MWP video 5a: What’s wrong with metaphysics

Metaphysics (or absolutisation, or dogma) is the type of belief avoided in the practice of the Middle Way. This type of belief is deeply damaging because of the way it blocks alternative views, creates polarisations, and prevents provisional judgement. Philosophy has maintained metaphysics by arguing it in the abstract, on the basis of unexamined assumptions, in narrow contexts. It is time for a psychological critique of metaphysics to be more widely heard and to contribute to the practice of the Middle Way. This is a tributary video to no. 5 on agnosticism.

This is the 17th video in the Middle Way Philosophy introductory course

Some suggested reflection questions:

1. Think of an example of a metaphysical belief ( or set of beliefs) that you have encountered. Can you identify the common features of metaphysics mentioned in the video in relation to it? (As a reminder, these are rejection of polar opposite, repression of alternatives, assumption of correspondence between words and truth, assumption of absolute information source, use of absolute boundaries, and acceptance defining of a group.)

2. When people debate for or against the metaphysical belief(s) you’re considering, what sorts of psychological states do they normally seem to be in?

3. Can you hold open the possibility of an alternative to a universally accepted categorial claim like 2+2=4? (That doesn’t mean you can imagine an alternative!).

4. What sorts of metaphysical beliefs tend to have the most unhelpful effect on your life? (Remember that these can include rigid assumptions, positive or negative, about yourself, your relationships and your immediate environment, as well as more explicit ideological beliefs).

Suggested further reading:

Middle Way Philosophy 1: The Path of Objectivity, section 1

Middle Way Philosophy 4: The Integration of Beliefsections 3 and 4 (these sections offer a detailed survey of types of metaphysics considered both in relation to cognitive biases and in relation to philosophical positions).

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