On Metaphysical Necessity
“Metaphysics addresses the question of existence or “being.” No one has said it better than Jean Paul Sartre, who has said that the basic philosophical question is that something is there rather than nothing is there. Nothing that is worth calling a philosophy can sidestep the question of the fact that things do exist and that they exist in their present form and complexity. This is what we define, then, as the problem of metaphysics, the existence of being.”
I am aware that this definition of metaphysics is woefully inadequate. Glance at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “It is not easy to say what metaphysics is…”
Nevertheless, one must return with me for a moment to 1972. I was twenty years old and discovered Francis Schaeffer. His style of prose was, and remains, direct and incisive. At the time I had just become a Christian and had many questions about everything. I’ve always had a philosophical bent and finding Schaeffer was a Godsend. Hence, though much has happened in philosophy since 1972, this question, which he posed so succinctly spoke directly to me. Schaeffer expands on the significance of metaphysics when he raises the issue of “worldview;” that is, how one grapples with the problem of existence is foundational to how one sees or understands the world. Now, we have seen, as Sartre put it, the issue is that something exists rather than it does not. Which leads to another question, “How do we account for this mystery we call “being”? Schaeffer gives us three options, which to this day, I still find compelling.
- Everything that exists has come out of nothing, or as Schaeffer puts it, “nothing nothing…Suppose we had a very black blackboard which had never been used. On this blackboard we drew a circle and inside that circle there was everything that was – and there was nothing in the circle. Then we erase the circle. This is nothing nothing.”
- A second answer is that all that is exists came from something which is impersonal; that is pure energy, mass or motion. As someone who endorsed the New Age movement, at least for a time, I can say this is what animates the New Age movement; that all that is can be explained by arising from an impersonal something. Further, men and women, must trace their beginnings to this impersonal force, be it energy, mass and motion + chance. Humankind is here by chance. This is the theory of evolution. Perhaps the greatest problem with this explanation is it doesn’t explain human personality. Human beings are PERSONS. How do we come to have such creative, artistic, musical, scientific and logical minds from energy + chance? To reply “The Theory of Evolution” begs the question. How does the theory of evolution explain this? I do not believe it does, nor cannot.
- The final answer to existence is that it came to be from something that is PERSON. Yes, there is energy, mass and motion, but there is a Divine Person who has not only set life in motion, but attends to it, as a gardener their garden.
As to the mystery of being, I end this note with Dostoevsky’s insight, “You ache with it all; and the more mysterious it is, the more you ache.”
In Blood Sapphire’s Revenge, Staff Sergeant Haddy Abrams is one to whom the metaphysical ache is alive and with it, the loss of personal meaning.
1 Schaeffer, Francis A. He Is Not There And He Is Not Silent. Tyndale, 1972, 1.
2 van Inwagen, Peter and Meghan Sullivan, “Metaphysics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2021/entries/metaphysics/.
3 Schaeffer, He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 4.
4 Ibid., 7.