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metaphysics : a division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being — Webster See also Dictionary of Philosophical Terms & Names (Philosophy Pages), Oxford, OneLook, Free Dictionary, Wiktionary, InfoPlease, Word Reference, Urban Dictionary
Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:
Ultimately, what is there?
What is it like?
A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysician. The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility. A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other. Another central branch of metaphysics is cosmology, the study of the origin, fundamental structure, nature, and dynamics of the universe. Some include epistemology as another central focus of metaphysics, but others question this.
Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. Originally, the term “science” (Latin scientia) simply meant “knowledge”. The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called “science” to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence. Some philosophers of science, such as the neo-positivists, say that natural science rejects the study of metaphysics, while other philosophers of science strongly disagree. — Wikipedia (Categories, Index of Articles)
See also Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Encyclopædia Britannica, David Darling’s Encyclopedia of History, David Darling’s Internet Encyclopedia of Science, Columbia (Infoplease)
The Review of Metaphysics (Philosophy Documentation Center)
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