Helmut Walther (Nürnberg)

Metaphysic and Evolution

Presentation before the Gesellschaft für kritische Philosophie Nürnberg on February 25, 2009

I. The Context of both Terms
II. The Concept of Evolution
III. Metaphysic as Part of Evolution
IV. Appropriate and Inappropriate Metaphysic

Home to "Kreisbogen der Metaphysik"



We should take to heart what the important physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887 – 1961) requested: "Wenn wir unser wahres Ziel nicht für immer aufgeben wollen, dann dürfte es nur den einen Ausweg aus dem Dilemma geben: dass einige von uns sich an die Zusammenschau von Tatsachen und Theorien wagen, auch wenn ihr Wissen teilweise aus zweiter Hand stammt und unvollständig ist – und sie Gefahr laufen, sich lächerlich zu machen." [Schrödinger expresses here that, if we do not want to give up our gruee goal forever, then there might only be one way out of the dilemma, that some of us dare to view facts and theories at the same time, even if our knowledge might be second-hand and incomplete, and even if we run into the danger of ridiculing ourselves].(1)

My attempt at considering metaphysic and evolution at the same time, as I am about to present it here, might also lead me onto this slippery surface.  Let us see if I will succeed in not falling flat on the ice.


I. The Context of both Terms

At first, it might, perhaps, appear peculiar to consider such incommensurable terms as metaphysic [thus an abstract theory] and evolution 9natural facts] simultaneously, nay, to even connect them with the word "and", not even separated by the word "or"!   What can the idea of God respectively of the "true, good and beautiful" have in common with the beaks of Darwin's finches?

Dualists of all persuasions, from Platonism to Intelligent Design will, of course, consider this a hair-raising concept -- by the way, "hair-raising" is something that can also be observed in dogs, cats and mice and is thus a sign of evolutionary heritage...in any event, such sublime phenomena as the human mind and the divine soul -- thus metaphysic's very own playground -- can, in their opinion, not just simply spring from nature; after all, this soul is supposed to emerge due to he intervention of an Almighty God at the time of the creation of each single human being!

It is metaphysic that, since its global emergence in the [according to Jaspers' terminology] "axis" period [appr. 800 - 500 BC] has divided the world into two realms, and this division is something that we have not been able to get rid of, ever since, even though, in the meantime, science has shown us a grandiose image of evolution and of the unity of the cosmos, from the smallest particles to the vastest galaxies and to the most highly developed life forms.  The effect of Darwin's theory, to whose 200th birthday on February 15th we have dedicated the latest special issue of A&K, has not come to an end, today, and it has revolutionized and galvanized image of the world: With the words of our co-editor, Professor Wuketits, it has developed into a "Universalsäure" [a universal acidic agent] that practically devours every traditional concept.  And this is also the case with the term metaphysic.

The differentiation between and the evaluation of the concepts that, as such, at first, appear to be alien to each other, has strong consequences: for, religious individuals would set the term metaphysic above that of evolution -- according to their beliefs, it is God the Creator who created the world and life and who has pre-ordained their aim and meaning, and thus they declare that evolution, the existence of which has been partly admitted by Christian religions, is a path that has been chosen by God, himself, in order to initiate creation.  Contrary to this, to science and/or a scientific world view, metaphysic is the result of evolution -- and yet, the theory of evolution is, at the same time, in a certain way, of a metaphysical nature, since we can not know whether it is "absolutely" true in every respect.  Radical constructivists exaggerate this "aporia" of human realization to the effect that they consider a reality that is independent from the mind as nonexistent, so that, to them, man's entire world view, including natural science, are of a metaphysical nature that can never be reconnected with actual reality.

On the other hand, scientists like to claim the realization of the truth for themselves, as, for example, Professor Dr. Ulrich Kutschera, with respect to the theory of evolution "Der Begriff Theorie hat in der Umgangssprache und in den Naturwissenschaften eine unterschiedliche Bedeutung. In der Biologie erklären Theorien belegte Tatsachen. So erklärt z.B. das Theoriensystem Evolutionsbiologie verschiedene Teilaspekte der Veränderung der Organismen, wobei es selbstverständlich immer offene Teilfragen geben wird. Evolution ist eine Tatsache und keine Theorie."(2) [He writes that, in everyday language, and in science, the term theory has a different meaning.  In biology, he continues, theories explain proven facts.  As an example, he refers to the theory system of evolutionary biology which, in his view, explain various partial aspects of the changes in organisms with respect to which there will, of course, always remain open questions.  He emphasizes that evolution is a fact and not a theory].   Well, evolution is certainly a fact that no-one, not even the Pope, can deny -- however, what conclusions should be drawn from that, and how this development occurs, that is, of course, quite another question.

How can we, then, solve the problem of what metaphysic actually might be in light of the fact that these two terms are interconnected and how these terms relate to each other? It might be best to consider how things have developed, as already a certain philosopher said who stood at the beginning of metaphysic and who also, with this thought system, building on Anaximander, developed first thoughts on the categorization of living things.  This man was Aristotle.  After all, metaphysic did not fall out of the sky, but rather, it developed -- quite parallel to the theory of evolution -- as an interpretation of empiric observations; it is a consequence of a new self-realization of man who, during the already mentioned, so-called "axis" period, thus between 800 - 500 BC, realized that he was a being of reason and who was in search of his essence and of the essence of the world.  And this new world view emerged at approximately the same time, in all great cultures, thus also in China and India -- a strong indication that it was a truly epoch-making step in the epigenetic-cultural co-evolution of man.

At present, this epigenesis is the hottest iron in evolutionary research and means that outer influences, such as food, for example, but certainly also other environmental influences, as far as the construction and development of brain function is concerned, can have an influence on the working of the regulating genes in the DNA in the cells, so that these can be changed.  This, in turn, means that the DNA of the individual does not entirely determine this, but rather, that it, itself, is subject and adaptable to environmental influences.  The latest epigenetic research even shows that both Lamarck and Darwin were right when they proposed that acquired traits can be inherited by future generations which, up to now, had been vehemently rejected by modern research.(3) (My own hunch is that this ability to inherit acquired traits would have to occur through the mother, since the developing embryo can only be epigenetically influenced in the development of certain traits by the biological support system of the mother, on which it entirely depends, since the influence of the material biological support system has a direct impact on the embryo and thus can influence the regulating genes at the point of the activation of DNA sequences.  This assumption is confirmed by an article that was published on February 16, 2009, and that discusses the changes in methylation that can be proven as occurring due to the influence of smog in pregnant women on the cells of their unborn children.(4)


II. The Concept of Evolution (from Anaximander, Milet appr. 610-546, and Aristoteles, Stagira 384-322, on)

Not by accident, the first considerations of evolution emerged at the same time as metaphysical considerations did -- both happened due to the new, structured view of the world, in a consideration of the "essence of things", these were now compared with it as the purpose of  the exercise. The sameness respectively similarity of things was observed, a first transition from static to dynamic thinking occurred  (Heraclit, Ephesos, appr. 500 BC: "everything is flowing"; "war is the father of all things" -- which means approximately: all existing things develop out of contrast, which , in turn, leads to dialectic, from Plato to Hegel, but also to the concept of selection, as in Darwin).

According to various ancient authors, Anaximander already assumed that the origin of life was water and the origin of man from the fish, and he wrote the first treatise on nature.  To what extent evolutionary thinking can be attributed to Aristotle, who lived about 200 years later, is debatable; in any event, he caused observations on natural phenomena to be made and collected, and he classified them.  His thinking was "evolutionary" insofar as he ascribed to all forms of life an "entelechia', in modern terms, a "teleology", meaning that, for example, from a seed or an egg [as "cause of the form"] a certain plant respectively a certain life form would develop, within the framework of its own purpose -- modern man knows this "cause of form" to be DNA.  Aristotle's particular achievement was that he attempted to incorporate and list all animals known at that time, including man, by considering their similarities and interrelationships, into one natural system.  He still had no adequate means at his disposal for the definition of the various groups of animals, so that he had to find appropriate criteria and an adequate terminology.  In doing so, he already proceeded on the basis of scientific principles that are still followed, today, namely by grouping together that which was similar on the basis of similar characteristics or traits,  and  by separating that which was different, on the basis of differences.   This is precisely how reason(5), proceeds, as we will still see.

Modern evolutionary research began, in particular, with Lamarck(6) and Darwin (1809-1882); to the former, the possibility of the inheritability of changes or mutations of the organisms were the predominant issue, changes or mutations that were or are assumed to occur due to environmental influences and due to the use or lack of use of organs [the first now being proven while individual use certainly does not play a role].  Darwin, too, went out from the possibility of the inheritability of individually acquired traits in the former sense; however, two adaptation phenomena were the predominant issue to him:  At first, he went out from a considerable abundance in the offspring of all plants and life forms, which would never be at the same output level, but which would always vary -- to put it in modern terms, genetic mutations result in small changes in the life forms that are then either enhanced by the environment or by sexual selection, with those individual life forms that are better adapted or preferred in the process of sexual selection surviving and procreating, while disadvantaged individual life forms can not prevail.

Through this evolutionary process, all life forms, including man and his reason, have emerged, and this process has, by no means, already come to an end; at all levels, evolution is continuing, but not necessarily in the form of "progress" -- evolution does not have a teleology, at all.  However, that this process, so-to-say as a byproduct, also produced something like an "increasing information processing" -- from DNA to the human mind, can not be denied, and it probably has to do with the selection mechanism of a more advantageous adaptation to the environment: the better environmental signals are being picked up, and the better they can be reflected, the better an individual life form is "adapted" to this environment, since has the advantage  over individual life forms that do not have the capability of actively reacting to the environment. And sexual selection can only begin there where, due to natural selection, such sensory organs have developed that make inter-sexual communication possible and that, in turn, lead to new variations.  Likewise, the sensual-neuronal information capabilities of birds and insects are what, in turn, has an evolutionary impact on the plant world so that it, in turn, can bring forth the entire abundance of blossoms and colors.

This leads us to Illustration 1 that forms the central piece of this presentation and with which I want to show you the relationship between metaphysic and evolution.


Illustration 1


III. Metaphysic as Part of Evolution

Let us first take the term "metaphysic" and, in true Nietzschean stile, let us hit it with a hammer(7) -- and, lo and behold, it splits into two parts: into "meta" and "physic". And with this, we have access to its meaning, for, obviously, this term wants to tell us something about things that lie "beyond" "physic", thus things that are not of a physical nature, things that we can not touch, see or hear.  (This already provides us with a hint regarding those who say that they hear "voices" that we others can not hear.  To put it into the terms our German Ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt used:  Those who hear voices should consult a psychiatrist instead of founding a religion -- just thing, for example, of (St.) Paul.)

Now, let us again look at the first part of our term that has been split into two parts, and with it, we have arrived at the modern understanding of the term "metaphysic":

First, we differentiate the concept of ontology (thus the "theory of existence"); with it, we refer to those abstract concepts that our (capability of) reason extracts out of the facts of understanding and that it then reflects on a purely intellectual level.  A simple, yet effective example are the (arithmetic) numbers(8)   with which we count and out of which we form mathematical "principles".  Also, all logic belongs here.

The second component of traditional metaphysic form the "great questions as to meaning" of mankind; for example, Aristotle thought about the "highest (form of being", thus "God", and therefore, this component also covers all religions, but also all existential philosophy and other intellectual speculations, and speculations about "existence", as, for example, those of Hegel, Schopenhauer and Heidegger.  From this follows that we have to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate metaphysic, since, of course, it is quite correct and permissible to ponder the great questions of existence; however, to connect them to suppositions -- as all religious thinking does -- and that can not be connected to anything that actually exists, necessarily leads to inappropriate metaphysic.  I shall return to this later.

We actually already encounter these two different possibilities of metaphysic at the time of their emergence, with Plato (as, for example, in his "cave allegory"(9), and with Aristotle and his empirical examination of natural phenomena.  What both have in common is that they value the meaning of existence higher than that which exists.  They consider the fleeting forms less valuable than their essential being, their "essence", their "ideal concept" -- and that not only holds true for this ancient Greek concept; rather, we encounter it also in Taoism or Buddhism, in which the actually existing of the here and now are so devalued as mere illusion, that Buddhism only values highly the act of fleeing from this world into Nirvana.

Why is that so? Well, in order to gain an understanding of this, we have to postulate a theory as to how the human mind arrives at such findings that, in comparison to the previous level of knowledge at the level of understanding was of such a revolutionary nature that, at least in the Western world, we described this era as a "turning point" in time and that, with some degree of justification, as we will see.

Meanwhile, it has become generally known that all areas of the brain are connected to each other and that only by working together, they create what we call awareness; of course, this happens in a certain sequence, particularly in that sequence in which these areas developed, one after another; moreover, the area or part of the brain that was developed last, the neo-cortex, is the most important part to us, since only with it, human awareness emerged.  Therefore, we should try to differentiate the different activities of the brain and to develop a model as to how these various parts might cooperate with each other, which, ultimately, enables us to think about it here, today, and which enables us to communicate in the way in which only human beings can communicate.

The illustration aims at connecting with each other, in a complex manner, the functional layering of the human mind -- thus as it, in its ontogenesis as well as in its phylogenesis, developed sequentially -- and the various specific activities, achievements or capabilities, as well as the cultural epochs connected with them.

Illustration 2

Regarding the construction of the brain and of the limbic system
see the Page by Uwe Multhaup at the University of Wuppertal

You can see the various (brain) capabilities of man and those of preceding life forms, out of which man eventually developed, layered on the one hand, phylogenetically, and, on the other hand, ontogenetically and functionally, one on top of the next, from instinct to emotion (the limbic system, see illustration 2) to understanding and reason.  The separation of the last two capabilities will, hopefully, still become clear to you, since I particularly base my concept of metaphysic on it.

The purpose of all of these capabilities is the informational processing of signals that emanate from the senses respectively from the body and that are supposed to cause certain ways of acting respectively of reacting.  According to today's understanding, for the transmission of these signals, the thalamus is of central importance (see illustration 3), through which all signals run.  Signals only make sense when they can be coordinated with memory content that has been acquired on a genetic or sensory basis.  Insofar, certain memory areas are assigned to sensory centers in the appropriate sequence (therefore, the enormous increase in size of the human neocortex ...).  In turn, these memory areas are aligned with each other both in a parallel and in a feedback manner.  Central in this is emotion, the limbic system that evaluates on the basis of emotion -- since, every storage in the brain is connected with a corresponding positive or negative evaluation by this "emotion potentiometer", and the stronger the evaluation is, the easier it will be recalled.  At first, emotion evaluates the individual sensory signals that are thus related to the characteristics of outer things.  In the event that these evaluations can be reflected upon (by the "brain owner"0, then this individual [life form] is aware of its emotions, as we can, for example, observe it in "cats and dogs." The actual new "genius" of emotion [the limbic system] lies in the individual evaluation of emotions; only with it, life rises above an "automated state", in which neurotransmissions are accessed and then reflected upon, with the result that individual emotions control the actions and reactions of life forms.

Illustration 3
The central position of the thalamus and its connections to the neocortex
Bade on Francis Crick, Was die Seele wirklich ist, Rowohlt TB Verlag, Reinbek 1997.

Via homo habilis and homo erectus, a certain species of primates gained an enlarged brain volume, up to the "cultural explosion" of about 50,000 years ago that is still not understood, today; -- certainly, various factors worked together here, genetically, and, above all, epigenetically: man's ability to stand upright, and with it, having his hands free, the increasing function of which required a constantly growing control and storage area in the brain, and going "hand in hand" [sic!] with it the use of tools, increasing communication within groups for the purpose of the tradition of these techniques and the coordination of behavior [patterns], that, ultimately, led to the transformation of animal sounds into language, and with it, to the [development of] the understanding of man. 

The speed of this development could, above all, have to do with the fact that, according to our newest findings, control sequences that have been acquired epigenetically through outside influences, can, according to our newest findings, actually be inherited through the maternal line, after all.

However, what is understanding?  In our human sense, things only appear to us after our brain has performed a vertically integrating act on the part of its capability of understanding: through the gathering and/or collecting of various characteristics of different sensory results into one "effect carrier".  This combination receives one term and is then represented in a particular area of the brain and is evaluated by the brain's capability of understanding, in combination with its capability of emotion.  Hence, grammar is the coordination of these terms and, with it, the "conquering" of the world through language, as understanding. To use an image:  Words are the torches in the light of which things actually appear to us.

At this junction, there also appears that which man calls his "ego".  The capability of understanding to identify things as "effect carriers" leads, per se ipsum, also to man's ability of recognizing himself, his own person, as an "effect carrier" and as a "center of action" and of his finding a specific term for it:  the "ego" or "I" as carrier and "owner" of self-awareness, including feeling, as well as the data storage by the brain capability of understanding.  We can observe that this type of homo sapiens,. from the earliest signs of his culture on, thus from approximately 50,000 years ago on until the time up to and including Egyptian culture, developed his capability of understanding until, approximately at 800 BC, in the already mentioned "axis" period, the first signs of the emergence of the human capability of reason emerged, in ancient Greece quite concretely with the pre-Socratean thinkers, from Thales to the Sophists -- who, justifiably, are therefore called the first "enlightened" thinkers.

This emergence of reason in the world can be understood as a reflection upon the data of understanding, facilitated by the development of cross-connections between the ancient cultures.  Western culture and art as a culture of reason began with the immigration and settlement of ancient-Greek migrants in Asia minor.  From there, located in the strategically important sphere of influence of several power centers, they necessarily came into contact with all cultures of their time -- with the Lydian, the Babylonian, and the Persian cultures, as well as with the Phoenician, Cretan and Egyptian cultures.  Thus, not by accident, there developed, from Asia minor, moving into ancient Greece, philosophy and the "new" art, simultaneously.  The independent reception of the data of understanding, in conjunction with the encounter of all of the knowledge of the time, allowed for the decisive step towards reason, to draw conclusions, from the observation of the typical, to the underlying essence. In this vein, pre-Scoratean thinkers searched for the one cause of all that exists, and that they, in alternation, thought to have found in the four elements air, fire, water or earth.  And in art, it was realized that a specific trait or characteristic can be traced back to a special and essential task, and that this specific essence, in its function, and  form can, in itself, be executed differently, and also that not every individual version of an essential trait or characteristic is equally suited for the task that it is supposed to fulfill, since the emerging capability of reason could not only, as understanding does, grasp the external directly and understand it along the lines of its typical trait(s), but rather, at the now vertically opening level of awareness of reason, the essential characteristics of things could be isolated and compared.  At the same time, this meant that individuality could be heightened to an ideal.   The capability of abstraction separates and sorts out everything that is coincidental and consciously concentrates on the essential, that which is generally applicable, contrary to the unconscious abstraction that was done by the sensory organs and by understanding.  All this led, with respect to the history of ideas and concepts, via dialectics, to ethics -- and in this way, in Ancient Greece, China and India, philosophy emerged in individual forms.

What, then, is metaphysic?  Metaphysic is when reason, in its reception  and reflection, adds the "essential or essence" to existence, thus the "ideas" and "eternal forms" that it lifts up into the open realm of reason, as "essence" of things, from the isolated pattern recognition that arose out of an examination of the data of understanding.  The ancient Greek word for truth, a-letheia, shows us that ancient Greeks did not experience the "essential" truth of reason as a reflecting abstraction but rather as a receptive uncovering of that which was covered, namely "true existence", identical with the "re-cognition" in Plato and the ascending path of recognition in his "cave metaphor" and in the "Symposion".  Reason conditions the thus-gained facts of existence under its own term and, with it, in the elevation of the "essential" into the realm of reason, the sensually bound existence, it charges it ethically, ideally and in new religiosity, with its own intensity.  This act of "charging" can be divided as follows:

1. into appropriate qualitative elevations of relationships through reason, in the communication of the existing when it, in connecting back to the data of understanding, uncovers the terms of the essential.

2. into fantastic idealizations, be that with respect to religion, be that with respect to the "mind", thus when reason, without the basis of the data of understanding, loses itself in unfounded speculations.  More on this later.

In order to illustrate this new way of perception at the point of its emergence, let us consider some quotes in which both the abstraction as well as the independent emergence of reason is captured and expressed:

Plato's Concept of Ideas

Abstraction (ancient-Greek form of dialectic)
Denn der Mensch muß nach Gattungen ausgedrücktes begreifen, welches als Eines hervorgeht aus vielen durch den Verstand zusammengefassten Wahrnehmungen. Und dies ist Erinnerung von jenem, was einst unsere Seele gesehen. ["For man has to comprehend that which is expressed in categories that emerges as one out observations that have been collated by understanding.  And that is the memory of that which our souls have once seen." (Phaidros 249b,c)

Predominance of the Idea, Concept of the Idea as Partaking
Mir scheint nämlich, wenn irgend etwas anderen schön ist außer jedem Schönen an sich, es wegen gar nichts anderem schön sei, als weil es Teil habe an jenem Schönen, und ebenso sage ich von allem. ["It appears to me that, if something is beautiful to others other than the beautiful as such, it can not be beautiful for any other reason that it partakes in that which is beautiful, and thus I speak of everything."] (Phaidon 100c)

Aristotle's Metaphysic

Es gibt eine Wissenschaft, die das Seiende als Seiendes (insofern es ist) untersucht und das ihm wesenhaft Zukommende. (Met. 1003 a 21;  "There is a science that examines the existing as the existing (insofar it is) and that which can be attributed to it as its essence").

The Divine and Reason
Die Vernunfttätigkeit an sich aber geht auf das an sich Beste, die höchste auf das Höchste. Sich selbst erkennt die Vernunft in der Teilnahme am Intellegiblen; denn intellegibel wird sie selbst, den Gegenstand berührend und erfassend, so dass Vernunft und Intellegibles dasselbe sind. Denn die Vernunft ist das aufnehmende Vermögen für das Intellegible und das Wesen. Dies festhaltend wirkt sie [ihre Wirklichkeit] ... und die Betrachtung ist das Angenehmste und Beste. Wenn sich nun so gut, wie wir zuweilen, der Gott immer verhält, so ist er bewundernswert, wenn aber noch besser, dann noch bewundernswerter. So verhält es sich in der Tat. Auch ist er gewiss Leben; denn der Vernunft wirkende Tätigkeit ist Leben, jener aber ist die wirkende Tätigkeit, seine wirkende Tätigkeit an sich ist bestes und ewiges Leben. Wir sagen, dass der Gott das beste und ewige Lebewesen sei, daher kommt dem Gott Leben und ununterbrochene und ewige Zeitdauer zu: denn dies ist der Gott. ... Dass es also ein ewiges, unbewegtes, von dem Sinnlichen getrennt selbständig existierendes Wesen gibt, ist aus dem Gesagten klar ... Das erste Wesenswas hat aber keinen Stoff, denn es ist wirkende Vollendung ... Sich selbst also erkennt die Vernunft, wenn anders sie das Beste ist, und die Vernunfterkenntnis ist Erkenntnis ihrer Erkenntnis. (Met. 1050 a 21; "The capability of reason aims at the best as such, the highest at the highest.  Reason recognizes itself in partaking of the intelligible, for it, itself, becomes intelligible, touching and grasping the subject, so that reason and the intelligible are one and the same.  For reason in the receiving capacity for the intelligible and the essence.  Capturing this, it works [its reality] . . . and observation is the most pleasant and the best.  When now, the God, as we sometimes, always behaves well, it is admirable, but if He is even better, then He is even more admirable.  Thus it is, indeed.  Also, He certainly is life, since the working of reason is life, and He is the working activity, his working activity as such is the best and eternal life.  We say the the God is the best and eternal being, therefore, to the God should be accorded life and uninterrupted and eternal time: for this is the God. ... That therefore, there exists an eternal, immovable, independently existing entity that is separated from the sensual, becomes clear from what has been said. ... Alas, the first essence of being is not physical, since it is active perfection. ... Thus, reason recognizes itself, since otherwise, it is the best, and the realization of reason is the realization of its realization).

We see -- and this is, psychologically, quite understandable:  This emergence of reason in man is being experienced as an active elevation; the capability of reason considers itself to be immensely superior to that of understanding, since, with it, entirely new perspectives open(ed) up regarding the world and man.

With this validation of his (capability of) reason and with its establishing itself and its gaining superiority in tradition, man came under the pressure of the self-made ideal of reason, up to the "almighty and all-good God" -- that is the actual reason for the turning-point in time and the power of the effect of the newly-emerged monotheistic religions, including a devaluation of the sensual and of profane things as "illusion", as, for example, in Buddhism.

Ultimately, this still applies to Kant who, on account of it, de-valued everything emotional and who only allowed for the "duty of reason" and who even demanded a "duty to love"; he defined metaphysic as follows:  "Die Hauptwissenschaften, die in die Metaphysik gehören, sind: Ontologie, Kosmologie und Theologie... Die Ontologie ist eine reine Elementarlehre aller unserer Erkenntnisse a priori, oder: sie enthält den Inbegriff aller unsrer reinen Begriffe, die wir a priori von Dingen haben können... Die Kosmologie ist die Weltbetrachtung durch die reine Vernunft... Die letzte metaphysische Hauptwissenschaft ist die rationale Theologie." ["The main sciences that belong to metaphysic are:  ontology, cosmology, and theology . . . Ontology is the purest, most elementary theory of all of our knowledge a priori, or: it contains the very essence of all of our pure concepts that we can have of things, a priori. . . . Cosmology is the contemplation of the world through pure reason. . . . The last metaphysical discipline is rational theology."](10)

Here, too, we find the two main areas of metaphysic: ontology and theology, scientific world consideration and mere sensual speculation.


IV. Appropriate and Inappropriate Metaphysic: The Relationship of Philosophical Ontology, Religion and Speculation

Something like metaphysic -- in the course of the further cultural development of humanity, later, perhaps, under a different term -- will always be engaged in, since the aim of this development lies both out in the open and in the dark.  With an increasing knowledge of themselves and of the world, humans will also change their thinking with respect to the assumptions that ontology and philosophy are trying to arrive at, with respect to the nature of man and the world.  At present, we are particularly experiencing this in science's encroaching upon philosophy, with science even trying to make us believe that brain research will be able to replace philosophy; on the other hand, we can also see that such firmly held beliefs as the impossibility that epigenetically acquired capabilities and traits can be inherited are losing ground.  At the same time, we have lost our former implicit understanding of being tied to the meso-cosmic universe, ever since, from the beginning of the 20th century, with Planck and Einstein, the abstract and difficult concept of microcosm as well as the theory of relativity in the macrocosm, have far surpassed general human comprehension.  In my next presentation entitled "From Thales to Einstein", I shall try to discuss this matter in more detail.

Therefore, there will always exist some form of appropriate metaphysic, in the context of which the basic relationship of man and the world will be comprehended and described; in most modern philosophical concepts, from analytical philosophy to critical rationalism, this is not doubted.  With respect to this, it will be crucial whether, through abstraction and reflection, thinkers will be able to extract structures from the existing in an appropriate manner or whether our fantasy will have invented such assumptions without any basis in reality.  The path of the development of the human mind is strewn with such fables from religion and philosophy, particularly also Plato's Concept of Ideas from the beginning of metaphysic, in which the thought structures that were found took on a life of their own and grew into the "One Divine Principle" and led to Monotheism.  At the same time, all laws of nature also owe their emergence to this thought process -- we are not calling them "laws" by accident that would imply a "law maker" ...

Well, an appropriate metaphysic will primarily relate itself to an empiricism of the senses (and their aides), so that it will not "hover above the waters" without being connected to anything; on the other hand, a purely materialistic empiricism is not enough, since with it, psychic and cultural phenomena can not be adequately understood.  Therefore, for example, Popper introduced his 3-world-ontology with (1) the physical and organic world, (2) the realm of acts and states of consciousness/awareness (the connection between body and soul), and (3) the realm of abstract content (ideas and theories -- "objective mind").  Our Honorary President, Hans Albert, also argues along these lines, when he also excludes inappropriate metaphysic as it is reflected in religions of all kind:

"... es geht um die Rivalität zwischen einer durch die Resultate der modernen Wissenschaften geprägten Metaphysik und einer religiös geprägten Metaphysik, die mit der ersteren nicht vereinbar erscheint."  [Albert writes here about the rivalry between a form of metaphysics that has been shaped by the results of modern sciences and a form of metaphysic that is based on religion, which, to him, can not be reconciled. ](11)  Modern metaphysic can therefore only be possible on the basis of and in connection with the best and most recent results of science at any given time, which would require a constant close cooperation between philosophy and science.   Yet another and, in my opinion, excellent viewpoint is presented by the Argentinean-Canadian philosopher Mario Bunge, whom I came across for the first time in Morgenstern's book; you can read my review of this book by accessing it via this link.   With his "Emergentistischen Materialismus" ["emergentistic materialism"], that, as Albert, emanates from critical rationalism, Bunge presents a naturalistic-materialistic view of the world that is opposed to a body-soul dualism, but that, at the same time, also rejects a radical respectively reductionist materialism.   To him, philosophy and science are two different paths of arriving at conclusions -- on the basis of the evaluation of accumulated facts -- that complement each other: Both are interdependent, since it is also speculation that is an important motor of science, as a way of arriving at new findings, along the open path of that which is imaginable.

By reconsidering the various basic thought concepts of the ancient Greeks we can see that some of their purely speculative assumptions have later been scientifically proven -- by the way, even this shows us the connection between reception and reflection in the arc of metaphysic --, and we, too, if we do not want to stop the epigenetic-cultural development of humankind, will not be able to forego speculation, rather, we should develop hypotheses in true "Popper" style that can be tested, at least as to whether they, in light of already accumulated and confirmed knowledge and facts, can, in a rational manner, solve the problem that they claim to be able to solve.  Due to this, Bunge -- and I agree with him -- decidedly rejects the big bang theory in a sense of its emerging out of nothing; to him, such an "absolute" emergence is magic and theology, on the one hand, and on the other hand, such a "theory" that, due to the fact that it can not be verified (after all, we do not know anything about this "nothing" and will never be in a position to know anything about it) is , as I would, at least, say, precisely such a kind of immunized metaphysic as religions are, as well. Even if physicists state that, with respect to the big bang, their laws are not in effect, respectively that we can not know what existed before the big bang, then this also holds true of "God" himself, and are, in no respect, different from a "negative theology".

What to me, is, above all, important in Bunge's approach is, the "emergentistic" moment: "Jede neue Ebene – genauer: jedes neue komplexe System – weist emergente Eigenschaften und ... Gesetzmäßigkeiten auf, die bei dessen Komponenten allein nicht auftreten. .... So sind etwa Lebewesen auch physikalische Dinge, aber sie sind nicht nur physikalische Dinge, sondern besitzen zahlreiche supraphysikalische Eigenschaften, die nicht Gegenstand der Physik sind. Daher können System auf höheren Ebenen auch nur partiell, aber nicht vollständig auf niedrigere Ebenen reduziert werden." [Bunge writes here that every new level, or, more precisely, very new complex system, shows emergent characteristis and laws that, in its components, do not appear separately. ... Therefore, living beings are also physical entities, but not only physical entities; rather, they also have numerous supra-physical characteristics that are not part of physics.  Due to this, in his opinion, systems, at a higher level, can only partially, but not completely, reduced to lower levels].  This is also what my graphic illustration of the various emergent steps of life's evolution and its way of information processing, from the 'Vegetativum' via instinct, emotion to understanding and reason is intended to show.   In this way, ultimately such metaphysical hypotheses have become possible in which evolution comprehends itself, so that man can now actively become involved in it.   Whether and how the human "sorcerer's apprentice" should do this is one of the many open questions.   At the same time, the much-discussed "end of metaphysic", to express it differently:  the "age of nihilism", or still differently: reason that has now become totally instrumentalized and that has been reflected through -- in a manner parallel to that in which, at one time, understanding has been reflected through -- all this points to the possibility that the "end of reason" does not have to be the end of the path of intellectual development, but rather, that there could exist phenomena and ways of viewing things in the existing that might allow for a further, emerging step of development beyond reason



(1) „Dublin, September 1944. E. S.“, see preface, p. 29-30 to „Was ist Leben?“, Piper Verlag, Munich-Zurich, Internet: http://www.philoscience.unibe.ch/lehre/sommer05/Doppelhelix/ schroedinger.pdf

(2) FOCUS Online of November 29, 2008, http://www.evolutionsbiologen.de/focusonline291108.pdf

(3) Internet article from Bild der Wissenschaften of February 4, 2009: „DNA ist nicht alles. Kinder können Jugender-fahrungen ihrer Mutter erben.“ [The title of the article infers that DNA is not everything and that children can inherit experiences from the youths of their mothers] under http://www.wissenschaft.de/wissenschaft/news/300144.html

(4) Internet article from Bild der Wissenschaften of February 16, 2009: http://www.wissenschaft.de/ wissen-schaft/news/300539.html

(5) Walther Rathenau (1867-1922) still wrote, justifiably: „Denken heißt vergleichen“ ["To think means to compare"].

(6) Lamarck (1744 Picardie - 1829 Paris):
„Erstes Gesetz: Bei jedem Tiere, welches den Höhepunkt seiner Entwicklung noch nicht überschritten hat, stärkt der häufigere und dauernde Gebrauch eines Organs dasselbe allmählich, entwickelt, vergrößert und kräftigt es proportional der Dauer dieses Gebrauchs; der konstante Nichtgebrauch eines Organs macht das-selbe unmerkbar schwächer, verschlechtert es, vermindert fortschreitend seine Fähigkeiten und lässt es endlich verschwinden“ [The first law: In every animal that has not yet developed beyond its own scope of development, the frequent and constant use of an organ strengthens this gradually, enlarges and strengthens it in proportion to the duration of its use; the constant non-use of an organ makes it unnoticeably weaker, worsens it and gradually minimizes its capabilities and finally lets it vanish].

„Zweites Gesetz: Alles, was die Individuen durch den Einfluss der Verhältnisse, denen ihre Rasse lange Zeit hindurch ausgesetzt ist, und folglich durch den Einfluss des vorherrschenden Gebrauchs oder konstan-ten Nichtgebrauchs eines Organs erwerben oder verlieren, wird durch die Fortpflanzung auf die Nachkom-men vererbt, vorausgesetzt, dass die erworbenen Veränderungen beiden Geschlechtern oder den Erzeu-gern dieser Individuen gemein sind.“ ["Second Law:  Everything that individuals, on account of the influence of the circumstances that their race is exposed to, over a long time, and, consequently, through the influence of the predominant use or non-use of an organ, inherit or lose, is passed on through procreation to its offspring, provided, that the acquired changes is common to both genders or the progenitors of these individuals"] (http://www.univie.ac.at/science-archives/wissenschaftstheorie_2/lamarckevo.html)

(7)See the sub-title of Nietzsche's "Götzendämmerung" of 1889: „Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert“ ["How one philosophizes with a hammer"].

(8) Probably, the necessity of counting is one of the strongest motivators for abstraction, since, over time, the, at first, representative individual numbers, during the process of counting, become independent, particularly when written down and also on account of the contracting modes in which they are noted down.

(9) Please not also the fact that, only from the times of reason on, "parable" is used for illustration of a point and that the entire New Testament, in many important statements of the faith of its founder, consist of such image-driven ways of conveying ethical and religious precepts .

(10) Vorlesungen über die Metaphysik, 2nd edition, pursuant to the Erfurt edition of 1821, edited by Dr. K. H. Schmidt, Buchverlag Pflugbeil, Roßwein 1924

(11) H. Albert, Kritischer Rationalismus, Tübingen 2000, p. 143

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