is by definition "non-repeatable."

Now consider the works of Rembrandt Van Rijn. His work has certainly not been duplicated. But his work has had an enormous impact on Western culture because it took place within a community.

No one could "test his hypotheses," but his work was seminal in its use of informal, everyday scenes to illustrate Biblical and mystical themes. his technique of "chiaroscuro," of using dramatic lighting has influenced everything from the illustration of comic books to the camera-work in Mel Gibson's "the Passion" via Carravagio, and others who developed Rembrandt's themes.

So, while there was no "testing" of Rembrandt's work, there has definitely been a dialectic started by him.

Maybe what Kant percieved as "progress" was actually the beginning of dialectics in different fields of human endeavor.

Metaphysics in terms of Parapsychology has DEFINITELY had some dialectics introduced. The work of Charles H. Fort in the 1920's, and his theory of "teleportation" has become a staple of paranormal studies. Even if most lay-people misuse his term the fact that they know it shows Fort's contribution to our ideas of the world.

Another example is Charles T. Tart, who's seminal work in the 60's and 70's, while extremely technical and not popularly known, has influenced visionaries like Timothy Leary, Wasson, and Blum.

To be fair, If most people on the sidewalks of western civilization have never heard of Fort and Tart, then it is also true that most of them couldn't tell what Freud did, other than to talk about sex a lot. If Stanley Rhine is largely unknown, so was Newton in his day. (and newton fudged HIS results, too!)


How's that?

posted on Jul, 30 2005 @ 12:50 PM
I will write a quick response, and elaborate later if I need to. Metaphysics as a concept has been bastardized into meaning "mystical magic stuff that isn't real" (or a version like that), when that isn't the case. Metaphysics is something that buddhists, scientists, the scientific method, and almost every belief system around requires because of its inherent definition. Physics its self has modified its own metaphysic as science and the philosophy of science have "progressed" (relative term, but hey).

Metaphysics, in short, is the study of our underlying assumptions about the way the world works -- such as the idea of cause and effect, linear time, etc. I love Kant's work with respect to morality, but I have to disagree with his work in attempts to bring idealism and empiricism together. It's filled with holes that people take for granted.

posted on Jul, 30 2005 @ 01:12 PM
seems like a typical left brain response from kant

which also matches typical responses from avg folks when confronted by

conspiracy info such as we see in abundance today

I don't think I'm qualified to comment further...this seems like an ICKE area of expertise.

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 07:11 PM
shut up about Kant and read the Prolegomena- and stop editing media with dead man's hand's "magical writing"- stop your Illuminati hogwash - Kryptos is solved you can't use Kant anymore "cant" ian's-
stop bugging me
Rosemary's Baby-
p.s. there is no such thing as "sophie's world or choice"- everything is hard determinism.
also the leo- de vinci code is = leo the sickle killed Christ- the god is dead movement for fashionista's of a century prior
-keep newton's tomb out of your life

posted on Oct, 9 2011 @ 07:39 PM
Matter is generally defined as being "that which has extension," "that which can make an impression upon our senses," "that which possesses impenetrability." Are these definitions correct?

"From your point of view they are correct, because you can only define in accordance with what you know. But matter exists in states which are unknown to you. It may be, for instance, so ethereal and subtle as to make no impression upon your senses; and yet it is still matter, although it would not be such for you." --

What definition can you give of matter?

"Matter is the element which enchains spirit, the instrument which serves it, and upon which, at the same time, it exerts its action." From this point of view it may be said that matter is the agent, the intermediary, through which, and upon which, spirit acts.

What is spirit?
"The intelligent principle of the universe." -- What is the essential nature of spirit? "It is not possible to explain the nature of spirit in your language. For you it is not a thing, because it is not palpable; but for us it is a thing." Is density an essential attribute of matter? "Yes, of matter as understood by you, but not of matter considered as the universal fluid. The ethereal and subtle matter which forms this fluid is imponderable for you, and yet it is none the less the principle of your ponderable matter." Density is a relative property. Beyond the sphere of attraction of the various globes of the universe, there is no such thing as "weight," just as there is neither "up" nor "down."

Is universal space infinite or limited?

"Infinite. Suppose the existence of boundaries, what would there be beyond them? This consideration confounds human reason; and nevertheless your reason itself tells you that it cannot be otherwise. It is thus with the idea of infinity, under whatever aspect you consider it. The idea of infinity cannot be comprehended in your narrow sphere."
If we imagine a limit to space, no matter how far off our thought may place this limit, our reason tells us that there must still be something beyond it and so on, step by step, until we arrive at the idea of infinity; for the "something beyond," the existence of which is recognized by our thought as necessity, were it only an absolute void, would still be space. Does an absolute void exist in any part of space? "No there is no void. What appears like a void to you is occupied by matter in a state in which it escapes the action of your senses and of your instruments."

edit on 9-10-2011 by Shadow Herder because: (no reason given)

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