The Possibility of Metaphysical Knowledge and Insight Part 1

The Possibility of Metaphysics (by Graham P. Smetham): Abstract: Although the title of this focus issue is ‘The Possibility of Metaphysics’ the first part has as its focus not only metaphysics in general but Buddhist metaphysics in particular. This is because the motivation for this focus issue was sparked by an email from a colleague who asked for my opinion of a book written by Robert Ellis. The aspect of the ‘experimental metaphysics’ of quantum theory is examined in detail in the first article "The Matter of Mindnature" The Buddhist metaphysical viewpoint tells as the nature of ultimate reality is best understood as a fundamentally interrelated and interpenetrating field of Mind-like energy, or Mindnature, and such a view is clearly supported by the quantum violation of Bell’s inequalities.

In this article I examine Ellis’s notion of the impossibility of metaphysics in the light of both philosophical considerations and the implications of the quantum evidence. The next article "Taking the‘Meta’ Out of Physics" is Ellis’s response to my criticisms of his work. I leave it to readers to come to conclusions without further comment from me. It is my hope that there will be feedback concerning the issues raised as I am personally convinced that Ellis’s position is untenable but am curious to know whether my viewpoint is widely held. Certainly the last two articles from James Kowall, ‘What is Reality in a Holographic World?’, and Brian Whitworth, ‘Introducing The Virtual Reality Conjecture’, seem to support my position.

The Matter of Mindnature: Bell’s Theorem Tolls for Dogmatic ‘Middle Way’ Scepticism and Rings Out for ‘Experimental Metaphysics’ and ‘Quantum Mindnature’ (by Graham P. Smetham): Abstract: In recent years there has developed a movement in the West which seeks to convince people that the original teachings of the Buddha were far more mundane than his later followers would have us believe. An extreme recent example of this is the book The Trouble with Buddhism in which Dr. Robert Ellis claims that every Buddhist who has ever lived has been ‘scandalously” confused about the central doctrines of Buddhism, especially the ‘Middle Way’ philosophy, which is a central teaching of all Buddhist schools. He also claims that if one takes Humean scepticism ‘seriously’, as he thinks one should do, it follows that it is impossible to know anything with any certainty. Metaphysics therefore become a ‘foolish’ dream. In fact according to Ellis it is “foolish” to think that quantum physics supplies “evidence about the universe itself.” This article considers Ellis’s claims regarding metaphysics and physics in detail, particularly focusing on the implications of the quantum violation of Bell’s theorem, in order to show that we must be sceptical of extreme scepticism.

Taking the ‘Meta’ out of Physics: A response to Graham Smetham’s ‘The Matter of Mindnature’ (by Robert M. Ellis): Abstract: In this response to Graham Smetham’s criticisms, I defend the approach of metaphysical agnosticism on philosophical grounds. Pyrrhonian (agnostic) sceptical approaches are distinguished from Academic ones and shown not to be contradictory provided one does not begin with unnecessary metaphysical assumptions. The burden of proof needs to be put on those who make metaphysical claims rather than those who stick to experience as a point of reference, and falsification involves a provisional, not an absolute, process of elimination of theories that do not fit the evidence. Smetham’s appeals to certain results from quantum physics as exceptional are shown to be unacceptable on the grounds that no scientific observation can confirm metaphysical claims that lie beyond their scope. A wider psychological, moral and linguistic context is given for the argument that we should avoid the adoption of a metaphysical framework of understanding.