Aristotle begins his first book of the Metaphysics with an iconic assertion: all human beings, by nature, desire to know. A justification for the study of metaphysics, it also comments on what drives us as humans, and why one ought to pursue knowledge in the first place. Basically, we just do. He then argues that metaphysics is not just valuable to study, but also that it is the most valuable thing to study, precisely because it has no practical application – a direct assault on how we value learning today. In this way, Aristotle is a bit of a Questie, in that he believes we should learn for our own sake, and not to exclusively do something with the knowledge (though this may also be a goal).
That aside, he moves on to examine the central question of his book, and of my Ancient Philosophy class here at Quest: What is being qua being? In different words, What does it mean for something, anything to exist? Other disciplines carve off small pieces of the world and examine them: math studies being qua magnitude; physics studies being qua motion; biology studies being qua life; and so on. Metaphsyics is the only subject that examines being in so far as it is being; and thus is the most general and precise science there is – the only subject that can allow you to know everything (in some sense).
How cool is that? Clearly, the answer is incredibly- through metaphysics you can literally (and not the way kids are using it today to mean figuratively [watch Archer], I mean literally) know everything. Because metaphysics, in examining the first causes of things in general, studies everything. Now this may sound suspect, but it does make sense if you dive deep enough into Aristotle’s metaphysics.
And if that wasn’t cool enough, we get to deal with funky sentences like this:
“Although unity belongs to all things, the thinghood of a thing belongs only to that thing, and thus unity is not primary being.”
That line is from an actual paper I wrote for this class. A lot of things go one in metaphysics (pun intended). We also get to come up with crazy examples, like this one from a group essay we wrote:
“Suppose, for instance, that a band of robbers is taking an afternoon stroll through the agora and it comes upon a well. At around the same time Cebes, the cat, who had consumed large quantities of wasabi the evening before, as was his habit, woke up thirsty. After having looked far and wide for some water to drink at home, he finally decides to go to the agora to quench his thirst. Moving towards the well, he encounters the robbers, who move to pet this beautiful cat. Unfortunately, in their eagerness, they push him in the well and he drowns.”
You see, Aristotle has this example of a guy dying ultimately because he ate spicy food, so we had to up the ante and deliver a better example for our essay. This is the kind of stuff you can do in metaphysics; not only is it the most profound and comprehensive of all the disciplines, but you can also come up with the most crazy examples to illustrate arguments.
And if that isn’t enough for you to have fun, it can also through you into existential crises. For example, in this class I am facing rejecting a primitive (natural classes) because it seems extra and sort of unjustifiable. The problem is, if I do this, then I destroy all science and I can’t even answer the question “Are there hats?” with “Yes”, which I really do not want to give up. Deep issues have arisen. But that is exciting, something to embrace, even the very reason why I desire to be educated at Quest.
So, moral of the story, Metaphysics = Megafun. Just don’t but into the new age metaphysics, for it is only metaphysics by equivocation (hah Aristotle jokes!!!).
Remember, if you want to pursue the best and most noble thing for you soul to do, pick up a copy of Aristotle’s metaphysics and educate yourself!