What would it mean to answer metaphysics and what might a solution look like?

How could the contention that there is an answer be defended?

What would be the implications for society if it were done?

I would only add that an answer is best understood as a framework for understanding which leads to solutions where solutions are bespoke (custom) and lead to actionable certainty.

  • Not clera... To "solve" metaphysics ? In wat sense. We solve a puzzle... meta- is a discipline, a theory. And "implications for society": why ? Dec 27, 2017 at 16:46
  • 2
    Did you encounter this expression somewhere? If so, please give a reference. It might mean something specific in the author's context, generically it can mean anything or nothing at all.
    – Conifold
    Dec 27, 2017 at 20:41
  • At least one has claimed to have done just that. Kant claims, in the preface to Critique of Pure Reason: "In this enquiry I have made completeness my aim, and I venture to assert that there is not a single metaphysical problem which has not been solved, or for the solution of which the key at least has been supplied".
    – nwr
    Dec 28, 2017 at 19:49
  • It would mean everything to us.
    – jjack
    Dec 29, 2017 at 5:02
  • There is no singular or unified metaphysics to solve, only particular forms of metaphysics. Dec 29, 2017 at 5:39

4 Answers 4


1 It could mean to solve every problem recognised or recognisable as metaphysical. The idea of metaphysics here meaning the most fundamental and pervasive features of reality - causation, change, identity, essence, existence, possibility, necessity, universal and particular, the mind/ body distinction or whatever list another philosopher prefers.

2.It would mean to remove the root of metaphysics, the attitude and ways of thinking about thngs that sees certain problems as metaphysical. There is more than a hint of this in the later work of Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (1953). Wittgenstein had the idea that problems we regard as metaphysical are the result of the misuse or misunderstanding of language : 'Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language'(PI,§109).

To create an example : we (or some folk) talk of the mind/ body problem as if the mind were a thing like the body in the sense that it is a continuing object about which statements can be made and which can have certain features. X has a sharp mind just as Y has a fit body. We treat 'mind' as a noun just as 'body' is a noun.

But while 'body' does indeed refer to a continuing object, persisting at least through a period of time, 'mind' doesn't refer to an object at all. To talk of someone's mind is to talk of a set of capacities and dispositions which that person has - to calculate, to imagine, to infer, to suspect or expect, to work out means towards ends and apply rules of cases. To say that X has a sharp mind is not to say that there is some object that constitutes X's mind and is sharp; it is just to say that X can take in information quickly, can make accurate deductions, can suggest how to deal effectively with problems.

Point is, if Wittgenstein is right then the mind/ body problem is bogus, a product of the misleading use of language. Plenty of people will disagree with this; and I am only setting out a quick sketch of a contentious position. But can you see that on Wittgenstein's approach it might be possible, by a logically clear view of language, to remove the metaphysical impulse - and 'solve' metaphysics by dissolving it.

Press questions if I haven't put things across clearly enough. The implications for society take us into sociology and might be better addressed on another site of the Stack Exchange.

[Apologies to Wittgensteinian scholars. This is meant only to give a rough first view - all that's possible here - of the kind of approach with which Wittgenstein was associated.]

  • The mind/body problem is no problem at all. It's different metaphors for different purposes. Dec 28, 2017 at 22:17
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    @Kaiser Basileus. I don't disagree. They may be different metaphors; what mind and body are not, on the view I was trying to explain and in my own opinion, is separate things or substances of the kind represented in (say and classically) Descartes' Meditations. I needn't even deny that they are useful metaphors. Thanks for comment. Appreciated.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Dec 29, 2017 at 9:59

Great question!

To solve metaphysics is to construct a global theory that solves all metaphysical problems at the level of principles. This theory will be a formal axiomatic system, resting on an axiom-set from which the remainder of the theory may be derived. The theory will predict the answer to all metaphysical questions.

There is no such theory in Western thought. The only known theory that meets the specification is the neutral or 'non-dual' metaphysical scheme of the Perennial philosophy.

The implications of such a theory for society may be observed from societies where this metaphysical theory is endorsed and known. The Buddhist sangha would be a case study. But in our society the effects are unknowable since almost everybody rejects this theory and so ends up utterly confused by metaphysics. This is deliberate policy instituted by the philosophy department and is drilled into students over generations, so few people have a clue that metaphysics was solved and explained long ago.

Metaphysics is actually quite easy to solve at the level of principles or, at least, it is easy to find a workable solution, but as it would imply the truth of the non-dual doctrine of the mystics most people prefer to look the other way. Indeed, one entire tradition of philosophy chooses to look the other way, preferring to argue that metaphysics is intractable and incomprehensible and being content to merely add footnotes to Plato. This is Kant's 'arena for mock fights'. The consequence is a metaphysics that is impossibly complicated, incomprehensible and which groans under the weight of centuries of ineffective sophistry.

The question deserves a much longer answer but I'll stop before settling into 'rant' mode. The state of metaphysics in the West is truly pathetic and a damning indictment of the scholarship and insight of its practitioners. The current 'Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics' begins with a preface that carefully explains that metaphysics is a complete waste of time, thus the whole of philosophy, and so it is if we do it the way our university professors do it.

Perhaps over time forums such as this will break the hold of the professors and allow philosophy to move on. Meanwhile we go on studying people like Wittgenstein, Russell, Carnap, Ayer, Plato, Democritus and long list of other thinkers who would happily admit they did not understand metaphysics.

In short, metaphysics can be solved and if this was taught to students the effect on our society would be transformative. I happen to believe that better teaching of metaphysics would be one way to 'save the world' so significant would the effect of this knowledge be on our shared belief system. But first we'll have to wait for one of Kuhn's generational paradigm shifts.

  • tiny.cc/ontology When you use the cogito as your base and take nothing for granted, the rest falls into place. Dec 28, 2017 at 17:16
  • When you say non-dual, I think of the door you use as the Huxley, Advaita Vedanta. Then why not just join an organization like this? vedanta.org/suggested-reading There seems to be a lot lumped under the Perennial Philosophy, even Kabbalah?! I went on a two year library quest to study Kabbalah, it took me two years just to clear the brush away to find the door into the subject. At that point I was so exhausted I took a break and that was a year ago! My point is that people may not know what you mean by Perennial Philosophy, it seems to be a big subject.
    – Gordon
    Dec 28, 2017 at 17:37
  • There are also some books on the subject at Internet Archive. I downloaded the book by Sedgewick (Against the Modern World) earlier this year. It seemed to be an unwinding of the Rene Guenon story, and he seemed like a fuzzy-headed fellow to me. Another thread would be the Plotinus thread, Neo-Platonism, I guess, or is it all mixed together? I could not get any clarity on the subject. Is it unity, sameness? The whole project seems to make light of substantial differences between religions and such. Some conserving, some liberating.
    – Gordon
    Dec 28, 2017 at 20:32
  • There is such a theory as of 2016. An rough expose on it as at medium.com, "A New Metaphysics".
    – Marxos
    Dec 29, 2017 at 2:40
  • The Perennial philosophy normalises on (some would say simply is) 'non-dualism'. It would include Kabbalah and Plotinus would be a trustworthy guide. Also Mahayana Buddhism, Sufism, advaita etc. No room here to say more. Doctor - the theory you mention seems to be humanism, which is the abandonment of metaphysics. The perennial explanation of metaphysics remains the only comprehensive theory. The Universe would be a Unity and all positive metaphysical positions would be false. It's not understood or taught in our universities but the literature could hardly be more extensive.
    – user20253
    Dec 29, 2017 at 13:19

I would pose that perhaps to answer that question, it could be put into another frame of understanding, i.e., how does one solve the meaning of life, from a metaphysical standpoint?

This different frame of understanding explores more of the spiritual/mental frames of approach; (1) to envelope the physical into those frames, (2) to see an elevated understanding of this period of existence/experience, (3) to perhaps open one's mind to more potentials of understanding and epiphanies, and (4) to perhaps evolve into greater awareness, whether personal or collective, which can bring about a final and fulfilling resolution; that is, until the next level of existence/experience presents queries requiring further understanding.


A position could be defended by appeals to common history of consciousness. For example, and despite Kant's claims to the contrary, solving the issue of GOD would create a basis for a true metaphysics. Indeed, there is a definitive answer to the question, so it is odd this omission by modern philosophy.

Also, a metaphysics would answer WHY the laws of physics are the way that they are.

A real metaphysics would answer how mathematical domains relate to one another and to logic and the physical world itself. It may also answer questions related to other realms, such as consciousness, astral planes, and transcendental states of consciousness.

The implications would allow the formulation of knew predicates of Truth, to build a larger, sounder structure of reason, and to know our place within the Cosmos, rather than the current state of near groundlessness we have today -- particularly with modern medicine which has no account of consciousness though it medicates it.

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