Empirical science vs. metaphysics / philosophy


What are some really ‘deep’ thoughts?


. The truth is the whole (Hegel)

.Consciousness is the whole of reality (advaita).

. Causation, space, and time are unreal (advaita).

. The microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm – ‘As above so below’. Hermetism.

. If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite (William Blake).

. The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it. (Jesus).

. People forget the reality of the illusory world. (Huang Po).

. There is neither birth nor dissolution; nor aspirant to liberation nor liberated nor anyone in bondage. That is the ultimate truth. (Gaudapada).


E.A. Those are not deep (at least not by themselves). Just vague or simply wrong.

The truth is the whole. – Umm, what? The whole of what? Like, everything? But then, the truth would be also a lie? But that doesn’t make any sense. Or that the truth is only the whole truth? Well, ok, but that’s not really deep. We all know that half-truth is not a truth.

Causation, space, and time are unreal. – What? And why is that exactly? That doesn’t even make any sense. For example, thoughts are processes, so they require time. Also, no space and no time would mean that there is no diversity, which is obviously not true. I’m not even going to talk about causation. Who the hell came up with this?

As above so below. – That is so vague it can mean everything if we try hard enough. Quotes that can mean everything are not deep.


A.M. Are paradoxes meaningful? They seem contradictory or meaningless (like the ones by Huang Po and many other Eastern and Western sages). Sages frequently use paradoxes, analogies, stories, and even jokes. The samples I listed are not science, common sense, or philosophy (or jokes!): they are DEEP THOUGHTS – and more than just thoughts… What do you say about the one by William Blake – does it make sense? I repeat, they are not science or philosophy – they are metaphysical, or intuitions if you will, greater than which humanity has not come up with.


E.A. Humans love to look for patterns or meaning, so there will never be any quote that we would perceive as totally “meaningless”. But true deepness comes from profound understanding of something, be it political issues, art, science, psychology or anything else, not from saying something ambiguous and hoping people will fill the nonsense with their own thoughts.

What do I say about the one by William Blake? I say I have no idea what he tried to say, but this one is not self-contradictory or plainly wrong, so maybe (or maybe not) it would become understandable if I knew the context. Out of context it’s just impossible to understand, but that’s not Blake’s fault.


A.M. Evidently you leave philosophy out as a potential giver of meaning, perhaps without realizing its importance in the development of ideas, including scientific ideas, since the early Greek period. Originally science went under the name of ‘Natural philosophy’, and now we have philosophy of science, political philosophy, etc. Is there no meaning whatsoever inhering in them – just a useless endeavour? I can’t understand how you can ignore, even deprecate, such universal, enduring, and fruitful enterprise. Are you not aware of Heisenberg, Eddington, Shrödinger and other prominent physicists of this past century and their immersion in (mostly) Eastern philosophy and metaphysics? About Blake, you can easily find out the context from which he spoke, but you will have to make a minimal effort and have a minimal interest in order to do so. Wikipedia is there for that purpose.


E.A. I don’t leave philosophy anywhere, I just point out that some of those quotes are horribly imprecise, self-contradictory or just untrue. If that would be all philosophy has to offer, then it would be probably right to leave it.

Fortunately, it’s not… Two philosophical “deep thoughts” I can think of off the top of my head, that aren’t just masquerading the lack of meaning as deepness would be “I think therefore I am” and “Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills”. Philosophy gave us logic, so I fail to see how I “leave philosophy out” when I use it.


A.M.  Agree but, as with thinking, there is good, self-consistent and elucidating, philosophy and bad philosophy. The two examples you provide are actually imprecise and thus unhelpful. The Cartesian divide has been much criticized by most philosophers ever since Descartes



27.5.17  www.quora.com/Does-science-nullify-the-study-of-metaphysics/answer/Alberto-Martín-2


3 thoughts on “Empirical science vs. metaphysics / philosophy

  1. I admire your patience, Martin – reminds me of some of the ‘discussions’ I had with neo-Advaitins on one of the discussion groups many years ago. I can sympathize with your disputant but any discussion, if it is not to be a waste of time, has to be a joint effort of looking for, and moving towards the truth. What we have here sounds like what Advaita calls vitaNDA, where the sole puspose is to defeat the opponent.

  2. This was a discussion or debate in a wide open forum (Quora) followed by thousands of people of very different backgrounds, ages, and interests. If I posted it here is because it has enough substance in it – some deep thoughts (for me they are) – and the different reactions to them coming from usually intelligent and educated (many of them young) people. There are several really competent contributors in all genres, and also quite a few readers (probably hundreds of them) interested in advaita/nonduality (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.). Yes, my interlocutor was a contrarian type (or block, as you say in England), but he wanted (or pretended) to be philosophical. Who can determine when and how time has been wasted?

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