language and mind

June 8, 2011

Metaphysics as in this real world

Filed under: etymology, language, language use, psychology — teresapelka @ 10:36 am

‘I saw a specter, but it wouldn’t talk sense.’ ;)

No, I have never seen a ghost and I wouldn’t care ― should there be anything for me to learn after I pass away, the after could be the only right time, without any need to hurry. The subtitle is a word play on etymologies and contemporary language use. More, I do not believe in anything non-physical in this physical world, and this is what ghosts are rumored to be: immaterial spirits.

And matter matters. You know what things would be like even with a little bit of vacuum or near-vacuum in this earthly atmosphere. Physically, vacuum would mean obtaining the state of zero particles of matter in a set space. Earthly conditions do not tolerate such a possibility violently and for a number of reasons, the atmosphere and gravity to be the more prominent “mundane excuses”.

Real, absolute vacuum is not obtainable in earthly conditions. However, back to the immaterial specter, when I hear the word specter, I get the etymological association with the spectrum. The Latin specere, ‘to look’ is to be held exclusively responsible for the fact. Seeing and sense happen to open the part of Aristotle’s work to be alleged answerable for the term metaphysics. The author and the work yet are not as liable as enunciated.

Aristotle is actually innocent of the ‘supernatural’ collocations attached to the term metaphysics. Let us look to the Greek particle meta-. It can mean after or beyond, over, or supra. Materially, words such a ghost, specter, or spirit do not occur in Metaphysics at all. Aristotle uses the term soul (Greek psyche). The corresponding contemporary sense is that of a personality or individuality factor, not anything supernatural.

Thus, Metaphysics is ‘what comes after Physics’ in a collection of works. Present-day accounts ascribe the decision on work ordering to the editor, Andronicus of Rhodes. Simply a piece of work to come after the Physics, the Metaphysics does not deal with any ‘super-’ or ‘supra-physics’. By the way, Aristotle got accused of insufficient reverence for gods and banished.

Let us take a simple test on the meanings of the Greek particle meta-. Let us imagine two axes, one vertical, and one horizontal. Let us think about presenting progress in time and progress in space. Both time and distance could refer to the sense of meta- to denote after.

We might feel like presenting progress in time with the vertical axis and the distance with the horizontal, like in figure 1. Traveling this Earth tends to take a horizontal perspective. Going up and down would leave us in the same geographical location.

Now, let us think about presenting a hierarchy (beyond, over) and time or distance (after). We may feel like using the vertical axis for the hierarchy and the horizontal one for the time or distance, like in figure 2.

‘Where are you?’ can be a natural question, when we see someone reading a book we know. Naturally, perspectives on books and progress can be vertical and horizontal. :)

Well, interpretations of the Greek particle meta- may have gone from the horizontal into the vertical over the centuries. Psychologically a very interesting phenomenon, yet the super- as well as supra-natural associations have no justification in the piece by Aristotle at all ― all things may be ‘so and not so’, still there is a ‘more’ and a ‘less’ in the nature of things (Aristotle).

What is ‘Metaphysics’ really about? It is mostly about substance as compared with essence and matter. A very concrete, material thing. Aristotle maybe does not split the atom, but his works are very good exercises for the gray matter.

If, then, the affirmative can be predicated, the negative must be predicable too; and if the affirmative is not predicable, the negative, at least, will be more predicable than the negative of the subject itself. If, then, even the latter negative is predicable, the negative of ‘trireme’ will be also predicable; and, if this is predicable, the affirmative will be so too (Metaphysics).

Back to specters and their chances to talk sense: speech is perceivable as physically sound waves to a working human ear. The sound waves need to have their specific contours to be intelligible and may be produced by human articulators or artificially. Still, human voice or a computer, speech takes matter and shows in physical sound spectra. The specter is not going to talk sense… ;)

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