How To Do Real Metaphysics: 22 Theses.

By Otto Paans

“Wheat Fields,” by Jacob van Ruisdael (c. 1670)

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— Gaston Bachelard, Dialectics of Inside and Outside

[I]f pure experience means to know things just as they are, then simplicity or passivity are not characteristics of it — the truly direct state is constitutive and active.

— Kitarō Nishida, An Inquiry Into the Good

1. There is never just one metaphysics — even two or three systems of metaphysics authored by different persons might be considered as equally viable.

2. “Real metaphysics,” as a branch of real philosophy,[i] is a given metaphysical system that exhibits the characteristics set out in the theses below.

(Given thesis 1, there can be many metaphysical systems that can lay claim to the title “real metaphysics.”

I will speak of “real metaphysics” instead of the cumbersome “a real metaphysics,” but one should bear in mind that every metaphysical system is but one actualized possibility among many.)

3. Real metaphysics is inherently opposed to dogmatic metaphysics.

4. Real metaphysics is open and creative; dogmatic metaphysics is closed and insular.

5. Real metaphysics starts not from the construction of a fixed, rigid organizing structure into which the world has to be fitted; instead, it starts from the rationally intelligible world in all its manifestly real natural forms.

6. Real metaphysics allows us to see the world in a unique sense — in all its fullness, its richness, and its inexhaustible fineness of grain.

7. Real metaphysics structures thought by developing alongside it; it does not impose an alien or extrinsic normative structure to which the stream of thought or its products must conform: its thought-structures emerge from the structure of the world itself.

8. Real metaphysics is therefore organicist,[ii] in the sense that it tries to make sense of appearances or phenomena, facts, and objects with reference to a living, open structure; a real metaphysics shies away from strict taxonomy and leans towards, as it were, geography or gene mapping.

9. Real metaphysics is the conception of a structure that enables incorporative thinking: it accepts manifestly real appearances/phenomena, facts, and objects at face value, and seeks incorporation of them within an open structure; if the open structure fails to incorporate the manifestly real appearances/phenomena, facts, or objects, it is revisited and reworked if necessary.

10. Real metaphysics is a one-world metaphysics, and to that extent a monism: the properties that makes this world develop and grow are dynamically inherent in it; and although it cannot be precluded that these properties do not extend into some domain that for all intents and purposes appears as a radical “beyond,” these properties and that “beyond” nevertheless remain proper parts of the one world.

11. Real metaphysics must be connected to the idea of the sublime: it must point to, and open up towards, that which cannot be expressed in concepts and judgments or propositions.

12. Real metaphysics cannot be merely theoretical: the way the world is structured also reciprocally determines the way we desire and feel, and the way we ought to act.

13. Real metaphysics is non-exhaustive: no system of metaphysics has ever been exhaustive; and how could it be?, since every metaphysical system is the product of the finite human mind, with all its tendencies and shortcomings reflected in its products.

14. Real metaphysics is radically subjectivist in an existential sense: it reflects one’s necessary embeddeness in a particular social and historical context, along with one’s personal and cultural preferences, blind spots, shortcomings, advantages, insights, and habits.

15. Real metaphysics grasps or uncovers the universal through the particular and the singular: the allusive and metaphorical are means to express those aspects of reality that are relegated to the philosophical periphery by over-relying on exact modes of expression.

16. Real metaphysics opens up towards the non-conceptual,[iv] and as such, takes imaginary objects, the fictional domain, social relationships, and artistic/aesthetic and religious/spiritual experiences fully seriously as moments of disclosive experience.

17. Real metaphysics is structurally immanent and irreducibly creative; thus, the new is both a reshuffling of the existing, and also the emergence of unlocked potentials: the seeds of the new are always already immanent that which already exists.

18. Real metaphysics takes as its starting point the creative character of lived experience; as such, its core notion is differentiation — the visible and tangible result of a process of continuous creation.

19. Real metaphysics sets up the conditions for its own demise: every metaphysics is an attempt to see the world anew; as such, every metaphysical system will be superseded, while its core ideas are transformed into the systems that follow it; therefore, it can be freely adapted without having to worry about the immutability of its core tenets.

20. Real metaphysics rests on the act and practice of doing metaphysics: it is concerned solely with actively and creatively investigating the character and nature of the one world, rather than with building inert intellectual systems and promulgating untouchable dogmas.

21. Real metaphysics seeks its universality in the nature of its insights; these are amenable to the standards of intelligibility, but not always reducible to logical correctness: hence the seeming madness of the “leap of faith” is inherent in practicing real metaphysics.

22. Real metaphysics is anti-scientistic but also pro-science, anti-mechanist, and organicist: it promotes rational intelligibility, taking as its starting point the manifold possibilities of rationality and their associated modes of expression, whether they are philosophical, scientific, social, artistic, or religious/spiritual.

NOTES

[ii] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “The Organicist Conception of the World: A Manifesto” (February 2020 version), available online HERE; R. Hanna and O. Paans, “This is the Way the World Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, and A Philosophy of the Future” (April 2020 version), available online HERE; and J. Torday, W.B. Miller Jr, and R. Hanna, “Singularity, Life, and Mind: New Wave Organicism,” in J. Torday and W.B. Miller Jr, The Singularity of Nature (Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2020), ch. 21.

[iv] See, e.g., O. Paans, “Opening Up Towards the Non-Conceptual: From Kantian Judgment to Creative Oscillation,” Contemporary Studies in Kantian Philosophy 5 (2020): 116–131, available online HERE.

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