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(mĕtəfĭz`ĭks), branch of philosophy concerned with the ultimate nature of existence. It perpetuates the Metaphysics of Aristotle, a collection of treatises placed after the Physics [Gr. metaphysics=after physics] and treating what Aristotle called the First Philosophy. The principal area of metaphysical speculation is generally called ontology and is the study of the ultimate nature of being. However, philosophical theology and cosmology are also usually considered branches of metaphysics. In the history of philosophy there have been many great metaphysical systems. One of the most carefully constructed systems is that of the scholastic philosophy (see scholasticismscholasticism
, philosophy and theology of Western Christendom in the Middle Ages. Virtually all medieval philosophers of any significance were theologians, and their philosophy is generally embodied in their theological writings.
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), which essentially is based on Aristotle's metaphysical system. In the 17th cent. the great rationalistic systems of René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Nicolas Malebranche, and G. W. von Leibniz were developed. They were followed in the 18th cent. by Immanuel Kant's critical philosophy, which demonstrated the impossibility of a scientific metaphysics. This was in turn succeeded by the metaphysics of German idealism (of J. G. Fichte, Friedrich von Schelling, and G. W. F. Hegel). Since the middle of the 19th cent. the dominant philosophical trend has been in the direction of positivism, which denies the validity of any metaphysical assertion. This is clearly reflected in the contemporary movement called logical positivismlogical positivism,
also known as logical or scientific empiricism, modern school of philosophy that attempted to introduce the methodology and precision of mathematics and the natural sciences into the field of philosophy. The movement, which began in the early 20th cent.
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. A revival of interest in metaphysics since 1950 has been sparked by P. F. Strawson, whose descriptive metaphysics is an attempt not to construct a new metaphysical system but to analyze the metaphysical systems that already inform prevailing modes of thought.


See D. W. Hamlyn, Metaphysics (1984); B. Aune, Metaphysics (1985); D. H. Mellor, Matters of Metaphysics (1991).


  1. the branch of philosophy that deals with first principles, e.g. questions of‘existence’, ‘being’ (see ONTOLOGY) and ‘knowing’ (see EPISTEMOLOGY).
  2. (pejoratively – in POSITIVISM) merely speculative, empirical (i.e. nonscientific) doctrines or theories.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Metaphysics is the term proposed by Professor charles Richet for the phenomena and experiments of psychical research. Richet suggested the term in 1905, when he was elected President of the Society for Psychical Research. Meta means “higher” or “beyond.” In his inaugural address, Richet said that metaphysics was “a science dealing with mechanical or psychological phenomena due to forces which seem to be intelligent, or to unknown powers, latent in human intelligence.” He divided it into objective and subjective metaphysics, the former dealing with external, material phenomena and the latter with internal, psychic, nonmaterial facts.

The term actually derives from a title posthumously given to a treatise written by Aristotle after he wrote Physics. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “the word metaphysics then came to be used as a label for the sorts of topics dealt with in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, or rather, as these topics are very heterogeneous, for the topics in it which have seemed most important.” Whatever the historical origin of the term, metaphysics has come to have the connotation of some sort of antithesis between physical and non-physical exploration.

Although metaphysics is a generally accepted term, in Germany the word “parapsychic” is used more often, with metaphysics applied to those phenomena proved supernormal in character. The term parapsychic was suggested by Emil Boirac, rector of Dijon Academy and noted French psychical researcher.

Bletzer says that metaphysics is “a philosophical doctrine that all things are a part of one main source (intelligence and energy), and that each thing, animate or inanimate, should be respected for its particular form of this one main source.”


Bletzer, June G.: The Encyclopedia Psychic Dictionary.
Lithia Springs: New Leaf, 1998
Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: William Benton, 1964 Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933



(1) The philosophical “science” that deals with the supersensible principles of being. The term “metaphysics” is an invented one. In his classification of the works of Aristotle, the Alexandrian librarian Andronicus of Rhodes (first century B.C.) entitled Aristotle’s book on the first kinds of being Meta ta physika (“subsequent to physics”). Aristotle himself referred to the science set forth in these books as first philosophy, theology, or simply wisdom. In contemporary Western bourgeois philosophy, metaphysics is often synonymous with philosophy.

(2) The philosophical method opposite to dialectics and based on a quantitative understanding of development that rejects self-development.

The second of the two definitions of metaphysics proceeded historically from the first. Originally the principal philosophical science of the source of all being, metaphysics was reinterpreted by 17th-century mechanistic natural science as a general antidialectical method. This reinterpretation brought with it a negative attitude toward metaphysics as a speculative philosophy to which the method of the exact sciences (mechanics and mathematics) was opposed as a truly scientific method. G. Hegel was the first to interpret metaphysics idealistically, as a method of thinking opposed to dialectics. K. Marx, F. Engels, and V. I. Lenin demonstrated the scientific groundlessness of the metaphysical method of thinking. It was within Marxist philosophy that the above meaning of “metaphysics” became firmly established.


1. the branch of philosophy that deals with first principles, esp of being and knowing
2. the philosophical study of the nature of reality, concerned with such questions as the existence of God, the external world, etc.
3. See descriptive metaphysics
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