Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doggerel #166: "Metaphysical"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

A lot of woos out there like to label their favorite ideas as "metaphysical" to put them beyond science. Most I've met use it this way to label random things as others would label things "supernatural" or "transcendent." There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason behind the labels beyond convenience for the person putting forth the argument and muddying debate for those of us who have to get the latest definition.

The best definitions of metaphysics I've seen is more along the lines of real science: Cosomology (which deals with physical objects, and where the rules for the rules come from) and genuine philosophy: ontology, and other chunks of questions dealing with "what are we talking about?" I don't get why some things like theology is included: If deities have physical effects, they're physical, and thus their existence is a scientific question, not a metaphysical one. Well, maybe it's metaphysics for theists to come up with a testable definition and predictions. Kind of pointless to debate the issue before they know what they're talking about, though.

I rarely see anything along real metaphysics with woos, however. As I said at the start of the post, they tend to just use it as a convenient buzzword, interpreting "metaphysics" as "beyond physical," so that they can claim knowledge beyond the physical, even though we use "physical" in a very broad sense when talking philosophically. Anything that has an effect on the universe is physical for the purposes of science. That includes emotions, consciousness, perception, ideas, thoughts, and so forth. If any woo claiming to have powers were right, those powers would be physical, if not yet understood.

1 comment:

King Aardvark said...

To hear the word "metaphysical", you almost have to be speaking to an amazingly well-educated woo. Most woos have a grade 5 level of diction.