According to this (old) page, metaphysics is the study of things beyond anything humans can perceive. Because of this fact, metaphysics is relatively faith-based discipline and, compared to science, lacks evidence.

According to the dictionary, Spiritual things are immaterial things affecting the spirit.

With this in mind, is the spiritual same as metaphysical? Is the metaphysical part of the spiritual or, is the spiritual part of the metaphysical?

(Just is you know I’m a Christian so I believe in God and the Bible)

  • Your definition of metaphysical is a diminished connotation of the philosophical meaning. All it actually refers to is, 'that which is real'. By 'real' in this case is meant a thing whose existence is 'necessary', unlike people, objects and things which are 'contingent'. Real can also be defined as including a function of 'causality', whereas people, objects and things are effects. CMS
    – user37981
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 21:35

4 Answers 4


Metaphysics can be understood as dealing with what is common in the (empirical) sciences in a generalizing manner.

Whereas biology deals with objects like cells, physics with atoms, chemistry with elements and mathematics with sets or numbers, metaphysics asks what it means to be an object at all and discusses our limits in understanding objects in general.

Whereas medicine is concerned with how a virus affects cells and chemistry with what heat does to a certain chemical compound, metaphysics asks what it generally means for something to cause anything.

At least some schools of metaphysical thought think of themselves as dealing with these questions in a scientifically rigorous way. They consider themselves a part of science.

The term of "spiritual things" is almost fully absent in academical philosophy. The branch of philosophy of mind that deals with mind as far as it is inexplicable by the empirical sciences would be the closest area as where to find this expression (except for theology, I assume, that I don't count in).

So, if at all, spiritual things are part of metaphysics and not the other way around.

  • In one sense, " spiritual" relates to deep feelings and beliefs, in particular religious beliefs. The " spiritual life " of a person is the history of her " inner self" inasmuch as this person cares for this "self / soul " ( in latin, cura sui) , wants to improve herself from a moral standpoint and to participate in a kind of union with values that she considers as above herself ( maybe as transcendent or divine ).

To this extent, metaphysics does not deal properly with the spiritual . But some metaphysical systems aim at providing rational grounds for the " spiritual" attitude as it has been discribed.

  • Now, from a philosophical standpoint, " spiritual" relates to " intellectual substance" ( substance meaning here : fundamental entity) , that is to a substance ( entity) that is able to operate actions independently from matter , in particular the operations of knowing and of willing ( loving being included in willing in a broad sense).

  • So the question is : is metaphysics necessarily committed to the existence of spiritual entities ( be they human souls, or angels, or God)?

If you consider the whole history of philosophy the answer should be " no": negating the existence of " souls" or of "God" is a metaphysical thesis (claim) as much as claiming their existence; there is a materialistic or an atheistic metaphysics as well as a spiritualist one.

However one should also say that still historically, mainstream metaphysics ( Plato, Aristotle Descartes, Leibniz, Wolff, even Hegel) is opposed to materialism.

  • I think a consensus could be reached by saying that metaphysics deals not with spiritual matters properly, but with intellectual things. " Spiritual " is only one possible understanding of " intellectual".

Let me distinguish 3 meanings of " intellectual"

(1) What is remote from sense experience, what is abstract, general, universal : every school of metaphysics could admit that metaphysics deals with what is " intellectual" in this sense. It means that metaphysics aims at answering the question : " what is being? " in the most general way. This is metaphysics understood as "ontology".

(2) What provides intelligence with the satisfaction of its intrinsic need, namely understanding. In that sense, metaphysics is the study of causes and principles, and more precisely, the highest causes or the most fundamental ones. One way to answer the question of " ultimate causes" is to say that the first cause of the universe cannot be material, but has to be " spiritual" , more precisely, God. On this understanding metaphysics is called " first philosophy".

(3) What has an intellectual mode of being, what is , by nature, free from matter ( human souls, angels, God). In this third sense, metaphysics can be said to deal with what is " spiritual" and is called " ( natural) theology".

My answer is borrowed from Aquinas, " On the nature and excellence of metaphysics" https://archive.org/details/introductiontome00inthom/page/15/mode/1up

  • 1
    I am not sure why you count Epicurus, Stoics, Spinoza, mechanists, Marx, Russell, existentialists, modern physicalists, etc., as outside of the "mainstream".
    – Conifold
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 15:05

Both spirituality and metaphysics share a focus on transcendental (Kantian a priori) objects or concepts. The primary difference between the two is that:

  • Metaphysics deals with one naturalistic transcendental being — the human subject — and its relationship to objects, other human subjects, and abstract concepts.
  • Spirituality presumes one, or several, or a multitude, of other transcendental beings — spirits, which might be gods, or demons, or ghosts, or some essence that is embodied in objects — with which the 'human' being might interact.

The evolution of the modern (Western) concept of metaphysics is complex, but we can think of it loosely as an effort to pick up some difficult philosophical problems that were left unanswered as the modern intellectual world broke away from traditional Christian metaphysics. Spirituality has historical primacy in the sense that stretches back into prehistory, in animistic and pantheistic thought, but metaphysics properly put has received far more analytic attention, and predominates in modern philosophical discussions.

  • This is true of many forms of what's called "spirituality" but I don't think it works as a general definition--that term is often used to encompass any sort of "mystical" intuitions about the nature of reality, not just those assuming transcendental beings or essences in objects. Buddhism is very anti-essentialist with its doctrines on sunyata, and although some traditions talk about various kinds of spiritual beings on other planes, they aren't really important to the core teachings and some variants like Zen drop them or take them as distractions.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 19:56
  • @Hypnosifl: You're veering into the area of mysticism, which is where metaphysics and spirituality overlap. Monasticism in both the East and the West tends towards the mystical, with lay practitioners being overwhelmingly and overtly religious (spiritual). But as Westerners we have little experience with Eastern lay practices, and far too much experience with Western lay practices to appreciate the mystical side of our faiths. It's an unfortunate bias that should not be taken to represent some underlying reality. Commented May 30, 2020 at 20:46
  • @Hypnosifl: I mean, imagine someone from Calcutta or Beijing who only experienced Western faiths by reading Aquinas or Rumi, studying gnostic texts or the Kabbalah, or learning about transcendentalism, sufism, or transpersonalism. Such a person would be convinced that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were entirely different (and far more high-minded) than common experience in the West would tend to confirm, right? Commented May 30, 2020 at 20:53

You have already made conditions for your answer to appear. You can't ask a new question is such way. Instead, you must make a clean clearing in your mind and be prepared to accept new categories of existence.

Metaphysical is still physical. Brain works as you think. Thinkers are on the metaphysical level because they can see the phenomenology of thoughts. They see the flow of thoughts in the mind - their appearance and disappearance.

Evidences in the metaphysical realm exist in entirely different type of form. The metaphysical evidence or not preceptive to five gross senses--eyes, ears, nose, etc.--but it is clear to your intellect. You can't deny the consciousness of your thoughts.

Don't think metaphysical level is bogus. Gedankenexperiment or thought experiment is a very good example of a valid and highly valued type of metaphysical activity. That's how Theory of Relativity came to being; as a result of Einsteins thought experiments.

Spiritual is beyond material level, although entirely affects the metaphysical and physical levels of being. Spiritual means in direct ecstatic loving connection with the Supreme Consciousness. In that state of love, people experience all kinds of physical symptoms.

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