Part IV: Metaphysics

Part IV: Metaphysics
8: What is really real?
9: Are we free or determined?
10: What am I?
11: Who am I?
12: Is there a God?
Chapter 8: What is Really Real?
• Metaphysics has to do with the
construction and criticism of theories
about what is truly real
• Ontology – “the study of being”
• Mechanistic – the nonintentional way
that material objects are causally
• Materialism – metaphysical theory that matter is truly
real and immaterial things are not
Idealism – metaphysical theory that ideas (in the sense
of thoughts, concepts, and minds) are ultimately real
Dualism – theory that reality is both material and
Monism – In contrast to dualism, the theory that being,
or reality, is fundamentally of one nature
Problem of the one and the many – Debate between
dualism and monism: Is there one reality, or are there
many different real things that cannot be reduced to a
single thing?
Pluralism – position that there are many different real
The Dao
• Dao – the “way of nature”, comes from the Chinese
“road” or “way”. The Dao is the source of all reality
Process ontology – emphasizes change and becoming
as fundamentally real
Substance ontology – emphasizes permanence and
unchanging being as fundamentally real
De – “virtue,” “power,” or “excellence”. Laozi’s “Dao De
Jing” could be translated “The book of the Way and Its
Wuwei – “no action”. Refers to manner in which the
Dao acts. A no-thing acts by not acting.
Yin/yang – yin is for the passive or receptive force and
yang is for the active and aggressive force
Dao De Jing
• Laozi developed the philosophy that became Daoism
• The Tao is the eternal, nameless source and substance
of all things
Nameless = non-being
Named = being
Everything has an opposites that are mutual causations
of each other
Substance is as important as function
Water is a moral symbol
Dao De Jing
Non-being is not nothingness but something useful
There is nothing more important than the hidden
Tao is revealed most fully through tranquility
Taoist cosmology – in the beginning there is something
undifferentiated, which is forever operating and
produces heaven and earth and then all other things
• Things “transform spontaneously” because the Tao takes
no action and leaves things alone
• The One is the original material force of the Great
• Evolution of simple to complex
Platonic Dualism
• Forms - Ideas characterized by
• Theory of Forms – matter is less real
than immaterial Forms
The Republic
• Describes good through three analogies
– Analogy of the Sun: Like the sun, Good produces light
by which to see and understand
– Simile of the divided line: compares opinion (which
comes from sensations of material objects) with
knowledge (which comes from knowing the Forms via
reason and understanding
– Allegory of the cave: compares the philosopher to a
prisoner who has escaped from a cave and seen the
light of the real world
• Advalta Vedanta = nondual + end of the
– Indian philosophy advocated by Shankara.
– Ultimate reality is undifferentiated unity beyond
positive prediction
• Brahman – ultimate reality
• Atman – the true Self, the real identity behind
our individual egos
Sublation – the act of correcting a previous
judgment in light of a subsequent one
The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination
• Search for the true Self, or Atman
• The Atman, which is unsublatable, is the same
as the Brahman, the really real
Discrimination between the eternal and noneternal refers to the conviction that Brahman is
real, but the universe is unreal
Tranquility is detaching the mind from all
objective things to direct it toward Brahman
True mental poise is achieved by not letting the
mind react to external stimuli
The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination
• Forbearance is to endure afflictions without
rebellion, complaint, or lament
Conviction based on intellectual understanding
and belief is faith which leads to the realization
of Reality
Self-surrender is keeping the mind fixed on the
pure Brahman
Longing for Liberation is the desire to be free
from ignorance because of the realization of
one’s true nature
The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination
• Atman is known by the controlled mind
and pure and tranquil intellect
• The mind is the mental covering
• The body is the physical covering of the
Atman within
• Intelligence and the perceptive organs
make up the covering of the intellect
• Atman is Brahman
Subjective Idealism
• Subjective idealism – George Berkeley’s
metaphysical ideas that reality consists of finite
or created minds, an infinite mind (God), and
the ideas these minds have. Physical objects do
not exist apart from the subject (mind) that
perceives them.
Objective idealism – reality exists
independently of the human knower because it
is a manifestation of an absolute mind
Realism – Advocated by Descartes, the belief
that objects can exist apart from any knower or
• Primary qualities – characteristics that
constitute the properties of physical
• Secondary qualities – characteristics of
our sensation of physical objects
The Principles of Human Knowledge
George Berkeley
• The objects of knowledge are ideas imprinted on the
senses or ideas formed by memory and imagination
Ideas are perceived by the self, or mind, spirit, and soul
Physical objects do not exist apart from the senses that
perceive them
The being of objects is to be perceived or known
Refutes the idea of primary and secondary qualities and
the existence of matter that exists apart from perception
We cannot know that unperceived substances exist
Pre-Columbian Cosmologies
• Our understanding of the world may be
different than that of those who lived
before Columbus’ discoveries, but we must
try to eliminate biases as in critiquing
other cultural beliefs
Pre-Columbian Philosophical
Jorge Valdez
• Four kinds of integration of reality in the
Mesoamerican metaphysical perspective:
– Internal structural interconnection of different
components of the universe
– Integration of fundamental dualities that were
perceived as complementary instead of oppositional
– Holistic integration of astronomical science and
religious beliefs
– Integration of everyday life with the cycles and
rhythms of the cosmos through practice of rituals
Pre-Columbian Philosophical
Jorge Valdez
• The Mesoamerican beliefs were characterized
– an interactive universe with multiple levels and
interaction between natural and supernatural
– Complementary dualities, such as life/death, celestial
world/underworld, night/day
– A scientific-religious worldview, such as the use of
– Cosmic responsibility – religious rituals were of central
importance for maintaining the existence of the
So what is real?
• Is there any way to know for sure that
what you believe is real?
• How do you distinguish waking from
dreaming, good from bad, or reality from
The Circular Ruins
Jorge Luis Borges
• Fictional story of dreaming that raises
philosophical issues such as how we know
which perspective is right and if we can be
confident that our way of distinguishing
appearance from reality is correct