We’ve had a century in which philosophy and its life-long partner, metaphysics, have been divorced. The result has been an abandoning of the big questions and the age of nihilism that had to be a necessary consequence of such a rupture. In fact we could define nihilism as a condition in which the big questions are not allowed to be asked. What we gain from this separation is a certain liberation from theological speculations and so many of the absurd dogmas and superstitions that religions propagate, but- what we lose is a serious vision of existence and our direction forward. In short, we lose our meaningfulness in the deep sense. “Vanity of vanities” was the great nihilistic statement.
Nevertheless, metaphysical thinking hasn’t ceased, in fact it’s healthier than ever in what are the most unlikely places: in the halls of science. It is the scientists – the quantum physicists and cosmologists – who are now speculating on the origin of things and all the multiplicity that has grown from that origin like never before. An example of this can be seen in this TED talk by Brian Greene:
or this other by Martin Rees:
It is this scientific community now who are obsessed with the big questions: what are we?; where have we come from?; where are we going? Ideas of fine tuning in the universe, or multiverse, leave fertile ground for religious thought, but the new ideas are usually coming forward from atheists who see no real, scientific reason for wavering from their godless universe conceptions. A multiverse idea implies that if there have been endless amounts of universes, eventually one of them will have to work. In an infinity, our existence is a mathematically certainty.
But this reduction, or expansion, of our necessary reality created by the mathematical necessities of infinity doesn’t have to diminish the meaningfulness of our existence. Even if purpose is accidentally formed, when we find it we must not only acknowledge it, but embrace it and rejoice in it.
Real purpose may lie in something as simple as: Being is in our perception of it. Philosophy has always hovered around this point: a point that became quickly confused and obfuscated by the idea of God.
For philosophy to be able to think metaphysically again God had to be removed from the equation. Metaphysics had to be separated from God not annihilated along with God’s elimination.
However, it seems that metaphysics is a stronger element than 20th century philosophy credited it to be and new metaphysical and teleological theories are being born in quantum and cosmological discoveries. This metaphysical renaissance of meaning into the fabric of science must bring about a return to the idea of philosophy in its purest form… the pre-Socratic purity of the big questions.