The Five Branches of Philosophy

Metaphysics

Metaphysics deals with the nature of nature, the underlying nature of reality. While physics deals with describing and modeling the physical processes of nature, metaphysics deals with the nature of these processes in relation to an overall understanding of reality. Philosophy picks up where science leaves off in this regard.

An objective metaphysics means that reality exists apart from any consciousness perceiving it. Consciousness is of course a distinctive part of reality. Yet consciousness is qualitatively different than what it observes via the senses. That is why we call it consciousness.

Understanding an objective metaphysics, as opposed to a subjective, relative, social, or mystical (i.e., supernatural) one, enables us to ground ourselves in a realistic view of the world.

Epistemology

Epistemology deals with the nature of knowledge—what it is, how it is derived, and how it is validated. These are inarguably the most important questions for our species, for without correct answers to them we are at best misguided and at worst self-destructive.

A rational epistemology depends on an objective metaphysics: It is the job of consciousness to grasp its surroundings as well as the nature of reality (i.e., develop principles, laws, and so forth). Without a firm and knowable reality that contains no contradictions, reason would not be a valid and reliable method of comprehension.

Reason is the process by which we utilize sense data that is integrated into perceptions. From there we conceptualize this information. We check it with other ideas and with our experiences. The method by which we can accomplish this process without major error is logic.

Ethics

Ethics deals with both the theoretical and practical aspects of moral codes and moral systems. Values and virtues are defined and outlined with ethical theory.

Since ethics does not occur in a vacuum, we have to ask what its purpose is. By grasping an objective metaphysics and a rational and logical epistemology, we can discover the proper ethics for rational beings such as ourselves.

An ethics of rational self-interest is justified and validated on the basis of its service to each person’s life and well-being. This acknowledges our independent existence. We each think and feel for ourselves. No one else can do this for us. By the same token, no one can make our choices of values and virtues. We can only default in the matter and rely on others for guidance.

An ethics of rational self-interest does not ask for sacrifices of any kind—either of self to others or of others to self. By understanding what is objectively in our self-interest as human beings, we can develop win-win relationships based on exchange and appreciation of values and virtues.

Politics

Politics deals with human relations on the societal level. Alone in a desolate area, one has no need for politics. Only when we find or place ourselves in civilization does politics become an issue.

An individual rights based politics is one in which people treat each other in a voluntary fashion. Except for the institution of justice (rectifying wrongs, remedying rights infringements) force is banned as a way to enact change or control people.

Rights can only be violated by the instruments of force (be it overtly physical, or by means of fraud and extortion). Only when a person’s will is nullified by such tactics does an injustice occur.

An individual rights based politics requires and presupposes a society that upholds and respects property rights. Individuals must have legal right to the entities they possess, so that they can use and/or dispose of them in the marketplace and create capital. Of course, the most personal of property is one’s own self.

Esthetics

Esthetics deals with the nature of beauty and artistic expression. Because we are conceptual beings, we can understand reality in a way that other animals cannot. We can appreciate human achievement and strength of character, for example. Or simply a wonderful sunset.

In accordance with the values and virtues we have adopted, and the subconscious premises we have integrated, we determine various things to be artistic. We respond and are moved by many things in our lives, but ultimately our tastes about what is beautiful and what is not, what is inspiring and what is not, what touches our deepest essence and what does not, depends on our psychological makeup as well as personal context.

If we embrace an objective metaphysics and a code of morality in service to our well-being and happiness, then our value-judgments of art will be self-affirming and life-affirming.