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Pseudophilosophy (or cod philosophy) is a philosophical idea or system which does not meet an expected set of standards.



The term has been used against many different targets, including:

Analytic philosophy style of philosophy

Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:

Positivism philosophy of science based on the view that information derived from scientific observation is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge

Positivism is a philosophical theory stating that certain ("positive") knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations. Thus, information derived from sensory experience, interpreted through reason and logic, forms the exclusive source of all certain knowledge. Positivism holds that valid knowledge is found only in this a posteriori knowledge.

Platonism philosophical theory

Platonism, rendered as a proper noun, is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In narrower usage, platonism, rendered as a common noun, refers to the philosophy that affirms the existence of abstract objects, which are asserted to "exist" in a "third realm" distinct both from the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness, and is the opposite of nominalism. Lower case "platonists" need not accept any of the doctrines of Plato.


According to Christopher Heumann, an 18th-century scholar, pseudo-philosophy has six characteristics: [27]

  1. A preference for useless speculation
  2. It appeals merely to human authority
  3. It appeals to tradition instead of reason
  4. It syncretises philosophy with superstition
  5. It has a preference for obscure and enigmatic language and symbolism
  6. It is immoral

According to Michael Oakeshott, pseudo-philosophy "is theorizing that proceeds partly within and partly outside a given mode of inquiry." [28]

Josef Pieper noted that there cannot be a closed system of philosophy, and that any philosophy that claims to have discovered a "cosmic formula" is a pseudo-philosophy. [6] In this he follows Kant, who rejected the postulation of a "highest principle" from which to develop transcendental idealism, calling this pseudo-philosophy and mysticism. [3]

Nicholas Rescher, in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy , described pseudo-philosophy as "deliberations that masquerade as philosophical but are inept, incompetent, deficient in intellectual seriousness, and reflective of an insufficient commitment to the pursuit of truth." [29] Rescher adds that the term is particularly appropriate when applied to "those who use the resources of reason to substantiate the claim that rationality is unachievable in matters of inquiry." [29]


The term "pseudo-philosophy" appears to have been coined by Jane Austen. [30]

Ernest Newman, an English music critic and musicologist, who aimed at intellectual objectivity in his style of criticism, in contrast to the more subjective approach of other critics, published in 1897 Pseudo-Philosophy at the End of the Nineteenth Century, a critique of imprecise and subjective writing.

According to Josef Pieper, for Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle philosophy is the human search "oriented toward wisdom such as God possesses". [6] It suggests that philosophy includes, in its essence, an orientation toward theology. [6] Pieper notes:

Thus something is being expressed here that clearly contradicts what in the modern age has become the accepted notion of philosophy; for this new conception of philosophy assumes that it is the decisive feature of philosophical thought to disentangle itself from theology, faith and tradition. [6]


The term is almost always used pejoratively and is often contentious, due to differing criteria for demarcating pseudophilosophy (see also: Demarcation problem).[ citation needed ]


According to physicist and philosopher of science Mario Bunge,

Pseudophilosophy is nonsense parading as deep philosophy. It may have existed since Lao-Tzu, but it was not taken seriously until about 1800, when the Romantics challenged the Enlightenment. By giving up rationality, they generated a lot of pseudophilosophy... [7]

For Kant, intellectual knowledge is discursive knowledge, not intuitive knowledge. [31] According to Kant, intuition is limited to the realm of senses, while knowledge is "essentially realised in the acts of researching, relating, comparing, differentiating, inferring, proving". [31] Kant criticised Romantic philosophy, which is based on feeling and intuition, [32] and not on "philosophical work": [32]

In philosophy, Kant writes, "the law of reason, of acquiring possessions through work", prevails. And because it is not work, the Romantic philosophy is not genuine philosophy – an objection that is also leveled by Kant against Plato, the "father of all rapturous fantasizing in philosophy", while it is noted, with both approval and assent, that "the philosophy of Aristotle is, by contrast, work". [33]

Kant called Romantic philosophy pseudo-philosophy, "in which one is entitled not to work, but only to heed and enjoy the oracle in oneself in order to take complete possession of that wisdom toward which philosophy aims". [31]


Mysticism has a long history. In the Age of Enlightenment mysticism had fallen into disrepute. [25] Kant called mysticism pseudophilosophy. [25] In the 19th century, with the rise of Romanticism, interest in mysticism was renewed. Rationalists and Lutherans wrote histories of mysticism to reject its claims, but there was a widespread interest in spiritualism and related phenomena. [25]

Interest in Eckhart's works was revived in the early nineteenth century, especially by German Romantics and Idealist philosophers. [34] [35] Since the 1960s debate has been going on in Germany whether Eckhart should be called a "mystic". [36] The philosopher Karl Albert had already argued that Eckhart had to be placed in the tradition of philosophical mysticism of Parmenides, Plato, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus and other neo-Platonistic thinkers. [37] Heribert Fischer argued in the 1960s that Eckhart was a mediaeval theologian. [37]

German Idealism

Arthur Schopenhauer wrote the following about Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel:

If I were to say that the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudophilosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage, I should be quite right. [8]

A hundred and fifty years after Schopenhauer's death, physicist and philosopher of science Mario Bunge recommended "avoiding the pseudo-subtleties of Hegelian dialectics", [38] and wrote of "Hegel's disastrous legacy": "It is true that Marx and Engels criticized Hegel's idealism, but they did not repudiate his cult of nonsense and his rejection of all modern science from Newton on." [39] Bunge noted,

True, Hegel tackled a number of important problems, so his work cannot be dismissed lightly. However, his work, when understandable at all, was usually wrong in the light of the most advanced science of his own time. Worse, it enshrined the equivocation that depth must be obscure. [7]

Continental philosophy

Soccio notes that analytical inclined philosophers tend to dismiss Heidegger's philosophy as pseudophilosophy. [9] According to Christensen, Heidegger himself called the philosophy of Husserl scheinphilosophy. [40]


Dietrich von Hildebrand used the term to critique the central place modern science is occupying in western society:

This pseudo philosophy, in which science takes the place of metaphysics and religion, more and more corrodes the life of man, making him more and more blind to the real cosmos, in all its plenitude, depth and mystery ... Today we are witnessing a revolt against the deformation expressed in this pseudo philosophy. [11]


Journalist Jonathan Chait used the term to criticize the work of Ayn Rand in "Ayn Rand's Pseudo-Philosophy", an article in The New Republic , in which he wrote, "She was a true amateur who insisted on seeing herself as the greatest human being who ever lived because she was almost completely unfamiliar with the entire philosophical canon." [17] Physicist and philosopher of science Mario Bunge classified Rand as a "mercenary", among those who "seek to defend or propagate a doctrine rather than an analyzing ideas or searching for new truths", [19] while science writer and skeptic Michael Shermer claimed that "it becomes clear that Objectivism was (and is) a cult, as are many other, non-religious groups". [16] The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy said of Rand, "For all her popularity, however, only a few professional philosophers have taken her work seriously." [41]

See also


  1. Kant called Plato's ideas "dogmatic metaphysics" and "mysticism". [3]
  2. Bunge mentions "the lunatic pronouncements of Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, and their British followers". [7]
  3. Soccio mentions Heidegger; [9] Kritzman mentions Albert Camus. [10]
  4. In 2007, book critic Leslie Clark described Rand's fiction as "romance novels with a patina of pseudo-philosophy". [18]
  5. There is extensive discussion of psychoanalysis as pseudoscience in the book Philosophy of Pseudoscience, for example: "Freudian psychoanalysis uses a host of methodological principles and concepts to inflate the inferential possibilities of psychoanalytic interpretation, the cumulative effect of which is that it is hard to imagine any form of human behavior that would be at odds with the theory (this was Popper's correct intuition)." [22]
  6. On some psychoanalysts accusing other psychoanalysts of pseudophilosophy, Clarke noted: "The 'official' Freudian view of Jung is expressed by Ernest Jones, Freud's disciple and biographer, who commented that after his early important studies in word-association techniques and in schizophrenia, Jung descended 'into pseudo-philosophy out of which he never emerged'." [23]
  7. Heidegger "lambastes Catholicism as a "dogmatic and casuistic pseudo-philosophy, which poses as a particular system of religion," a system that "totally excludes an original and genuine religious experience of value." [24]
  8. Irwin and Gracia: "Philosophy needs to replace pseudo-philosophy (crystals, astrology, tarot cards)". [26]

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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher and an important figure of German idealism. He achieved wide recognition in his day and—while primarily influential within the continental tradition of philosophy—has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well. Although Hegel remains a divisive figure, his canonical stature within Western philosophy is universally recognized.

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Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz through Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein to contemporary philosophers. Søren Kierkegaard is frequently included in surveys of German philosophy due to his extensive engagement with German thinkers.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling German philosopher (idealism)

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Johann Gottlieb Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, his former university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its evolving nature.

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In the 19th century, the philosophies of the Enlightenment began to have a dramatic effect, the landmark works of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau influencing new generations of thinkers. In the late 18th century a movement known as Romanticism began; it validated strong emotion as an authentic not of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror and terror and awe. Key ideas that sparked changes in philosophy were the fast progress of science; evolution, as postulated by Vanini, Diderot, Lord Monboddo, Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, Goethe, and Charles Darwin; and what might now be called emergent order, such as the free market of Adam Smith within nation states. Pressures for egalitarianism, and more rapid change culminated in a period of revolution and turbulence that would see philosophy change as well.

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Absolute idealism

Absolute idealism is an ontologically monistic philosophy "chiefly associated with Friedrich Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel, both German idealist philosophers of the 19th century, Josiah Royce, an American philosopher, and others, but, in its essentials, the product of Hegel". It is Hegel's account of how being is ultimately comprehensible as an all-inclusive whole. Hegel asserted that in order for the thinking subject to be able to know its object at all, there must be in some sense an identity of thought and being. Otherwise, the subject would never have access to the object and we would have no certainty about any of our knowledge of the world. To account for the differences between thought and being, however, as well as the richness and diversity of each, the unity of thought and being cannot be expressed as the abstract identity "A=A". Absolute idealism is the attempt to demonstrate this unity using a new "speculative" philosophical method, which requires new concepts and rules of logic. According to Hegel, the absolute ground of being is essentially a dynamic, historical process of necessity that unfolds by itself in the form of increasingly complex forms of being and of consciousness, ultimately giving rise to all the diversity in the world and in the concepts with which we think and make sense of the world.


In late modern continental philosophy, neo-Kantianism was a revival of the 18th-century philosophy of Immanuel Kant. More specifically, it was influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer's critique of the Kantian philosophy in his work The World as Will and Representation (1818), as well as by other post-Kantian philosophers such as Jakob Friedrich Fries and Johann Friedrich Herbart.

Higher consciousness is the consciousness of a higher Self, transcendental reality, or God. It is "the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts". The concept was significantly developed in German Idealism, and is a central notion in contemporary popular spirituality. However, it has ancient roots, dating back to the Bhagavad Gita and Indian Vedas.

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science. Cosmology and ontology are traditional branches of metaphysics. It is concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world. Someone who studies metaphysics can be called either a "metaphysician" or a "metaphysicist".

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to metaphysics:

Philosophical Inquiries into the Essence of Human Freedom is an 1809 work by Friedrich Schelling. It was the last book he finished in his lifetime, running to some 90 pages of a single long essay. It is commonly referred to as his "Freiheitsschrift" or "freedom essay".

Tom Rockmore is an American philosopher. Although he denies the usual distinction between philosophy and the history of philosophy, he has strong interests throughout the history of philosophy and defends a constructivist view of epistemology. The philosophers whom he has studied extensively are Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Lukács, and Heidegger. He received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1974 and his Habilitation à diriger des recherches from the Université de Poitiers in 1994. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Duquesne University, as well as Distinguished Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University.

The following is a list of the major events in the history of German idealism, along with related historical events.


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