The Real Journey
What do people mean when they say that something is metaphysical? In the public mind, metaphysics is often thought of in terms of a "metaphysical realm" that is separate from the physical reality we observe with our senses. God and the soul, for example, are generally thought to exist in this metaphysical realm. Some people say they don't believe in anything "metaphysical," and by this they mean they don't think there is a metaphysical realm. But people who don't think there is a metaphysical realm do in fact believe in something metaphysical. [...] Without a metaphysical theory, one would have to believe that nothing really exists, even physical objects.
Metaphysical theories have enormous power because they help explain the world and resolve differences between people. Often, these differences are about social and moral issues. But how can a metaphysical theory about the nature of the world explain morality? One must include in their metaphysics a theory about how humans fit into the world. This typically involves a philosophy of mind based on whatever metaphysical proposal one makes. Social rules and morality are usually tied to one's philosophy of mind in one way or another.

Unfortunately, metaphysical theories have as much power to cause conflict as they do to help resolve differences. Sometimes, people encounter a problem in their life - social, personal, or professional - and they cannot solve the problem using any of the resources they have available. [...] [A]s the world grows and changes, theories are sometimes unable to provide answers to new problems. When that happens, some people despair, some people provoke conflict, and some people journey in search of better theories.

Should a good theory be whatever makes one happy? What if abusing other people's human rights makes someone happy? Wouldn't an objective theory be better? Wouldn't it be better to know about the world in a way that doesn't rely on someone's opinion? Some people say that an objective theory can be called the "truth." So, anyone journeying in search of a better metaphysical theory should search for the truth, right?

[W]hat happens if the entire world accepts a theory as true, and then new information is discovered that makes it false? What happens when a theory accepted as true causes people to suffer? What if another theory also claims to be true? Wouldn't that cause the kind of conflict we set out to avoid? If two or more theories appear to be true, then which one is objective? Is there such a thing as objectivity?

When I began this project in 1996, I began a journey in search of what I hoped would be a genuine scientific proposal. Like most of the scientists and philosophers discussed [at], I hoped even back then that it was possible for humanity to reach a common understanding about certain issues. [...] I think [] goes a long way toward that goal. [...] But it is a difficult search, and that is evident in the fact that [the] essay [featured at] is incomplete and contains errors. It is a substantial improvement over earlier versions. I hope you enjoy it.

NEXT is Part III of IV...
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