Robert M. Ellis [+]
Middle Way Society
a. Metaphysics Metaphysics is equivalent to absolutization because it involves claims about reality inaccessible to experience, so is discontinuous and dogmatic. Sceptical argument and philosophy of science offer tools that can help make some impression on it. Heidegger’s failed attempt to save it involved disguised sceptical argument. Merely philosophical arguments against it in logical positivism and postmodernism have failed, due to their lack of any systemic, embodied, or practical perspective. b. The Absoluteness of Deductive Logic Absolute deductive logic is believed in absolutizing thought to link together metaphysical claims in chains of certainty. Such logic was shown by Hume to be uninformative about the world. It can instead only be used critically to show inconsistency, whilst induction allows incremental justification of beliefs. Changing logical systems does not help with this, as it is the absoluteness of our interpretation of logic that is the problem. Absolutization tends to make us over-inflate logic’s usefulness in claims about fallacies, rationality or ‘reasons’ in the world. c. Foundationalism and Circularity In the absence of any justification for metaphysical claims in experience, metaphysical thinking employs foundationalism (dogmatic assertion of the truth of starting points). When challenged, it then uses circular and ad hoc arguments to substitute for experiential justification. Circular argument proliferates and creates reinforcing feedback loops. By projection, rationalists often accuse others of the very circularity they demonstrate themselves. d. Infinite Rationalization of Experience The philosophical content of metaphysical beliefs can be linked to the psychological defences of absolutization by the way that infinite scope allows endless rationalization. This is exemplified in ad hoc argument, and can be supported by cognitive dissonance theory. Its further implication is that metaphysical beliefs are impervious to observation, and thus also to probability. e. The Claim that Metaphysics is Inevitable The claim that metaphysics is inevitable depends on the complete abstraction of metaphysical claims from the embodied context of them being held by a person. We do constantly make background assumptions, but these can’t be described as beliefs until they become practically relevant in some way (though not necessarily explicit), when we can distinguish absolute from provisional ways of holding them. Absolutization is a problem because it is practically relevant, but most alleged inevitable background metaphysical beliefs are not. f. Inflation of Metaphysics and Logic Both metaphysics and absolute deductive logic are also over-estimated through inflation, being used as shortcut substitutes for more complex experiential phenomena. ‘Metaphysics’ substitutes for profundity of meaning in religious experience and art, whilst ‘truth’ and ‘knowledge’ substitute for incrementally justified belief in science and education. The relativisation of these terms, on the other hand, robs us of minatory ways of referring to absolutes. Deductive logic is likewise inflated, to explain fallacious thinking that lacks justification due to absolutization of assumptions.