What is Metaphysics?
Referred to by Aristotle as ‘first philosophy’ Metaphysics is one of the main branches of philosophy and widely considered the foundation of philosophy. Metaphysics concerns itself with the most basic of principles, succinctly summarized in two of its key questions; ‘What is there?’ and ‘What is it like?’.
The term metaphysics originated as a literal name for the collection of Aristotle works which became the treatise known as Metaphysics, meaning after physics, the name of the first treatise. Later misinterpretations by commentators, it is now accepted to cover the study of that which transcends physics.
There are three core areas of metaphysics, as originally distinguished by Aristotle; ontology, natural theology, and universal science. Ontology is the study of being, existence or reality, and mostly considers what entities exist, how these entities can be organized and grouped. Ontology also takes into account what defines an entity (Aristotle’s Law of Identity states this definition as having a particular identity), and the natural change.
There three main theories dealing with this topic; Mereological Essentialism, Perdurantism, and Endurantism. One of the most well known philosophical quotes on this particular aspect of Metaphysics is Heraclitus’, ‘nothing is constant except change’.
Natural theology is widely discussed both within and outside of religious institutions, concerns the essence of religion, the existence of a divine being, and questions surrounding the creation, among other issues. Universal Science is the study of logic and reasoning, known as the first principles.
Metaphysics has enjoyed a controversial history, Aristotle was a champion, Francis Bacon rejected it in favor of empiricism, and whilst debate continues on the validity of Metaphysics, no one can deny it has had real-world implications, in disciplines such as science and information technology.
Other Branches of Philosophy
Book recommendation and Affiliate links:
If you are interested to learn the basics of Philosophy try reading “Philosophy For Beginners” by Usborne (available here) and “The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained” (Available here and here). Great for beginners and children who would want to learn about philosophy.