a type of theoretical knowledge deduced by means of reflection, without recourse to experience, that seeks to explore the limits of science and culture.
Speculative knowledge is a historically determined means of establishing and developing systems of philosophy. The belief that philosophy was essentially speculative in nature affirmed the sovereignty of philosophical knowledge and the irreducibility of philosophical knowledge to specialized scientific knowledge. The view of philosophy as speculative knowledge originated in ancient times, and the most consistent system of speculative knowledge was developed by G. Hegel, who regarded dialectics as the highest form of the theoretical speculation of truth. The culmination of the long tradition of speculative philosophy was the phenomenology of E. Husserl.
In the history of philosophy, there have been various critiques of speculative knowledge. The empiricism of F. Bacon and J. Locke and the rationalism of T. Hobbes and B. Spinoza viewed speculative philosophy as scholasticism, detached from human experience and from science. I. Kant regarded speculative knowledge as philosophizing within the sphere of pure reason, which has no source in experience, and L. Feuerbach identified speculative philosophy with theology. In contemporary bourgeois philosophy, speculative knowledge is totally rejected by positivism as devoid of meaning or is counterposed by existentialism and personalism with an ideal of existentialist and personalist knowledge.
Marxism’s critique of speculative philosophy is based on the materialist concept of alienation, a concept that reveals the true sources of speculative thinking. These are the detachment of philosophical knowledge from actual social relations and from scientific development, and the interpretation of man as an abstract subject. Marxism points out the rational element in speculative philosophy—its attempt to perceive the specific aspects of philosophical thinking—but rejects speculative abstraction. Dialectical materialism affirms the major cognitive importance of scientific abstraction, which reflects objective reality. Dialectical materialism also reveals the link between philosophy and social and historical practice.