Introduction to Metaphysics


First man: What do you do for a living?

Second man: I am a carpenter.

First man: What did you do before that?

Second man: I was a minister.

First man: That's really interesting. You started out as a minister and have become a carpenter. Jesus started out as a carpenter, and later became a minister. Tell me, is there anything which Jesus made that still exists?

Second man: Is there anything that exists which he did not make?

First man: Now you're getting into metaphysics!

    The term "metaphysics" was coined by Aristotle to refer to one of the five categories of philosophy, the others being Logic, Esthetics, Ethics, and Politics. Literally the word means "after physics," i.e. it came after the study of the physical world which was the subject of main interest to Aristotle. In contrast to his mentor, Plato, who stressed abstract universal ideas, Aristotle majored in the concrete particulars of the natural world, and reasoned deductively from those particulars to universals.

    Aristotle developed the system which is the basis for biological classification in the modern world. He reasoned inductively from his observations of the particulars, to universal ideas. The ultimate in Aristotle's inductive reasoning was his argument from the principle of motion which he observed in plants, animals, and men, that there had to be a prime Mover who was himself unmoved.

    Metaphysics, then, is the study of first principles and includes Ontology, the study of being; Cosmology, the study of the universe, its structure and origin; and Epistemology, the study of knowledge and how it is perceived.