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Metaphysics, introduction

A metalanguage is still a language, and a meta-theory a theory. Meta-mathematics is a branch of mathematics. Is metaphysics a branch of physics? "Meta" in Greek means over, and --- since when you jump over something you find yourself behind or after it --- it is also understood as behind and after. The word "metaphysics" is said to originate from the mere fact that the corresponding part of Aristotle's work was positioned right after the part called "physics". But it is not unlikely that the term won a ready acceptance as denoting this part of philosophy because it conveyed the purpose of metaphysics, which is to reach beyond nature (physis) as we perceive it, and to discover the "true nature" of things, their ultimate essence and the reason for being.

Such a theory would obviously be priceless for judging and constructing more specific physical theories. When we understand language as a hierarchical model of reality, i.e. a device which produces predictions, and not as a true static picture of the world, metaphysics is understood as much more valuable than just the "free fantasy" of philosophers. To say that the real nature of the world is a certain way means to propose the construction of a model of the world along those lines. Metaphysics creates a linguistic model (logical or conceptual structure) to serve as a basis for further refinements. Even though a mature physical theory fastidiously distinguishes itself from metaphysics by formalizing its basic notions and introducing verifiable criteria, metaphysics, in a very important sense, is physics.

Philosophies traditionally start with an ontology or metaphysics: a theory of being in itself, of the essence of things, of the fundamental principles of existence and reality. In a traditional systemic philosophy, "organization" might be seen as the fundamental principle of being, rather than God, matter, or the laws of nature. However this still begs the question of where this organization comes from. In a constructive systemic philosophy, on the other hand, the essence is the process through which this organization is created.

Copyright© 1993 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

Turchin, Joslyn, Heylighen,

Aug 1993


Introduction to Principia Cybernetica

Philosophy, Introduction / Metaphysics

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Process Metaphysics

Ontology, introduction


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