Metaphysics

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What is metaphysics? Why bother with whatever it is?

According to Ayn Rand, metaphysics is:

the study of existence as such or, in Aristotle’s words, of “being qua being”—the basic branch of philosophy.

Philosophy: Who Needs It, Philosophy: Who Needs It, Ayn Rand 1984

That definition is ok once you understand what metaphysics is, but it’s still fairly broad and unclear.

Ayn hones in one metaphysics more, however, in her explanation of the metaphysical.

Before that, though, my definition:

the study of what’s real, and what bearing it has on us.

Ayn helps to clarify metaphysics when she discusses the metaphysical:

The metaphysically given cannot be true or false, it simply is—and man determines the truth or falsehood of his judgments by whether they correspond to or contradict the facts of reality. The metaphysically given cannot be right or wrong—it is the standard of right or wrong, by which a (rational) man judges his goals, his values, his choices…

Any natural phenomenon, i.e., any event which occurs without human participation, is the metaphysically given, and could not have occurred differently or failed to occur; any phenomenon involving human action is the man-made, and could have been different. For example, a flood occurring in an uninhabited land, is the metaphysically given; a dam built to contain the flood water, is the man-made; if the builders miscalculate and the dam breaks, the disaster is metaphysical in its origin, but intensified by man in its consequences.

The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made, Philosophy: Who Needs It, Ayn Rand 1984

Why bother with metaphysics?

Hopefully, the previous quotation has made that clear, but to be explicit, it’s the foundation of understanding existence, of what’s real and what’s not, and reminds us that the metaphysical is the arbiter of our existence.

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