As I understand it, this is the philosophical study of philosophy itself. Who is qualified to practice this? Philosophers? If not, who else?

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    See Metaphilosophy: when I was young, it was called "history of philosophy". Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 10:49
  • i think that means: anyone with a chat-gpt account
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 10:54
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    I understand philosophy as all these meta's, meta of everything, so meta-philosophy too is part of philosophy, isn't philosophy about everything? Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 12:16
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    I never metaphilosophy I couldn't practice. Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 8:09

3 Answers 3


The word "metaphilosophy" could be taken to mean, at first, "second-order philosophy," so "the philosophy of philosophy," except then we can go on to ask about third-order, etc. philosophy, and of this sequence there seems to be no necessary end (besides the ineffability of absolute infinity).

Having such an array of levels in place, we could then ask where different bits of philosophy are most situated. Heuristics and one-off arguments like razors and guillotines and slingshots might be assimilated to a lower level than entire toolkits like scholasticism (as a practice), ordinary-language analysis, or experimental philosophy. We might go on to ask about metanarrative styles (c.f. the question of mathematical style), categorizing toolkits accordingly (on a yet even higher-order level?).

Now, what would be the value of such level-by-level compartmentalization? It might be isomorphic to the value of decompositional conceptual analysis, which for Menoan reasons might seem superfluous (how do we recognize the answer to a decomposition question without knowing the answer "already"?): yet then we say that we are engaging in meta-analysis, meaning that we are looking for those concepts which are relatively simplest, and then looking for the indivisible components, if there are any, of philosophy-as-whole. That is, if the value of decompositional analysis is of some kind, the value of metaphilosophy is of the same kind (we assume, then, that Socratic metaphilosophy has a certain degree of historical preeminence for us, so that the way of the Socratic dialogues becomes a paradigmatic example of even first-order philosophy).


Metaphilosophy is a section of philosophy that questions the philosophical process. As in, how is it we do philosophy, what is the goal of philosophy, what are the boundaries of philosophy, and so on. More simply, it's an investigation into the nature of philosophy as a discipline.

People who write and engage in metaphilosophy are philosophers, like any other discipline in philosophy. Different subjects of philosophy also have a meta-subject, meta-ethics probably being the most talked about.


Your question hinges on 'qualification'. In one sense, anyone with a degree favoring metaphilosophy. In another, anyone who has achieved some understanding of what metaphilosophy is. One of course can start with the IEP's article Metaphilosophy. It helps to remember a few points:

First, the belief in metaphilosophy is a form of pluralism. Different philosophers can hold different beliefs and value different things. This is made obvious if you compare and contrast Western and Indian philosophy, for example. Or, if you compare analytical and continental philosophy. Or you compare two philosophers of science. You get the idea.

Second, this implies metaphilosophy is descriptivist and not prescriptivist. Metaphilosophers are interested in making factual claims about philosophy more than making value claims about it. Some people get stuck in the idea that there is one, true belief system. Ideologues is the term used in a somewhat pejorative sense to reflect what might be considered a form of true belief. Of course, the individual metaphilosophical theories are value-laden themselves in line with theory-laddenness.

Next, metaphilosophers speak about philosophy and have their own dialect of philosophy just as philosophers of science, language, or phenomenologists might. Metaphilosophers compare and contrast ontological, epistemological, and ethical positions, so they are engaged in meta-ontology, meta-epistemology, and meta-ethical conversations which requires specialized discourse.

Lastly, philosophers on the whole tend to engage in metaphysical dispute. In the words of Descartes, first principles are at stake. Now, historically, the question of differences in philosophy were studied historically. How did Parmenides differ from Laplace differ from Quine, etc. But these days, philosophy is an exceedingly broad space of ideas. This makes it quite possible to look at a philosopher of language as engaged in a very distinct process than a Continental philosopher who specializes in Marxism, for instance.

Beyond the IEP article, Overgaard et al. have written An Introduction to Metaphilosophy (GB) as a primer on the topic and have the following titles of chapters:

  1. Introduction: what good is metaphilosophy?
  2. What is philosophy?
  3. Philosophy, science and the humanities
  4. The data of philosophical arguments
  5. Analytic and continental philosophy
  6. Philosophy and the pursuit of truth
  7. What is good philosophy?
  8. What good is philosophy?

These are the sorts of topics at least some metaphilosophers value.

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