In the process of intellectual discourse lately, I was trying to explain the origin of the term metaphysics. It comes to us from Aristotle who used this term as the title of the sequel to the book he wrote called Physics. The term Metaphysics was literally that which is beyond Physics, meaning what is next.
By the time Aristotle was writing, the tradition of Greek philosophy was only two hundred years old. It had begun with the efforts of thinkers in the Greek world to theorize about the common structure that underlies the changes we observe in the natural world. Two contrasting theories, those of Heraclitus and Parmenides, were an important influence on both Plato and Aristotle.
Heraclitus argued that things that appear to be permanent are in fact always gradually changing. Therefore, though we believe we are surrounded by a world of things that remain identical through time, this world is really in flux, with no underlying structure or identity. By contrast, Parmenides argued that we can reach certain conclusions by means of reason alone, making no use of the senses. What we acquire through the process of reason is fixed, unchanging and eternal. The world is not made up of a variety of things in constant flux, but of one single Truth or reality. Plato’s theory of forms is a synthesis of these two views. Given, any object that changes is in an imperfect state. Then, the form of each object we see in this world is an imperfect reflection of the perfect form of the object. For example, Plato claimed a chair may take many forms, but in the perfect world there is only one perfect form of chair.
I really like this example since it uses the classic example of the idea of chair becoming the non-idealized form. This idea is illustrated by Lon Milo Duquette gracefully in the Chicken Qabala. I think the difference between the theories of Heraclitus and Parmenides is some of the struggles that we are currently experiencing politically in this country.
I ascribe to systems theory and believe that everyone has a personal, limited perspective and we all sense the world through varied senses, lenses, and interpretative senses. I think many interpretations are valid and useful. Many people come to different conclusions based on their own system of values. This does not make any one conclusion better or more right than another. When these conclusions are hurting other people, that is where the line is drawn. Furthermore if the belief becomes maladaptive and is hurting the person holding the belief to the point they are distressed, decompensating, or not able to function is when those beliefs have to be reevaluated.
With this said, I am concerned that the idea that there is one truth and one form of reality lends itself to people arrogantly assuming they are right and everyone else is wrong. I like that there are people with different foci on reality and the human experience. I like that people live according to different perspectives and values. I enjoy getting to know how they see things and learning from them. Only that way can we learn more of the bigger picture. I think the desire to see the world as valid from other people's perspectives is one of the keys to multiculturalism and embracing diversity.
My main point here is that different does not correlate with righteousness or wrongness. This idea is a major limitation of black and white thinking. How can anyone assume that they have more information and are less mistaken and more right than someone else? To take the stance of debunking or refuting someone else's reality is to set up divisiveness and refute the wisdom of the shadow. Only through embracing and integrating differences can we fully know what it is to be human. The embracing is an illuminating inside job. To become human, we must do so collectively.