What is metaphysics?

We explain what metaphysics is and what this branch of philosophy consists of. In addition, its characteristics and some scholars of this area.

  1. What is metaphysics?

When talking about metaphysics, there is reference to a branch of philosophy that deals with studying nature , reality and its fundamental laws and components . This implies not only the observation of reality , but also the (re) formulation of certain key concepts to think about our way of being in the world, such as  being ,  existence ,  reality ,  object ,  subject ,  time  and even  space.

In ancient times, where it comes from, metaphysics  was considered the first of philosophies , something like the mother of science: “natural philosophy.” At that time there was no scientific method and the way to test reality had nothing to do with verifiable experiments, but with the deduction of logical laws from thinking.

Today, however, while science deals with investigating concrete reality through experimentation, metaphysics is interested in those aspects of reality that are inaccessible to scientists : the great transcendental questions about existence. These questions, in general, are three: 

  • What is to be?
  • What is there?
  • Why is there something instead of nothing?

To carry out its investigations, metaphysics includes various branches, such as ontology (study of being), natural theology (the study of God through rational methods), philosophical psychology (the rational study of the human spirit) or cosmology ( the study of how we conceive the real).

Metaphysics, finally, establishes its own basis for interpreting the world, so it is not a science, a method of observation, but a way of thinking .

In some cases, this allows its name to be used to discredit an argument or to indicate that an alleged thesis establishes the bases that will legitimize it, contravening scientific logic.

  1. Characteristics of metaphysics

Metaphysics starts from a supreme principle, such as being, among others.

Broadly speaking, metaphysics has three primary characteristics:

  • It is speculative in nature . It usually starts from a primordial idea or a supreme principle, be it God, the idea, the being, etc., from which he proceeds to interpret the whole reality.
  • Proceed inductively . It pursues the configuration of a total, comprehensive image of the totality of the particular sciences, that is, it seeks to find the total image of reality.
  • It can  be reductionist . When it becomes a mere speculative artifice by which human beings must leave to be able to approach and know reality. In that sense, it can even be used as a derogatory term towards a doctrine or a scientific proposition.
  1. Main students of metaphysics

Plato was one of the philosophers who studied metaphysics.

Some of the greatest scholars of this philosophical branch were the ancient Greek philosophers , such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but also the thinkers of the pre-Socratic tradition, such as Parmenides, founder of the ontology.

During the European Middle Ages, theology and scholasticism arose , disciplines that served the thinkers of the time to inquire about the nature of their reality, always influenced by the prevailing religious thought (both in the case of Christianity, and in the case of their cousin then illustrated, Islam).

The advent of modernity revolutionized the way in which human beings perceived themselves and perceived reality, so that new philosophers and interpretative theories of existence appeared with the European Enlightenment , such as Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and the German idealism, Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), among many others, whose philosophical thinking had great impacts in the field of politics .

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