Commonsense as the Universal Acid That Eats Through Metaphysical Speculation

In the following two brief points I wish to state my current metaphysical position after my investigations.

I’ve has listened to many sides of philosophical debate and have come to the position (not the conclusion, since philosophy often, although not always, appears immune to this) that commonsense intuition is the universal acid of metaphysics. By universal acid I mean the standard that metaphysics must be judged against and that, when done so, tends to eat through all metaphysical speculation.

First point. It is commonsense that leads me to conclude the following: that there is a world of objects and other minds external to my mind (as opposed to solipsism), that the external world consists of material objects (as opposed to idealism/George Berkley), that there is causality (as opposed to David Hume), that the laws of logic are immune to rational disproof (as opposed to some in post-colonial theory), that words and language do refer to reality/the world (as opposed to post-modernism/Jacques Derrida), and that truth is what corresponds to reality (as opposed to post-modern relativism).

Second point: There are possible exceptions to my standard of commonsense as a universal acid. I mention two, although there possibly are more. For example, it is, to me, commonsensical to affirm moral realism (that certain acts are objectively evil, e.g. rape, genocide, etc. and good, e.g. charity, helping the oppressed and vulnerable, etc.) instead of moral relativism. However, morality is a product of evolutionary conditioning, so, although I do not reject a transcendent lawgiver (and in fact view socio-biological evolutionary conditioning as consistent with a lawgiver), moral realism is, from an empirical viewpoint, an illusion. Second, I am compelled to believe in free will (e.g. no external factors dictate what I freely decide) because it is commonsensical, but it is entirely possible, even true, that what I conceive of as a free will decision is determined wholly by environmental and genetic factors. These are two possible exceptions to commonsense being the standard to judge metaphysical positions. Moral realism and free will seem commonsensical, but perhaps should be questioned, if not rejected.

I believe that without commonsense being the standard by which we evaluate metaphysical and theological claims, we can fall into the trap of believing anything no matter how inconsistent it is when compared to our experience of the world.


One comment

  1. James, I have enjoyed your articles for a good five or so years now. Your brief synopses on the histories of various religions, personalities and philosophical ideas make for a great lunchtime read that is entertaining and enlightening.

    In this latest article, your conception of moral realism is more nuanced and practical than in the past. I am struck by your statement, “…moral realism is, from an empirical viewpoint, an illusion.” The point is one I attempted to illustrate, perhaps more clumsily, in the comments of one of your articles on the subject a number of years ago, to some hearty debate. The difference from your earlier position is subtle but significant. And, in my opinion, closer to “correspondence with reality.”

    I’ll continue to look forward to your articles.

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