Metaphilosophy (sometimes called philosophy of philosophy) is "the investigation of the nature of philosophy". Its subject matter includes the aims of philosophy, the boundaries of philosophy, and its methods. Thus, while philosophy characteristically inquires into the nature of being, the reality of objects, the possibility of knowledge, the nature of truth, and so on, metaphilosophy is the self-reflective inquiry into the nature, aims, and methods of the activity that makes these kinds of inquiries, by asking what is philosophy itself, what sorts of questions it should ask, how it might pose and answer them, and what it can achieve in doing so. It is considered by some to be a subject prior and preparatory to philosophy, while others see it as inherently a part of philosophy, or automatically a part of philosophy while others adopt some combination of these views. The interest in metaphilosophy led to the establishment of the journal Metaphilosophy in January 1970.
Although the term metaphilosophy and explicit attention to metaphilosophy as a specific domain within philosophy arose in the 20th century, the topic is likely as old as philosophy itself, and can be traced back at least as far as the works of Plato and Aristotle.
Some philosophers consider metaphilosophy to be a subject apart from philosophy, above or beyond it, while others object to that idea. Timothy Williamson argues that the philosophy of philosophy is "automatically part of philosophy", as is the philosophy of anything else. Nicholas Bunnin and Jiyuan Yu write that the separation of first- from second-order study has lost popularity as philosophers find it hard to observe the distinction. As evidenced by these contrasting opinions, debate persists as to whether the evaluation of the nature of philosophy is 'second order philosophy' or simply 'plain philosophy'.
Many philosophers have expressed doubts over the value of metaphilosophy. Among them is Gilbert Ryle: "preoccupation with questions about methods tends to distract us from prosecuting the methods themselves. We run as a rule, worse, not better, if we think a lot about our feet. So let us ... not speak of it all but just do it."
The designations metaphilosophy and philosophy of philosophy have a variety of meanings, sometimes taken to be synonyms, and sometimes seen as distinct.
Morris Lazerowitz claims to have coined the term 'metaphilosophy' around 1940 and used it in print in 1942. Lazerowitz proposed that metaphilosophy is 'the investigation of the nature of philosophy'. Earlier uses have been found in translations from the French. The term is derived from Greek word meta μετά ("after", "beyond", "with") and philosophía φιλοσοφία ("love of wisdom").
"The distinction between philosophy and metaphilosophy has an analogue in the familiar distinction between mathematics and metamathematics."— Paul K. Moser, Metaphilosophy, p. 562
"When we ask, "What is philosophy?" then we are speaking about philosophy. By asking in this way we are obviously taking a stand above and, therefore, outside of philosophy. But the aim of our question is to enter into philosophy, to tarry in it, to conduct ourselves in its manner, that is, to "philosophize". The path of our discussion must, therefore, not only have a clear direction, but this direction must at the same time give us the guarantee that we are moving within philosophy and not outside of it and around it."— Martin Heidegger, Was Ist Das--die Philosophie? p. 21
Some other philosophers treat the prefix meta as simply meaning 'about...', rather than as referring to a metatheoretical 'second-order' form of philosophy, among them Rescher and Double. Others, such as Williamson, prefer the term 'philosophy of philosophy' instead of 'metaphilosophy' as it avoids the connotation of a 'second-order' discipline that looks down on philosophy, and instead denotes something that is a part of it. Joll suggests that to take metaphilosophy as 'the application of the methods of philosophy to philosophy itself' is too vague, while the view that sees metaphilosophy as a 'second-order' or more abstract discipline, outside philosophy, "is narrow and tendentious".
Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote about the nature of philosophical puzzles and philosophical understanding. He suggested philosophical errors arose from confusions about the nature of philosophical inquiry. In the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein wrote that there is not a metaphilosophy in the sense of a metatheory of philosophy.
C. D. Broad distinguished Critical from Speculative philosophy in his "The Subject-matter of Philosophy, and its Relations to the special Sciences," in Introduction to Scientific Thought, 1923. Curt Ducasse, in Philosophy as a Science, examines several views of the nature of philosophy, and concludes that philosophy has a distinct subject matter: appraisals. Ducasse's view has been among the first to be described as 'metaphilosophy'.
Henri Lefebvre in Métaphilosophie (1965) argued, from a Marxian standpoint, in favor of an "ontological break", as a necessary methodological approach for critical social theory (whilst criticizing Louis Althusser's "epistemological break" with subjective Marxism, which represented a fundamental theoretical tool for the school of Marxist structuralism).
Paul Moser writes that typical metaphilosophical discussion includes determining the conditions under which a claim can be said to be a philosophical one. He regards meta-ethics, the study of ethics, to be a form of metaphilosophy, as well as meta-epistemology, the study of epistemology.
Many sub-disciplines of philosophy have their own branch of 'metaphilosophy', examples being meta-aesthetics, meta-epistemology, meta-ethics, meta-ontology, and so forth. However, some topics within 'metaphilosophy' cut across the various subdivisions of philosophy to consider fundamentals important to all its sub-disciplines. Some of these are mentioned below.
Some philosophers (e.g. existentialists, pragmatists) think philosophy is ultimately a practical discipline that should help us lead meaningful lives by showing us who we are, how we relate to the world around us and what we should do. Others (e.g. analytic philosophers) see philosophy as a technical, formal, and entirely theoretical discipline, with goals such as "the disinterested pursuit of knowledge for its own sake". Other proposed goals of philosophy include "discover[ing] the absolutely fundamental reason of everything it investigates", "making explicit the nature and significance of ordinary and scientific beliefs", and unifying and transcending the insights given by science and religion. Others proposed that philosophy is a complex discipline because it has 4 or 6 different dimensions.
Defining philosophy and its boundaries is itself problematic; Nigel Warburton has called it "notoriously difficult". There is no straightforward definition, and most interesting definitions are controversial. As Bertrand Russell wrote:
"We may note one peculiar feature of philosophy. If someone asks the question what is mathematics, we can give him a dictionary definition, let us say the science of number, for the sake of argument. As far as it goes this is an uncontroversial statement... Definitions may be given in this way of any field where a body of definite knowledge exists. But philosophy cannot be so defined. Any definition is controversial and already embodies a philosophic attitude. The only way to find out what philosophy is, is to do philosophy."— Bertrand Russell, The Wisdom of the West, p.7
Philosophical method (or philosophical methodology) is the study of how to do philosophy. A common view among philosophers is that philosophy is distinguished by the ways that philosophers follow in addressing philosophical questions. There is not just one method that philosophers use to answer philosophical questions.
Recently, some philosophers have cast doubt about intuition as a basic tool in philosophical inquiry, from Socrates up to contemporary philosophy of language. In Rethinking Intuition various thinkers discard intuition as a valid source of knowledge and thereby call into question 'a priori' philosophy. Experimental philosophy is a form of philosophical inquiry that makes at least partial use of empirical research—especially opinion polling—in order to address persistent philosophical questions. This is in contrast with the methods found in analytic philosophy, whereby some say a philosopher will sometimes begin by appealing to his or her intuitions on an issue and then form an argument with those intuitions as premises. However, disagreement about what experimental philosophy can accomplish is widespread and several philosophers have offered criticisms. One claim is that the empirical data gathered by experimental philosophers can have an indirect effect on philosophical questions by allowing for a better understanding of the underlying psychological processes which lead to philosophical intuitions.
A prominent question in metaphilosophy is that of whether or not philosophical progress occurs and more so, whether such progress in philosophy is even possible. It has even been disputed, most notably by Ludwig Wittgenstein, whether genuine philosophical problems actually exist. The opposite has also been claimed, for example by Karl Popper, who held that such problems do exist, that they are solvable, and that he had actually found definite solutions to some of them.
David Chalmers divides inquiry into philosophical progress in metaphilosophy into three questions.
Its primary question is "What is philosophy?"
The philosophy of philosophy is automatically part of philosophy, just as the philosophy of anything else is...
The study of the most general and abstract features of the world and categories with which we think: mind, matter...
"Insofar as conceptual analysis is the method of philosophy (as it was widely held to be for much of the twentieth century), philosophy is a second-order subject because it is about language not the world or what language is about.
The important difference between the scientist and the philosopher is in the radically critical nature of philosophy. Husserl characterizes this difference by saying that the task of philosophy is to ask the ultimate questions...The philosophical questions can not be answered in the same way that empirical questions can be answered.
The sciences are in need of continual epistemological reflection and critique of a sort that only the philosopher can provide. ...Husserl pictures the work of the philosopher and the scientist as mutually complementary.
Antiphilosophy has been used as a denigrating word but recently it has acquired more positive connotations as an opposition to more traditional philosophy.
The views of Ludwig Wittgenstein, specifically his metaphilosophy, could be said to be antiphilosophy.Antiphilosophy is anti-theoretical, critical of a priori justifications, and
sees philosophical problems as misconceptions that are to be therapeutically dissolved.Axiology
Axiology (from Greek ἀξία, axia, "value, worth"; and -λογία, -logia) is the philosophical study of value. It is either the collective term for ethics and aesthetics, philosophical fields that depend crucially on notions of worth, or the foundation for these fields, and thus similar to value theory and meta-ethics. The term was first used by Paul Lapie, in 1902, and Eduard von Hartmann, in 1908.Axiology studies mainly two kinds of values: ethics and aesthetics. Ethics investigates the concepts of "right" and "good" in individual and social conduct. Aesthetics studies the concepts of "beauty" and "harmony." Formal axiology, the attempt to lay out principles regarding value with mathematical rigor, is exemplified by Robert S. Hartman's science of value.Internal monologue
An internal monologue, also called self-talk or inner speech, is a person's inner voice which provides a running verbal monologue of thoughts while they are conscious. It is usually tied to a person's sense of self. It is particularly important in planning, problem solving, self-reflection, self-image, critical thinking, emotions, and subvocalization (reading in your head). As a result, it is relevant to a number of mental disorders, such as depression, and treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy which seek to alleviate symptoms by providing strategies to regulate cognitive behaviour. It may reflect both conscious and subconscious beliefs.In some cases people may think of inner speech as coming from an external source, as with schizophrenic auditory hallucinations. Additionally, not everyone has a verbal internal monologue. The looser flow of thoughts and experiences, verbal or not, is called a stream of consciousness, which can also refer to a related technique in literature.
In a theory of child development formulated by Lev Vygotsky, inner speech has a precursor in private speech (talking to oneself) at a young age.Introspection
Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings. In psychology, the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one's mental state, while in a spiritual context it may refer to the examination of one's soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and is contrasted with external observation.
Introspection generally provides a privileged access to one's own mental states, not mediated by other sources of knowledge, so that individual experience of the mind is unique. Introspection can determine any number of mental states including: sensory, bodily, cognitive, emotional and so forth.Introspection has been a subject of philosophical discussion for thousands of years. The philosopher Plato asked, "…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are?" While introspection is applicable to many facets of philosophical thought it is perhaps best known for its role in epistemology; in this context introspection is often compared with perception, reason, memory, and testimony as a source of knowledge.Meta-epistemology
Meta-epistemology is a metaphilosophical study of the subject, matter, methods and aims of epistemology and of approaches to understanding and structuring our knowledge of knowledge itself.
In epistemology, there are two basic meta-epistemological approaches: traditional "normative" epistemology, and naturalized epistemology.
Traditional epistemology has been concerned with "justification". According to the traditional model of knowledge, some proposition p is knowledge if and only if:
some agent X believes p,
p is true,
X is justified in believing in pSince the time of Descartes, who sought to establish the criteria by which true beliefs could be acquired, and to determine those beliefs we are in fact justified in believing, the primary epistemological project has been the elucidation of the justificatory condition in this conception of knowledge (i.e. justified true belief).
Naturalized epistemology had its beginnings in the twentieth century with W. V. Quine. Quine's proposal, which is commonly called "Replacement Naturalism," is to excise every trace of normativity from the epistemological body. Quine wanted to merge epistemology with empirical psychology such that every epistemological statement would be replaced by a psychological statement.Meta-ethics
Meta-ethics is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes, and judgments. Meta-ethics is one of the three branches of ethics generally studied by philosophers, the others being normative ethics and applied ethics.
While normative ethics addresses such questions as "What should I do?", evaluating specific practices and principles of action, meta-ethics addresses questions such as "What is goodness?" and "How can we tell what is good from what is bad?", seeking to understand the nature of ethical properties and evaluations.
Some theorists argue that a metaphysical account of morality is necessary for the proper evaluation of actual moral theories and for making practical moral decisions; others reason from opposite premises and suggest that studying moral judgments about proper actions can guide us to a true account of the nature of morality.Meta-ontology
Meta-ontology is a term of recent origin first used by Peter van Inwagen in analyzing Willard Van Orman Quine's critique of Rudolf Carnap's metaphysics, where Quine introduced a formal technique for determining the ontological commitments in a comparison of ontologies.Metaknowledge
Metaknowledge or meta-knowledge is knowledge about a preselected knowledge.
For the reason of different definitions of knowledge in the subject matter literature, meta-information may or may not be included in meta-knowledge. Detailed cognitive, systemic and epistemic study of human knowledge requires a distinguishing of these concepts.
Meta-knowledge is a fundamental conceptual instrument in such research and scientific domains as, knowledge engineering, knowledge management, and others dealing with study and operations on knowledge, seen as a unified object/entities, abstracted from local conceptualizations and terminologies.
Examples of the first-level individual meta-knowledge are methods of planning, modeling, tagging, learning and every modification of a domain knowledge.
Indeed, universal meta-knowledge frameworks have to be valid for the organization of meta-levels of individual meta-knowledge.
Metaknowledge may be automatically harvested from electronic publication archives, to reveal patterns in research, relationships between researchers and institutions and to identify contradictory results.Metalogic
Metalogic (Greek [shaped after the English term] μεταλογική: μετά "follow on after"; here used for deeper causal analysis + λόγος "reason") is the study of the metatheory of logic. Whereas logic studies how logical systems can be used to construct valid and sound arguments, metalogic studies the properties of logical systems. Logic concerns the truths that may be derived using a logical system; metalogic concerns the truths that may be derived about the languages and systems that are used to express truths.The basic objects of metalogical study are formal languages, formal systems, and their interpretations. The study of interpretation of formal systems is the branch of mathematical logic that is known as model theory, and the study of deductive systems is the branch that is known as proof theory.Metaphilosophy (journal)
Metaphilosophy is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering metaphilosophy. It is abstracted and indexed by PhilPapers and the Philosopher's Index.Metaphilosophy was established in 1970 by Terry Bynum and Richard Reese. "Metaphilosophy" was given a working definition in the first issue of the journal as "the investigation of the nature of philosophy, with the central aim of arriving at a satisfactory explanation of the absence of uncontested philosophical claims and arguments." The journal is published by John Wiley & Sons and the editor-in-chief is Armen T. Marsoobian (Southern Connecticut State University).Metatheory
A metatheory or meta-theory is a theory whose subject matter is some theory. All fields of research share some meta-theory, regardless whether this is explicit or correct. In a more restricted and specific sense, in mathematics and mathematical logic, metatheory means a mathematical theory about another mathematical theory.
The following is an example of a meta-theoretical statement according to Stephen Hawking:
Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis; you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory.
Meta-theoretical investigations are generally part of the philosophy of science. Also a metatheory is an object of concern to the area in which the individual theory is conceived.Morris Lazerowitz
Morris Lazerowitz (October 22, 1907 – February 25, 1987) was Polish-born American philosopher and author.Pancritical rationalism
Pancritical rationalism (literally "criticism of all things", from pan-, "all", also known as PCR), also called comprehensively critical rationalism (CCR), is a development of critical rationalism and panrationalism originated by William Warren Bartley in his book The Retreat to Commitment. PCR attempts to work around the problem of ultimate commitment or infinite regress by decoupling criticism and justification. A pancritical rationalist holds all positions open to criticism, including PCR itself. Such a position in principle never resorts to appeal to authority for justification of stances, since all authorities are held to be intrinsically fallible.Philosophical methodology
Philosophical method (or philosophical methodology) is the study of how to do philosophy. A common view among philosophers is that philosophy is distinguished by the ways that philosophers follow in addressing philosophical questions. There is not just one method that philosophers use to answer philosophical questions.Principle
A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule that has to be or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the principles was to be ignored. A system may be explicitly based on and implemented from a document of principles as was done in IBM's 360/370 Principles of Operation.
Examples of principles are, entropy in a number of fields, least action in physics, those in descriptive comprehensive and fundamental law: doctrines or assumptions forming normative rules of conduct, separation of church and state in statecraft, the central dogma of molecular biology, fairness in ethics, etc.
In common English, it is a substantive and collective term referring to rule governance, the absence of which, being "unprincipled", is considered a character defect. It may also be used to declare that a reality has diverged from some ideal or norm as when something is said to be true only "in principle" but not in fact.Rationality
Rationality is the quality or state of being rational – that is, being based on or agreeable to reason. Rationality implies the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, and of one's actions with one's reasons for action. "Rationality" has different specialized meanings in philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, game theory and political science.
To determine what behavior is the most rational, one needs to make several key assumptions, and also needs a logical formulation of the problem. When the goal or problem involves making a decision, rationality factors in all information that is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge). Collectively, the formulation and background assumptions are the model within which rationality applies. Rationality is relative: if one accepts a model in which benefitting oneself is optimal, then rationality is equated with behavior that is self-interested to the point of being selfish; whereas if one accepts a model in which benefiting the group is optimal, then purely selfish behavior is deemed irrational. It is thus meaningless to assert rationality without also specifying the background model assumptions describing how the problem is framed and formulated.The All
The All (also called The One, The Absolute, The Great One, The Creator, The Supreme Mind, The Supreme Good, The Father, and The All Mother) is the Hermetic, pantheistic, pandeistic or panentheistic (and thus also panpsychism/monopsychism/unus mundus/anima mundi) view of God, which is that everything that is, or at least that can be experienced, collectively makes up The All. One Hermetic maxim states, "While All is in The All, it is equally true that The All is in All." The All can also be seen to be androgynous, possessing both masculine and feminine qualities in equal part.Thought
Thought encompasses an "aim-oriented flow of ideas and associations that can lead to a reality-oriented conclusion". Although thinking is an activity of an existential value for humans, there is still no consensus as to how it is adequately defined or understood.
Because thought underlies many human actions and interactions, understanding its physical and metaphysical origins and its effects has been a longstanding goal of many academic disciplines including philosophy, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, biology, sociology and cognitive science.
Thinking allows humans to make sense of, interpret, represent or model the world they experience, and to make predictions about that world. It is therefore helpful to an organism with needs, objectives, and desires as it makes plans or otherwise attempts to accomplish those goals.What is Philosophy? (Heidegger)
What Is Philosophy? (German: Was ist das - die Philosophie) is a book by Martin Heidegger, the published version of a lecture course he gave at Cerisy-la-Salle in 1955.
It was translated into English by William Kluback and Jean T. Wilde.