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Epistemology is a fascinating study that deals with “ways of knowing” and the limits of a given methodology to support beliefs. Metaphysics investigates phenomena beyond (meta=above, larger than, encapsulating) the so-called “laws” of scientific inquiry into our physical universe: cause-and-effect, repeatable experiments, and the like. How do we “know” that the sun will rise tomorrow? We “know” because we believe the astronomers since Galileo, who say that the earth is a globe spinning and circling the sun, etc. How does a child know the sun will come up tomorrow? (And note the subtle difference in wording—the sun doesn’t “come up” according to astronomers.) Because the child believes what he or she has been told by the parents. How do we know that there is a heaven and a hell? Because we believe in the interpretation our religious leaders have made of the Holy Bible (even though we may not “know” Aramaic or Greek).
How do we “know” there are metaphysical angels, spirits, and other “metaphysical” creatures? Not because of the non-metaphysical scientific arguments—those arguments are insufficient to “prove” their existence; that is, the epistemologist claims they are beyond the method of science to “prove.” Science’s epistemology demands a physical presence.
In the Renaissance, an event required “ocular proof”; that is, it had to be seen to be considered “proof “ (Hamlet’s father’s ghost, for example, had to be seen for Hamlet to believe it, but he then feared that “the devil” may have tricked him—a clear example of two epistemological methods conflicting.) So metaphysics relies on a different epistemology from science, but is nevertheless a “way of knowing.” How do we “know” it is “wrong” to kill? We may “know” it be religion, by the “Golden Rule”, by the laws of the country, by a “gut feeling,” by our parents’ teaching, by a moral code imbedded in our culture, etc.—all “ways of knowing” and all with their own limitations. How do we know someone is rich? By their tax returns, balance sheets, bank account, etc.—the epistemology of accounting—or by the automobile he drives, the clothes he wears, the jewelry he buys, the cruises he takes on his yacht, etc.—the epistemology of consumption.
How do we know there are metaphysical angels watching over us? By the myriad witness reports, the miracles of survival, the Biblical mentions, the paintings in innumerable museums, the feeling of peace when we ask for the Almighty’s help, etc. Epistemology treats all these “ways of knowing” as legitimate study, even though the non-metaphysicalist (scientist) may dismiss them as “not proven.” Metaphysicalists could dismiss the atomic theory on the grounds that “we don’t feel it.”
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