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Question by Bob: What is the difference between metaphysics and ontology?
I’ve heard Metaphysics defined as the study of being and Ontology defined as the study of existence. The difference between being and existence seems minimal to me. I’m probably missing something.

Best answer:

Answer by unprotected tnt
For a long time I did not know the difference between ontology and metaphysics. I thought they were basically the same thing. But then while doing some research I came along this view: Ontology, along with cosmology, are two subjects of metaphysics. Ontology studies the nature of existence, or “being qua being,” and cosmology studies the nature and origins of the universe. A good way to illustrate the difference between cosmology and ontology is to look at the cosmological and ontological arguments for the existence of God – they are both trying to prove the same thing, but in two different ways.

Now, for Objectivism, I guess it is safe to assume that ontology and metaphysics are interchangeable. Rand effectively banished cosmology from metaphysics on the grounds that it was properly the concern of science and not philosophy. I can kinda see where she’s coming from. However, cosmology (philosophy) deals with very broad, abstract principles that I don’t think science by itself would be able to answer (the nature of space, time, causality, etc.).

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

2 Responses to What is the difference between metaphysics and ontology?

  • Gorgeous Beast (2) says:

    Ontology is solely concerned with the question “what exists?”
    Metaphysics is a little more vague, and can include questions like “why do things exist” and “What is existence.” Ontology is a branch of metaphysics.

  • 12 Syllogisms says:

    “Ontology is the branch of metafysics that focuses on what entities and qualities are, how to distinguish between them, and how to categorize relationships between entities, as well as the various states under which various entities and their relationships may be classified. Ontology is an extremely young science, as Ayn Rand did not live long enough to initiate its development, and Reginald Firehammer is still, as of this writing, working on a fundamental treatise to explicate it. Within this work, it will be my task to develop ontology to a level necessitated by the discussion of a branch of metafysics which is derivative from ontology, namely, cosmology.

    “Rand identified three fundamental axioms which are inextricably attached to each other, and are demonstrated unceasingly in everything that exists:

    Existence- Something is. If no thing existed, nothing could be observed!
    Identity- Something is. Whatever is, is something in particular, i.e., has a certain definite nature.
    Consciousness- We can perceive what is. The observer exists and so does the faculty by which he perceives what exists.

    “Ontology makes the distinction between entities, the things that exist, and qualities, the attributes that these things have. The filosofer Reginald Firehammer states three fundamental ontological corollaries to the axiom of identity in his essay, “Perception.” The ontological corollaries answer the question: “What is an entity?”

    The first corollary of identity: Anything that exists must have some qualities.

    The second corollary of identity: Anything that exists must be different in some way from everything else that exists and have some quality or combination of qualities no other existent has.

    The third corollary of identity: Anything that exists must have some relationship to everything else that exists.

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