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Metaphysics in Philosophy

Updated on June 11, 2013
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What is your view on metaphysics?

What do you think of when you hear something described or referred to as metaphysics? Does it bring to mind palm readers, psychics, tarot readers, God, ghosts or some other supernatural entity? If we look at the actual definition, we find that it is a branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, cause, or an Abstract theory or talk with no basis in reality. We are going to look at two persons who in the course of their lives wrote and taught in critique of metaphysics. Both Kant and Nietzsche held a critique of metaphysics. While Kant did a fairly good job in his critique, Nietzsche felt that he fell short and took his critique thoughts even further.

In light of Nietzsche holding Kant with being short in his critique of metaphysics, let’s first look at Kant’s thoughts on this matter. Kant’s thoughts on constructivism were that all objects conformed to knowledge. This is a common theme for those philosophers that held or was raised with Christian beliefs when approaching this topic. And if we look at things from a “faith based” concept this thought process make complete sense and leave little to no room for doubt. But, as we will see later, this is not something that everyone can agree with. Kant also held that there was only one “truth” or epistomological absolutism regarding reality and that it was the same for everyone. This is completely true if you follow a religious belief such as Christianity, Islamic, or Judaic dogmas. One of Kant’s biggest thoughts, which came in response to Hume’s fork, is synthetic a priori knowledge. (Baird)With this thought Kant was attempting to explain certain unknowns that he felt couldn’t be explained by any other method, such as space, time, causality and transcendental ego. And for some, this can be a useful argument in explaining unknowns or uncertainties to one who may not follow a logical type of mindset. Kant’s thoughts on the dogmatic side of metaphysic say that there can be no concepts without an intuition and that the proof of certain unexplainable ideas are nothing more than a misapplication of the categories of one’s experiences. And moving right into Kant’s thoughts on theology, he argues that things such as God, freedom, the immortal soul are completely practical ideas and even went so far as to say that the existence of God could be proven by morals themselves. It is by these same morals, that Kant says are absolute and ingrained in man and could have only come from God, that are based in categories of human experience. These morals are universal and the same for all humans because they came from God for mankind as a whole.

As mentioned previously, Nietzsche did agree with some of Kant’s thoughts, but felt that he didn’t go far enough in his critique. He did agree with Kant on constructivism in that reality is constructed, but can be varied as the person who experiences it. He also agreed for the most part with Kant’s view on dogmatic metaphysics as well. Nietzsche stated that the metaphysical God id dead and that a belief in God is nothing more than an attempt to resist the conclusion that there can be no ultimate truth, no ultimate meaning to life. (Baird) This is the extent of where they agree on matters though. Nietzsche held that there can be no “truth”, only competing interpretation of “truth” based on personal experiences. He also felt that Kant’s synthetic a priori knowledge was seriously lacking as well. He describes them as “white lies” (Baird) and not real knowledge. As with others, he punches holes in Kant’s thought on this matter. Lastly, Nietzsche’s views on theology and morals vary greatly from Kant. Nietzsche argues that the moral God is dead and that belief in God is nothing more than an attempt to secure our own morals. He states that belief in God is born out of fear and will to power (Baird). On morals themselves, he states that there is no right set of morals for everyone. And this is something that can be seen as moral codes vary from culture to culture throughout the world.

Both sides of this critique have solid arguments depending on how you choose to believe or your perspective. Nietzsche presents a stronger argument for those who follow a logical mindset and steer clear of following things on “blind faith”. Kant, on the other hand, offers a strong argument for those of a more “faith” mentality. In this author’s opinion, Nietzsche appears to have offered a better, more rational explanation in his critique. There are things in and of our reality, that we just do not have answers for. There cannot be a complete truth when approaching certain topics. Each person experiences the metaphysical in their own ways and this can and does vary from person to person. There are some things that just cannot be answered as there is no substantiating evidence. And this holds true even of morals. Societal living requires certain things to succeed, moral codes, laws, structure and ruling authority (secular or religious) are just some things that if they did not exist, would cause societal living to fail.




Works Cited

Baird, Forrest E. Ancient Philosophy Volume Three. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2011,2008,2003.

Baird, Forrest E. Ancient Philosophy Volume Four. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2011,2008,2003.

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