Talk:metaphysics

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Does Definition 2 make sense to anyone?[edit]

Definition 2 was added without comment by an anon on January 19/07:

The ancient science of philosophy, meaning a science that takes a scientific approach to philosophical and theoretical beliefs.

This definition makes no sense to me. Does anyone support it? I think it should go. -- WikiPedant 19:27, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

Following discussion on the Wiktionary:Requests for verification page, I removed the definition described above and rewrote this entry. -- WikiPedant 13:28, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Moved from WT:RFV[edit]

Definition 2 was added without comment by an anon on January 19/07:

The ancient science of philosophy, meaning a science that takes a scientific approach to philosophical and theoretical beliefs.

I am an academic in the field of philosophy and this definition makes no sense to me. Does anyone support it? I think it should go. -- WikiPedant 13:38, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

Perhaps the definition itself was intended to be metaphysical, in the sense used by OED2's definition 2: abstruse, confusing, or (deliberately) deceptive form of reasoning or discussion ;-) Certainly, none of the OED2 definitions seem to support our def 2, but beyond that I am not qualified to comment! More seriously, I find the first definition somewhat opaque. Are you able to improve it to be more understandable to those of us who are not philosophers? --Enginear 19:32, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I'm prepared to delete the current defn 2 and rework defn 1, but thought it best to post here first and see what more experienced contributors think. I'll hold off for another week or so. -- WikiPedant 19:51, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
Added by an anon who, political views aside, also had trouble defining soul and spirit. DAVilla 19:35, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Okay, I have now rewritten this entry and removed the rfv tag. -- WikiPedant 03:20, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Your expansion of the etymology of metaphysics[edit]

Hello Atelaes -- Thanks for expanding the etymology of metaphysics. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely comfortable that all of what you said is accurate, or at least uncontroversial. You wrote that Aristotle's Metaphysics is so "titled because Aristotle believed that ontological philosophy should come after natural philosophy (φυσικά)" and added "contrary to common belief, the μετά in this case simply means 'after' and not 'beyond'."

I am not an authority on Aristotle. However, I'm pretty sure that scholars do not agree on precisely what significance to give to the selection of the name Metaphysics for this work, but that there is one fairly common school of thought that the name indicates no more than that this work came after the works on physics in the system which ancient librarians used to organize them. (This bit of Aristotle lore is recounted here, in Wikipedia.) I'm particularly uncomfortable with your statement that "Aristotle believed...". Do you have any sources which show, beyond reasonable disputability, that Aristotle expressed such a belief? Respectfully -- WikiPedant 13:38, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

A very reasonable critique. However, I do not believe that anything that was put into the etymology was in any way controversial. I checked two different etymological dictionaries and the OED and all three agree with everything I put into the entry. The statement about Aristotle believing science should come before philosophy was made by Asclepius. Now, I admittedly don't know who that is, and am trying to look into that. However, making statements about what philosophers from 2000 years ago believed is sketchy at best, this I will certainly admit. I think it would be more than reasonable to reword that statement. Perhaps once I track down who this Asclepius chap is, we could reword it to say "Asclepius claims that Aristotle thought such and such" or something like that, which would be a bit more factual. However, past that, from what I can tell, everything else about the etymology has pretty much uniform support among scholars. By all means please try and find a reasonable paper or book which contradicts it, and I will be happy to include the alternate point of view in it. In addition, I'll drop a line to Widsith, one of our top (probably the top) etymology people on Wiktionary and see if he knows anything. Atelaes 16:32, 27 April 2007 (UTC)
Hi Atelaes, I'm no expert on this branch of science but I've had a look into the word. First of all this whole discussion may be in the wrong place, since the English word metaphysics came directly from metaphysic, which is perhaps where this argument should be. That aside, it doesn't seem to me that you and WikiPedant disagree on much. The OED, who have researched this rather more thoroughly than I have, comment as follows:
Post-classical Latin metaphysica is first attested in 6th cent. in Boethius De Interpretatione Aristotelis (where it is emended by Meiser to μετὰ τὰ φυσικά), and is common from about 12th cent. The earliest evidence for Byzantine Greek μεταφυσικά is also from the 6th cent. In both Latin and Greek it is used as the title of a work by Aristotle. In the 6th cent. it appears also as μετὰ τὰ φυσικά. It is probable that in early copies of the 6th cent. Greek sources there was little or no word division or accentuation, so μεταφυσικά as a work title, originally two words, came to be treated as one word. Asclepius in his commentary on the Metaphysics says that Aristotle thought that ontological philosophy should be taught after natural philosophy, and that this explains why the work is entitled μετὰ τὰ φυσικά ‘After the Physics’. Asclepius does not say who first gave the work that title; modern scholars sometimes assume that the title goes back to Eudemus of Rhodes (later 4th cent. B.C.), who, according to Asclepius, produced an edition of the work. The explanation which Asclepius offers for the title of the work receives support from the fact that, as Porphyry (3rd cent., in In Aristotelis Categorias Expositio) and some later writers make clear, Aristotle's Categories was sometimes called πρὸ τῶν τοπικῶν or πρὸ τῶν τόπων ‘Before the Topics’.
As a work title μετὰ (τὰ) φυσικά can be found in apposition to either a feminine singular article, or to a neuter plural article. Olympiodorus (6th cent.) uses the title with both neuter plural and feminine singular articles within a few lines of each other, and in both cases treats μεταφυσικά as indeclinable. Simplicius (6th cent.) provides the first clear case where the title is treated as a declinable feminine singular noun (τῆς μετφυσικῆς), and metaphysica is usually treated as a declinable feminine singular noun in post-classical Latin.
The title came to be used as the name for the branch of study treated in these books, and hence came to be interpreted as meaning ‘the science of things transcending what is physical or natural’. This interpretation is first recorded in (?Pseudo-)Basil of Caesarea Enarratio in Prophetam Isiam 5.162 τὰ τῆς φυσιολογίας ἀνώτερα π ροκόψσας, τά καλούμενα παρά τισι μεταφυσικά. In scholastic Latin writers this interpretation was general (being reinforced, perhaps, by the known equivalence of the prefixes meta- and trans- in various compounds: see META-); and in English its influence is seen in the custom, frequent down to the 17th cent., of explaining metaphysical by words like ‘supernatural’, ‘transnatural’, etc. Cf. METAPHYSICS n. 3, and METAPHYSICAL a. II.
Only the singular form [i.e. metaphysic – Widsith] appears in English before the 16th cent., prob. because post-classical Latin metaphysica was usually treated, as far as can be discerned, as a feminine singular noun (see above). In the 17th and 18th cent. it was largely superseded by METAPHYSICS n. (as was PHYSIC n. by PHYSICS n.), although in the 19th cent. the singular again began to be preferred by many philosophical writers (prob. after German Metaphysik).
In summary, I agree with you that meta here means simply ‘after’; but I agree with WikiPedant that we should be careful about saying what Aristotle himself may or may not have believed. Widsith 19:49, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

I have expertise in the field of philosophy and continue to be uncomfortable with the portion of the "Etymology" which contains speculative material concerning Aristotle's views and the origin of the term. Following the discussion above and with, I think, at least guarded support from Widsith, I have now been bold and removed the controvertible portion of the "Etymology" section. -- WikiPedant 13:28, 14 May 2007 (UTC)