Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-17, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 2 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2017.


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core definition

Metaphysics refers to philosophical speculation about the meaning and nature of the universe.

explanatory context

Metaphysics, in its Greek original, literally means that which comes after physics and its lexical derivation is supposedly due to Aristotle who developed an untitled thesis in his manuscripts which was located after his thesis on physics.


However, there is also a philosophical sense in which metaphysics 'comes after' physics as metaphysical speculation comes after the resolution of physical problems. That is, metaphysics is concerned with what lies beyond (or after) the physical world of sensory perception.


A development of this general meaning of metaphysics is the particular reference to any holistic thesis about knowledge (such as idealism, materialism, monism, etc.) as metaphysical systems as opposed to the idealised procedures of natural science, which are concerned with specific aspects of 'reality'.


Metaphysical analysis has, since Kant, been more concerned not with the nature of reality as such, but rather about the way people conceive of reality, i.e. metaphysics tends to be directed at the fundamental nature and structure of our thought about nature.


Metaphysics, in ordinary usage, is a term sometimes applied to any theory or system which appears complex, incomprehensible or fanciful.

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copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2017

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