When I was in college, I remember looking through the course catalog and seeing metaphysics. Now that sounded mysterious and interesting. I did not even know what it was. As it turns out metaphysics is really all those things that you cant really talk about in philosophy these days because they not really falsifiable or subject to the scientific method – things like the nature of being and reality. We all know how that experiment turned out that tried to prove whether or not light was a particle or a wave.
This week I was reading Reza Negaristani’s new book Intelligence and Spirit and I came upon the following paragraph on p 233;
Metaphysics properly understood is the apprehension of the infinite without any of the static or fixed contradictions that arise from the limitations of the features of our experience or understanding, which, in contrast to reason, can neither accept the identity of opposites nor forgo the representation of the Absolute or unconditioned.
When I read this, at first I stopped at the word “infinite’. Metaphysics is the apprehension of the infinite. Well what is the infinite… that which is not finite, or not countable – it is not measurable. We can interpret the rest of the paragraph, phrases such as ‘limitations of the features of our experience’ as those things which we can count and measure. Those things we can put into categories Reason can only be applied to things that we can categorize (not only in the kantian sense). Reason cannot be applied to the infinite – this is perhaps the realm of mysticism or cbd. Kant would say that we apprehend the infinite through judgement. I dont know why I am talking so much about Kant, but this book talks a lot about Kant and Hegel, so that is probably why.
But lets dwell on infinite. This made me think about continuous, and the age old question is the world continuous or discrete or both or none or all of the above. What is infinite, as I said earlier, is not countable. You cannot make it discrete. When you take a curve and describe the shape of it with calculus you are making the curve discrete. To recreate the curve by plugging numbers into a function, you will always have a cloud of points that look like a line but are not a line.
So perhaps metaphysics is the study of continuous things. And then we can leave epistemology to the study of discrete things. What can we talk about when we talk about continuous things, things that cannot be counted and measured? If infinity, and continuous things in general, cannot be subject to reason, and I am not sure that this is the case in all things. I would say that all areas of investigation can be subject to reason, and other modes of apprehension as well. But, if continuous things cannot be subject to reason, then we are back where we were metaphysics cannot be subject to reason.
I believe there are other paths to understanding beyond reason. But I also believe that reason can be used in realms once labeled off limits. What does it mean to be continuous. Can we create continuous (analog) computers. What does a computer look like that is not the discrete turing machine with states and writing on a tape. but with a long long piece of paper and a pen writing exquisite corpse style in a continuous stream. So what happens when we start to think that metaphysics, about the nature of reality, is really about the nature of continuous things. What does that look like ? 42.