Aristotle referred to metaphysics as the “first philosophy.” A metaphysician or metaphysicist studies all things and how they relate. Whether the focus is ontological (loosely the study of everything in our physical world) or cosmological (the study and relationship of everything in the universe) metaphysics, both approaches clearly cover a wide swath of thought and study. Though the questions may be universal, the approaches in finding answers vary. Taoism (or Daoism) best represents the oriental tradition of thought employing metaphysics.
The Taoist does not believe in the “religion” of Tao, for Tao is not a belief system in the way Christianity, Judaism or other organized religions are. Tao is a path. A western analogy would be a Christian who seeks the truth of the Christ teaching in everyday occurrences, sans the influence of dogmatic rhetoric, seeking purity of path versus strict adherence to ritualistic demonstrations.
Tao is the flow of the universe; metaphysicians study the flow. Metaphysicians studying in the oriental tradition have used the Tao Te Ching for guidance in meditation and study. Now, it would be a mistake to refer to oneself as a Taoist, for “The name that can be named is not the constant name” (Tao Te Ching). The naming of a thing limits it, the definition subverting it. Lao Tzu on the Tao Te Ching: “The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao.” The metaphysician avoids limiting terms and realizes that naming is itself contrary to the path.
Eastern metaphysicians seem to study the “first philosophy” from a more earth centered, individual, ontological perspective than western metaphysicians tendency towards the cosmological. However, when dealing with metaphysical thought, we are each the captains of our own journey to enlightenment, so whether eastern or western, the journey is the destination.
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