In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Metaphilosophy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies and Collections
  • Blogs, Lectures, and Other Resources
  • The Method of Reflective Equilibrium
  • Methodological Naturalism
  • Metametaphysics

Philosophy Metaphilosophy
Yuri Cath
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0074


Often philosophers have reason to ask fundamental questions about the aims, methods, nature, or value of their own discipline. When philosophers systematically examine such questions, the resulting work is sometimes referred to as “metaphilosophy.” Metaphilosophy, it should be said, is not a well-established, or clearly demarcated, field of philosophical inquiry like epistemology or the philosophy of art. However, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries there has been a great deal of metaphilosophical work on issues concerning the methodology of philosophy in the analytic tradition. This article focuses on that work.

General Overviews

Currently there is a lack of more general overviews of metaphilosophy or philosophical methodology. However, there are a number of good overviews of more narrowly defined topics within these areas. Braddon-Mitchell and Nola 2009 outlines the influential “Canberra Plan” project in philosophical methodology. Manley 2009 provides a very useful overview of the recent literature on metametaphysics, as does Eklund 2006. Nagel 2007 provides an excellent overview of the literature on epistemic intuitions. Daniels 2009 gives a good overview of work in moral philosophy on the method of reflective equilibrium. Gutting 2009 is a book on philosophical knowledge that closely examines the methods of a number of famous philosophers. Papineau 2009 is a survey article on naturalism that includes a good overview of methodological naturalism. Alexander and Weinberg 2007 gives a good introduction to the experimental philosophy movement and some of the most important works in that literature—see also Knobe and Nichols 2008 cited under Anthologies and Collections.

  • Alexander, Joshua, and Jonathan M. Weinberg. “Analytic Epistemology and Experimental Philosophy.” Philosophy Compass 2.1 (2007): 56–80.

    A good survey article on experimental philosophy. Distinguishes two importantly different views of the relationship between experimental philosophy and traditional philosophy, responds to criticisms of experimental philosophy, and suggests future directions for research in this area.

  • Braddon-Mitchell, David, and Robert Nola. “Introducing the Canberra Plan.” In Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism. Edited by David Braddon-Mitchell and Robert Nola, 1–20. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

    A useful introduction to the project in philosophical methodology and conceptual analysis known as the “Canberra Plan,” associated most closely with the work of Frank Jackson and David Lewis. Describes the origins of the Canberra Plan in work by Ramsey, Carnap, and Lewis on theoretical terms.

  • Daniels, Norman. “Reflective Equilibrium” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

    A good introduction to the method of reflective equilibrium, focused primarily on the extensive literature on this subject in moral philosophy.

  • Eklund, Matti. “Metaontology.” Philosophy Compass 1.3 (2006): 317–334.

    A good survey article of some of the central issues in recent metametaphysical debates about the status and methodology of disputes in ontology.

  • Gutting, Gary. What Philosophers Know: Case Studies in Recent Analytic Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    A book arguing that analytic philosophy as a discipline has achieved a great deal of knowledge over the last fifty years. Unlike many discussions of philosophical methodology, this book has the important virtue of basing its conclusions on a series of detailed case studies of the methods and arguments of important works in analytic philosophy.

  • Manley, David. “Introduction: A Guided Tour of Metametaphysics.” In Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Edited by David J. Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, 1–37. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

    An excellent first introduction to debates in metametaphysics on the question of what, if any, metaphysical disputes are trivial or merely verbal disputes.

  • Nagel, Jennifer. “Epistemic Intuitions.” Philosophy Compass 2.6 (2007): 792–819.

    A very good overview of metaphilosophical debates about the status and nature of epistemic intuitions; also shows how empirical evidence from linguistics and psychology connects with these debates.

  • Papineau, David. “Naturalism” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

    This article contains a very good introduction to methodological naturalism. It clearly explains the difference between methodological and ontological versions of naturalism and examines the relation of methodological naturalism to conceptual analysis and the use of intuitions in philosophy.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.