Metaphysical vs. the Man-Made

An important difference exists between the rules that govern existence (the metaphysical), and the rules that men create to govern themselves (the man-made). This should be obvious, but confusion of the two has led to all kinds of problems. The problems stem from not clearly differentiating between those things men need to do, and those things man chooses to do.

The first common problem is the belief that the man-made is metaphysical. The important distinction here is that rules that men choose are not necessary. That they are chosen. For instance, any particular law is chosen. This is not to say it's chosen without reason. Many laws are. But the fact that a choice is made is important to remember. Often people believe that things are the way they are, and nothing can change it. If it is man-made, though, this is wrong. It still may be difficult to change, but it is possible. This error is usually an excuse not to act. It assumes a difficult task is an impossible task, which allows the person to remain free of guilt, since morality requires a choice between alternatives.

The second common problem is the belief that the metaphysical is man-made. This error is usually made in the field of ethics when the assumption is made that a man can act any way that is physically allowed to him. For instance, a man can be completely selfless, but this is ultimately destructive. The metaphysical fact being ignored is that death would follow shortly. That man, in order to live, must act in his own interest to further his life. One cannot defy reality without consequence.


Copyright 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands