What is Metaphysics?
Aristotle pointed out that every object has an essence, meaning if the object is stripped off that essence it ceases to be that object. For instance a lot of new empirical studies have pointed out that self awareness is the essence of human beings, the ability to step back from the phenomenon and observe it objectively, without indulging in it actively. We have often been advised during our trysts with meditative techniques to ‘observe our thoughts’ and ‘observe our breath’ etc. As we do this we enter into the realm of philosophizing through Metaphysics. Meta means beyond or super, Metaphysics means what comes beyond or after physics. It is still the most important branch of Philosophy in both academic and non academic discourse.
To understand it better let us take an example: When I say to you – ‘Think’, you are actively employed in the activity of thinking, you may think what a mess the world has become due to over consumption of plastic and about the impending catastrophe of climate change. But now I say to you that think about how you think, then what you do is carve an observer out of that unity of thinking to observe that very thinking itself, when you do this, in all technical means you go Meta, we can call this Metathinking, to think about thinking. Now it will be easy for you to understand the use of the prefix Meta, when you think about difficult moral questions and what is Good and Bad and Right and Wrong you are involved in the contemplation of Ethics, but when you think about how you have the capacity to involve in such questions and the nature of the ethical dialectic in your mind you are involved in Meta – ethics.
Once we have good clarity upon the usage of the prefix meta both in theory and practice we can now understand what metaphysics means. What we observe from our senses is stored as sense data, but anyone who has paid any attention in life knows that if our endeavour is to find Truth in any matter, we cannot rely on our senses – senses are treacherous. At this junction we make use of our faculty of reasoning to arrange the sense data into coherent theories. This is where we enter into metaphysics – An inquiry (meta) into the ultimate reality which lies beyond our sensory experience (physics), this understanding is not itself based on any sensory experience but on rational analysis or insight.
Once we have really understood the import of Metaphysics in Philosophy we have certainly made a good start at understanding the subject. We can now easily move on to study the metaphysics of various thinkers like Rene Descarte, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Plato, Buddha, Adi Shankaracharya. In Indian traditional schools of Yoga, Buddhism and Vedanta where meditation is given a high value, the practice of meditation is nothing but an involvement in meta thinking and metaphysics. Metaphysics leads to both Science and Nirvana.