I've recently come across many intelligent individuals in the field of metaphysics. Their intellectual prowess impressed me; since their field of expertise informs all other fields, they demonstrated an amazing knack for understanding concepts and critically analyzing them. Yet, they use terms like 'relational concept,' 'quantitatively/qualitatively,' 'principally as opposed to pragmatically,' 'formal/informal,' etc.,. I also noticed that they generally develop their argument from the most basic categories, necessarily involving the 5 predicables (they are able to classify anything into genus/species). It's been months since I have been exposed to this kind of an intellectual environment; it has allowed me to think more in depth about about anything (text, science, argument, speech, etc.,) that I come across.

Basically, I want to keep up with them, so I want to know of the basic terms that will help me navigate this field. Thanks!

  • John Carroll & Ned Markosian, An Introduction to Metaphysics (2014, Cambridge University Press). Commented Apr 11 at 13:47
  • Welcome to SE. It is good to pay attention to how the terms of your discussions are defined. But there's a complication. Very often, you will find that the question how one of these terms is to be defined is part of the philosophical discussion. So even if you find and start out with a standard, orthodox definition, you need to be alert to the possibility that the person you are talking to (or reading) is using it in a different way.
    – Ludwig V
    Commented Apr 12 at 20:11

1 Answer 1


As I understand, you ask about the basic vocabulary in philosophy. IMO some of the most important terms are the following:

Ontological, epistemic, a priori, analytic, transcendent, infinite, referent of a concept, propositional logic, mind, conscious, God, absolute, real, true, metaphysical, deterministic.

It is not necessary to master all meanings of these terms. That’s often a whole spectrum. But one should have a precise definition at one’s disposal and use it in a consequent and consistent manner.

A good start is to look up these terms first in wikipedia and then in an online encyclopedia like Plato Stanford or IEP.

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