Are you in a universe which is ruled by natural laws and, therefore, is
stable, firm, absolute—and knowable? Or are you in an incomprehensible
chaos, a realm of inexplicable miracles, an unpredictable, unknowable flux,
which your mind is impotent to grasp? Are the things you see around you
real—or are they only an illusion? Do they exist independent of any
observer—or are they created by the observer? Are they the object or the
subject of man’s consciousness? Are they what they are—or can
they be changed by a mere act of your consciousness, such as a wish?
The nature of your actions—and of your ambition—will be different, according
to which set of answers you come to accept. These answers are the province of
metaphysics—the study of existence as such or, in Aristotle’s words, of
“being qua being”—the basic branch of philosophy.