Notes From Babel

Metaphysics Is for Everyone

with 2 comments

In one of those dragged out, merciless threads about the existence of God and the origins of the universe and the nature of reality and all that heavy stuff, Jason Kuznicki  sticks a pin in and lets some air out.  Somehow, Jason says, we all seem to manage to get along, even while we disagree out this allegedly fundamental stuff.  That “metaphysics has very little to offer except folly.”

I take the general sentiment.  And I enjoy the passage from Candide he shares.  But I cannot agree that our metaphysic, our worldview, our underlying presuppositions about what it means to be a human in this world among other humans, is some trifling matter that has no bearing on human affairs outside the cigar room.  These questions define our starting point on questions of values, on the purposes in our conduct in and attitudes about society, government, politics, the law.

One could roughly say that crying uncle at these sorts of “meaning of life” questions is expressed in the moral philosophy of utilitarianism, and the political theory of libertarianism.  It was encapsulated in President Obama’s response to a question during the press conference on November 3.  When asked whether the recent routing of his party indicated that people had rejected his policies (this was the third time he had been asked this basic question), he said it was not a rejection of his policies, but rather an expression of frustration at the results.  Watered down and polished up, this is what amoral political ideology sounds like:  actions have no value in themselves; only outcomes matter.  In familiar terms:  the ends justify the means.

What is obvious to nearly everyone—particularly exasperated liberals—is that Americans reject this view of the world.  Even while Europe leads the way to a post-modern, post-cultural, post-normative wasteland where all things are permitted, encouraged, and subsidized , Americans continue to cling to a worldview where actions matter, and consequences are evidence of that, not anomalies or inconveniences to be stamped out through regulation and social programs.

All of us subscribe to fundamental values.  But not all of us can account for them.  Some of us subscribe to religion and tradition.  Some of us simply pick them out as we might items at the grocery store.  But we all have them, and they play a defining role in our actions and attitudes in our institutions.  It’s important stuff.  We ought be able to account for it.


Written by Tim Kowal

November 6, 2010 at 11:11 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] Posted on November 8, 2010 by profmondo Tim Kowal, the proprietor of blogrollee Notes from Babel, has a nice post on one of my pet obsessions, which is that the Left and Right can be distinguished by their […]

  2. Yes, Meta physics is a science that can be studied, followed by every one on the planet.


    June 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

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