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Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality, sometimes beyond the comprehensible. It is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with epistemology, logic, and ethics.

In their classic forms, metaphysical system designs deal with the central problems of theoretical philosophy, namely the description of the foundations, prerequisites, causes or “first justifications”, the most general structures, laws and principles as well as the meaning and purpose of the entire reality or all being. Specifically, this means that classical metaphysics addresses “ultimate questions,” such as: Is there an ultimate reason why the world exists at all? Is there a reason it's set up the way it is right now? Is there a transcendent realm of existence? According to the classic explanatory claim, things of metaphysics are not areas of reality that are accessible through individual empirical investigations, but rather are areas of reality that underlie them. The claim to formulate knowledge outside the limits of sensory experience has also been widely criticized.

The term “metaphysics” has its origins in the bibliographic name of a work by Aristotle, which consisted of 14 books of general philosophical content. Since late antiquity, “metaphysics” has also been used to name an independent philosophical discipline. In late antiquity and occasionally in the early Middle Ages, metaphysics was also given the name epoptia (from the Greek to look, to grasp). On the other hand, the adjective “metaphysical” has been used, especially since the 19th century, in a derogatory manner in the sense of “doubtfully speculative,” “unscientific,” “pointless,” “totalitarian,” or “non-empirical mind games.” The aim of metaphysics is the knowledge of the basic structure and principles of reality. Depending on the philosophical position, metaphysics can extend to different, even very broad, subject areas.

  • General metaphysics has the highest level of abstraction of all sciences; It asks about the most general categories of being and is therefore also called fundamental philosophy. It deals with what things, properties or processes essentially are and how they relate to one another. If it examines beings as beings, one speaks of ontology or the theory of being.
  • Rational theology asks about the first cause of all existence, that means after God as the highest being and as the ground of all reality. This philosophical sub-discipline is also called philosophical or natural theology.
  • Rational psychology deals with the soul or the (human) spirit as a simple substance.
  • Rational cosmology examines the nature of the world, that means the connection of everything that exists as a whole. As the doctrine of the structure of the material world as a natural system of physical substances, it has essentially coincided with natural philosophy since ancient times.


  • “If I had a God that I could understand, I would never think of him as God.” – Eckhart von Hochheim, in: Mystische Schriften
  • “The darkness in practical philosophy will not be banished unless the light of metaphysics illuminates it.” – Christian Wolff, in: Philosophia practica pars 2, § 28
  • “Metaphysics must go forward, and without it there can be no moral philosophy anywhere.”Immanuel Kant, in: Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten
  • “The task of metaphysics is not the observation of individual experiences, but the correct explanation of experience as a whole”Arthur Schopenhauer, in: Parerga und Paralipomena
  • “The basic belief of metaphysicians is the belief in the opposites of values.”Friedrich Nietzsche, in: Jenseits von Gut und Böse
  • “Even the smallest thing has its root in infinity and cannot therefore be fully fathomed.” – Wilhelm Busch, in: Spruchweisheiten und Gedichte

See also