Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Wikipedia introduces metaphysics thus:
Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:
Ultimately, what is there?
What is it like?
For a long time this was considered to be a matter of both reason and revelation observation was not considered an ultimately reliable source of knowledge about reality. It's not hard to see why. Observation is too variable.
But perhaps there was a deeper reason once we came to see ourselves as minds then it was easy to project that idea onto all sorts of things in the world that affect us. The tree whose root you didn't notice that made you trip is a mind that tried to trip you.
The weather that is good one year and bad the next is a mind that must be kept pleased and satisfied.
But of course when I interact with a person who is a mind I'm interacting with a mind that is physical I can touch the body that is a mind.
I can't touch the body of the mind that is the weather and the methods of controlling the weather are very abstract. We see rituals and ceremonies and sacrifices. It's not much of jump from this to imagine disembodied minds very powerful disembodied minds to be common in reality watching us.
This kind of thinking isn't nearly as obvious to contemporary people who know a lot about how physical reality it isn't a forced conclusion now. But if you look at the history of philosophy in even a cursory way you can see that it was a forced conclusion for many people in the past. We can follow the logic of this using goodness as an example. What makes something, anything, good? Well we compare a particular to other good things to see how the stand up.
But what is good depends on the situation so we are drawn to the idea that all good things have the common attribute of goodness. This goodness came to be absolute it was perfectly good and had no contradictions and was always the same. And this absolute goodness seems to have been considered to be more real than any actual goodness because well actual goodnesses are always a mixed bag good here and not so good there.
More recently another concept of the absolute has arisen it's quite similar but it's based on the truths of math. For instance there are many instances of 3 things; 3 apples, $3, Trinity, etc they all share the attribute of threeness but that attribute is obviously immaterial.
It's also perfect and eternal 3 is only 3 and nothing but 3 and will never be anything else. We see the same idea when we consider a square a square is a 4 sided figure with right angles at the corners and a particular ratio comes up when you divide the length of one side into the other. It is said that the ratio is 1. Note, the trick of language here the use of the word 'is'. Generally the word 'is' applies to things that actually exist. So the numerals 1 or 3 actually exist as numerals we can see them it makes sense to say that numeral is a 1 or a 3 or whatever.
The clear way to talk about the ratio of the sides of a square is to say that the ratio equals 1, and not that the ratio is one. The ratio is a number but does it make sense to talk about numbers as things that exist?
Why not just understand what it means to say one or three. Here's what I think happens logically with so called absolutes they are tautologies and the truth and eternalness of a tautology is trivial not ultimately important. ratio = side a/side b = 1/1 = 1 : to say that 1/1 = 1 is a tautology and that's all a ratio is.
A metaphysics without absolutes works out to be a metaphysics without tautologies. What do you think can there be metaphysics without tautologies do tautologies really teach us anything about what ultimately is?
Note that this is not saying that metaphysical questions aren't important what exists? That's a really interesting question. Why? Important question too.
Does that mean there has to be a definite thing that exists or a reason for that existence?
What do you think?