A couple of days ago I read about metaphysics. Because I recognised this type of philosophical activity in someone and searched it up. This person has developed it's philosophy without studying philosophy formally. The person told me that most people found this way of thinking quite weird. I believe this way of thinking is an quite important activity but rarely practiced.

But this led me to wonder, how unique is the philosophy of a metaphysical thinker? Is thinking in the way a metaphysical thinker does rare/unique? Or am I misunderstanding how philosophy is done and how branches of philosophy are organized? I'm not talking about personality traits, but rather how a philosophy or branch can be developed "naturally" or "organically", without reading other philosophers, particularly on the Internet or from books like I did with the person I described. Is there some measure of these naturally developed philosophies?

Some main type of branches I found on the internet:

  • Metaphysics - Study of the fundamental nature of reality
  • Axiology - Study of the nature of value and valuation
  • Epistemology - Study of the nature, origin, and limits of human knowledge
  • Ethics - Study of what is right and wrong in human behaviour
  • Aesthetics - Study of beauty and taste
  • Logic - Study of the nature and types of logic
  • Political Philosophy - Study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions.

There are also more specific types of branches.

What is the most unique type of philosophy someone can naturally develop?

  • A taxonomy of branches can be found on PhilPapers. The second part is a subject for sociological study, not a philosophical one. And the results would depend entirely on what one counts, rudimentary philosophical thoughts of all kinds are commonplace. "Everyone is a philosopher. Not everyone is good at it" is attributed to Whitehead.
    – Conifold
    Nov 30, 2021 at 15:26
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    @Allart I'm a native speaker, and my understanding of most of the words used in philosophy is still low, so don't sweat it!
    – J D
    Nov 30, 2021 at 16:45
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    @JD I dont know if you corrected my question correctly. I think what I wrote was quite straight forward. And what you made of it is a different question than mine. Is thinking in the way a metaphysical thinker does rare/unique? Is one of the questions a had, but a small one. But What is the most unique type of philosophy someone can naturally develop? in general is my main question. And not how they develop a philosophy.
    – Allart
    Nov 30, 2021 at 17:51
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    I went back and shifted the emphasis to your original question. I'll poke around PhilPapers and see what's there.
    – J D
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:07
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    Following your interest expressed above seems you're wondering if philosophical inquiries would be reflective of one's natural character and the answer is mostly true and studying philosophy let you "see" (with your 3rd mind's eye) much more general things than merely sitting at a beach, reading some summary report and enjoying life. Kant is famous for not leaving his hometown very far for his entire life but produced some important metaphysical concept such as synthetic a priori, once you fully understood this philosophy jargon, you'll immediately see he's seen more than many travelled lot. Nov 30, 2021 at 22:30

3 Answers 3


Caveat: I'm not sure there's substantial philosophical literature on the question of evaluating philosophical theories for uniqueness. After looking on PhilPapers, I did find a few papers that seem to be related. From the abstract of Common minds, uncommon thoughts: a philosophical anthropological investigation of uniquely human creative behavior, with an emphasis on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study:

The aim of this dissertation is to create a naturalistic philosophical picture of creative capacities that are specific to our species, focusing on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study. By integrating data from diverse domains (evolutionary and developmental psychology, cognitive anthropology and archeology, neuroscience) within a philosophical anthropological framework, I have presented a cognitive and evolutionary approach to the question of why humans, but not other animals engage in such activities. Through an application of cognitive and evolutionary perspectives to the study of these behaviors, I have sought to provide a more solid footing for philosophical anthropological discussions of uniquely human behavior. In particular, I have argued that art, religion and science, which are usually seen as achievements that are quite remote from ordinary modes of reasoning, are subserved by evolved cognitive processes that serve functions in everyday cognitive tasks, that arise early and spontaneously in cognitive development, that are shared cross-culturally, and that have evolved in response to selective pressures in our ancestral past. These mundane cognitive processes provide a measuring rod with which we can assess a diversity of cultural phenomena; they form a unified explanatory framework to approach human culture. I have argued that we can explain uncommon thoughts (exceptional human achievements, such as art, religion and science) in terms of interactions between common minds (ordinary human minds that share their knowledge through cultural transmission). This dissertation is subdivided into four parts. Part I outlines the problem of human uniqueness, examining theories on how humans conceptualize the world, and what their mental tool box looks like. Part II discusses the evolutionary and cognitive origins of human artistic behavior. Part III focuses on the cognitive science of religion, especially on how it can be applied to the reasoning of theologians and philosophers of religion. Part IV considers the cognitive basis of scientific practice.

There doesn't seem to be any mention of methods for comparative analysis. Generally, in the Anglo-American tradition, philosophical analysis hinges largely on linguistic and conceptual analysis.

So, this high-level question has a few points to be addressed, but is certainly a question that is relevant in metaphilosophy because it asks a very fundamental question about the nature of how philosophy is done and what it is. Briefly, anyone can do philosophy if philosophy is seen as a simple effort of organizing concepts, using language, and organizing first principles for logical reasoning. According to the theories of some social philosophers all people take their cue from society for this activity at first; this emphasis on knowledge coming from society is known as social constructionism since people use the ideas and language of their society. At a certain point, when philosophical thinkers continue to pursue organized thinking, they realize it's easier not to reinvent the wheel and begin looking through historical and contemporary literature to find ways to contribute new ideas. But some do not. This is called heterodoxy and there's no limit to either idiosyncratic language use or conceptual schemas involved. Anybody can create a highly original philosophy. That being said, it's not really a branch of philosophy (academic discipline) unless there is a community organized around it. Occasionally, philosophical heterdoxy wins over enough thinkers and becomes the orthodoxy. This has become known as a paradigm shift after the work of Thomas Kuhn. However, it's rare for a branch to occur outside of academia, but like Ayn Rand's Objectivism has shown, it is possible. Ultimately, philosophy and all language use is a social activity, and like all language-games, there's not a lot of motivation to play the "game" without other players, particularly those who share the passion and skill. Even the brightest thinkers, if extremely idiosyncratic and heterodoxical simply tend to be ignored, and so their thinking doesn't become a branch.

  • I find it really hard to understand your answer. It's probably me not knowing enough about philosophy but could you maybe add or edit your answer to a more childisch langauge? Currently I checked all links you added, but find it hard to understand. I even asked my friends, but not much succes :P.
    – Allart
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:14
  • Well, from a philosophical perspective, you're asking for something that is very technical in nature; what makes a philosophical theory? how does one evaluate it? Analyzing arguments, language, concepts? These are all very technical matters.
    – J D
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:18
  • I think by checking how many people think as, for example, a metaphysical person. Or some other kind of philosophy. Based on the amount of people that have a kind of philosophy you can also say how unique it is right? Just like this question on quora. I belive the answers are based on experiences people had with "highly intelligent people". Or actual research to them. But both are interesting to me. I hope you understand :D
    – Allart
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:24
  • I guess I'm saying I don't think there is an easy answer. If you asked, how does a physicist evaluate different philosophical interpretations of quantum mechanics, you'd be in the same boat.
    – J D
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:25
  • @Allart, well, intelligence is an open philosophical question in the same way metaphysical discussion is... what exactly is it? With intelligence, science provides some theories through psychology.... but there isn't, as far as I know, a similiar set of theories for metaphysical arguments...
    – J D
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:26

how unique can a philosophy of a metaphysical thinker be? Is thinking in the way a metaphysical thinker does rare/unique?

Metaphysics itself departs from a large chunk of philosophy we can think of as Western philosophy, I would label "rational philosophy". Rational philosophy can be characterised as an effort to understand the real world construed broadly as "nature". Metaphysics takes nature to be mere appearances and tries to investigate what is beyond these appearances. However, doing away with appearances is also doing away with the empirical data essential to rational philosophy. This put metaphysics in a league of its own and may explain why metaphysicians may sometimes sound "weird". Metaphysics is not entirely irrational. It is, or mostly tries to be, logical. It just ignores empirical data. This is probably what motivated Rudolf Carnap to deem all metaphysical statements "meaningless".

Rational philosophers make up a variegated bunch but they remain connected to each other, and to the rest of humanity, by their consideration of empirical data. They are also all of the same natural species homo sapiens so that they naturally share broadly the same natural world and therefore the same empirical data. Metaphysicians are also homo sapiens but their disregard for empirical data means that they are only connected to the rest of the species by its reliance on its logical capacity.

However, given this, metaphysical speculation is still limited by our capacity of imagination. Presumably, what one human can imagine may be imagined by other humans. Mathematics share with metaphysics its reliance on logic and its professed disregard for empirical data, and mathematicians certainly seem to be able to understand each other and in the process produce useful mathematics.

Thus, I would assess the weirdness of metaphysics saying that as long as it is logical, then every human being can understand the reasoning, at least in principle, and as long as the metaphysician starts from premises that make sense to him or her, there is at least the potential for other people to understand what they mean. After all, metaphysicians are homo sapiens. That being said, metaphysicians are free to explore or investigate any idea with therefore a potential for extreme weirdness.

Most metaphysicians are academics and as such presumably want to remain accessible to their colleagues if not necessarily to the larger public. This provides the main limitation to metaphysical weirdness.


I firmly believe that although no one has attained wisdom, every single person has the capability to pursue knowledge. Hence, studying the other philosophers' ideologies is not the only pathway to philosophy. One could use his own sense to deduce the most basic principles. I will cite an excerpt from Descartes' Discourse on Method:

“I farther concluded that it is almost impossible that our judgments can be so correct or solid as they would have been, had our reason been mature from the moment of our birth, and had we always been guided by it alone.”

I would argue that each ideology or 'philosophy' is originated from the understandings of the world of some person, obtained via their senses, or reasoning. Therefore these self-deducted philosophies would likely to be unique if they are not influenced by any other philosophers, like the way how Confucius understood the universe is different from many Western philosophers. This should also applies for any other branch of philosophy too, not just limited with metaphysics.

  • So every philosophy is unique?
    – J D
    Nov 30, 2021 at 20:32
  • Not in a sense that the ideologies are completely difference from each others. Since many of the 'big' philosophers in the past studied the works of philosophers even way before them, the new ideas that they brought up would be inevitably influenced by the past philosophers. What I was trying to propose is that if thinkers had really thought of an idea on their own, not being influenced by others, that idea would likely to be unique.
    – Cam
    Nov 30, 2021 at 21:04

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