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Physics/metaphysics: where do you draw the line?

  1. Apr 13, 2003 #1
    Is there a sharp distinction between physics and metaphysics, or is their difference often undefinable? Can metaphysics ever affect physical reality? Is either more valid than the other?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2003 #2
    I don't buy anything 'metaphysical' at all...
  4. Apr 13, 2003 #3
    So the metaphysical responce of "In an infinity the center can be everywhere" doesn't mean anything to you Zero?
  5. Apr 13, 2003 #4

    i believe in metaphysical things. physics is more like mathematics where metaphysics is more of the mysteries of life. i might be wrong though.
  6. Apr 13, 2003 #5
    where to draw the line?

    ...When it gets too religious,mystical and contradicts everything that is currently considered to be factual...
  7. Apr 13, 2003 #6
    Hat's off to you Loren, yet another deep question.

    Physics is the study of relationships while metaphysics are underlying principles or assertions of theories and world views. Chuang Tzu is once said to have commented that Taoism has no metaphysics. Thus I would draw the line between physics and metaphysics at Taoism or a spontaneous open mind.

    This might sound strange to some, but it really isn't. When a dancer or musician become lost in their art they don't use any underlying principles or world views, they just do their thing. Likewise, physics can be practiced as an art in just such a manner.

    As Zero says, he doesn't have any metaphysics. You could say the same thing for the Paradox of existence or Quantum Mechanics. As Stephen Hawking once said, QM is a theory about what we don't know. Hence it has no metaphysics unless you consider ignorance to be a metaphysical concept. :0)
  8. Apr 14, 2003 #7

    Tom Mattson

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    For starters, a physical theory must be contingent on experimental results. That's not to say that all non-contingent theories are metaphysical, but it tells us which ones aren't metaphysics. I am reading Beyond Experience, an online intro to metaphysics (I have a thread on it, somewhere on the last page of the forum. I'll revive it when I get a chance). The author says that metaphysics is not so well defined, and is pretty much whatever metaphysicians decide to call "metaphysics". He says that metaphysics is best defined by citing typical metaphysical problems, some of which are...

    1. Nature of personhood.
    2. Personal identity through time.
    3. Nature of space and time.
    4. Nature of pain (or any other perception).

    Metaphysics is a collection of theories, not an active force in the universe, so 'no'.

    They can be on equal footing as far as deductive validity, but they differ in that you can never know if a metaphysical theory is 'right'.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2003
  9. Apr 14, 2003 #8

    Tom Mattson

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    I don't think that's possible. Everyone holds to metaphysical theories in some way. Do you believe that a fetus is a human being? Why or why not?

    Your answer would count as a metaphysical theory.
  10. Apr 15, 2003 #9

    Well established hierarchies are not easily uprooted;
    Closely held beliefs are not easily released;
    So ritual enthralls generation after generation.
    Harmony does not care for harmony, and so is naturally attained;
    But ritual is intent upon harmony, and so can not attain it.
    Harmony neither acts nor reasons;
    Love acts, but without reason;
    Justice acts to serve reason;
    But ritual acts to enforce reason.
    When the Way is lost, there remains harmony;
    When harmony is lost, there remains love;
    When love is lost, there remains justice;
    But when justice is lost, there remains ritual.
    Ritual is the end of compassion and honesty,
    The beginning of confusion;
    Belief is a colourful hope or fear,
    The beginning of folly.
    The sage goes by harmony, not by hope;
    He dwells in the fruit, not the flower;
    He accepts substance, and ignores abstraction.
  11. Apr 15, 2003 #10
    "Metaphysics" fall under the category of

    "If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it... is there a sound?"

    My answer to that is... as some know... yes there is a sound...

    it is egocentric to think that if I don't hear a sound or see a rock fall down there are no physical properties suchas sound or gravity.

    I use this example to explain that "meta"physics simply means physics princibles that occur without our knowlege of them.

    If and when we are able to do more empirical and quantifiable experiments that deal with phenomena and the source of phenomena we will be breaking new ground and we will be converting "metaphysics" into physics... as progress is made.

    Therefore... I see no line between the two definitions, physics and metaphysics.

    I see a line between egocentricity and open mindedness.

    That's my take, Loren.
  12. Apr 15, 2003 #11
    Has/Can past metaphysics become the physics of present?
  13. Apr 15, 2003 #12
    Hi again... yes.

    I recently met an astrologer whom I asked about the physics of astrology.

    She told me that there are some books that go into the physics and the effects of certain forces associated with certain planets and suns in certain locations throughout the earths event horizon. The gist was that they act on certain glandular structures, liquids, hormones, neurons and molecular alignmnents... via Chaos Theory as well as, no doubt, Fractal Influence.

    It is somewhat entangled in Chaos Theory... which... suprisingly... is reflective of many of the philosophies and metaphyisical teachings of the past.

    I think WuLi could come up with about a thousand examples of past methods of physics or metaphysics that are, today, touted as modern physical laws or princibles.
  14. Apr 15, 2003 #13

    The daunting challenge to justify astrology would need developing a predictive model based on the disparate actions you mentioned. How would you interpret in simple physical terms and with what formulae characterize the various influences that, e. g., all other people have on you?
  15. Apr 15, 2003 #14
    I don't know about a thousand, but the most striking one that comes to mind is Democritus' idea that randomness unlies physical reality. That's essentially what Quantum Mechanics asserts today. Notably, it also provides a unique metaphysics never conceived of before. That of Shrondenger's Cat which can be alive and dead at the same time.

    Loren, perhaps an even more pointed question is where does one draw the line between physics, metaphysics, and mysticism. :0)
  16. Apr 16, 2003 #15
    proximity nullified

    Loren... not that I am either an astronomer nor an astrologer... but... imagine.........."all other people".... would fit as a dot in Jupiter's postpardom red spot....

    Consider the emensity and the surface areas... the mass and the electromagnetic influences of the planets... not to mention a sun.

    Combine certain specific combinations of these factors with positioning during conception and birth (and other significant events of one organism's emergence into the physical world) and you can see that the influence of a person or 6 billion people on that one person is but a drop in the bucket of much larger and much stronger influences.

    This, of course, relies on negating distance and nullifying proximity while taking into account the massive influences of one person's event horizon in relation to the event horizons of several planets, gravitational and electromagnetic events. One would think other people would have effects of this nature... however... lets remember people are made of over 75 percent water.

    Sort of a siccors cut paper ... rock breaks siccors...paper covers rock assessment here!
  17. Apr 16, 2003 #16

    The basic tenets of cosmology include isotropism and homogeneity, meaning that, on average in the universe, all points are centers and no point is preferred over the others - red spot, blue spot, or green spot - this galaxy or next.

    Astrology is anthropomorphic, that is, astrologists endow human characteristics upon science in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Influences are there, but we have yet to fully describe the motion of one neutral Helium atom!

    Astrology undersells the beautiful complexity of the body and soul as sophistic rolls of dice.
  18. Apr 16, 2003 #17
    If you were born deaf dumb and blind, would you know you were? What would it take to understand this? I should not waste food like this here, there are people in life who have a real desire to understand.
  19. Apr 17, 2003 #18
    The blind feel the sun on their face,
    the deaf feel the beat of the bass drum,
    and both dance in the warmth of sun,
    and under to cool moon.

    I was born with sight,
    but I've never seen the ultraviolet.
    I was born with hearing,
    but I've never listened to the stars.
    I was born with awareness,
    that I've never understood.
  20. Apr 17, 2003 #19
    wuliheron - So it may be with metaphysics, a sort of philosophical "ESP" that presages physical awareness.
  21. Apr 17, 2003 #20
    Loren Booda,

    o\Of course, all science is anthropomorphic. Our measurements and observations and interpreatations are made from the perspective of an endoskeletal, bi-laterally symetric, neuro-cognizant point of view. We relate what we observe to how it effects us in every science...

    it is very hard to separate the relationship of our receptors from what they are receiving.

    Medicine is all about anthropomorphism. All science is anthropomorphic since science was created by anthromorphs. We place our own rigid grid on what was here long before we were in an attept to interpret the workings of the physical.

    What we have been unable to grasp or coral or pigeon hole are the underlying influences that give rise to the physical. So we call them "beyond physical" or metaphysical.

    So, what's your point?
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