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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Textbooks

Philosophy Metametaphysics
Anna-Sofia Maurin, Alexander Skiles
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0217


Metametaphysics is the philosophical study of metaphysics. It attempts to answer questions such as: what is the proper subject matter of metaphysics? Which methods should be employed in addressing metaphysical disputes? Is metaphysical knowledge even possible? And what metaphysical claims do answers to the previous questions commit one to? One way to approach the topic is by distinguishing metaontology—which specifically focuses on these questions as they pertain to ontology, the metaphysical inquiry into what exists—from an assortment of topics that fall within the scope of metametaphysics yet that to some extent fall outside the scope of metaontology (although the distinction is itself an item of ongoing metametaphysical controversy).

General Overviews

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is an excellent source for up-to-date overviews written by foremost experts in the field. Although it does not include an overview on metametaphysics so-called, a number of entries deal with topics that belong under that heading. For instance, Khlentzos 2016 and Miller 2014 discuss metaphysical realism — roughly, the thesis that at least some aspects of reality are as they are independently of our thought at talk, a widespread presumption in metaphysics — and various challenges to it. Bricker 2014 discusses the notion of ontological commitment—roughly, what kinds of entities does one accept when one accepts a certain type of theory or engages in a certain type of discourse—which is a central topic of metaontology. Van Inwagen and Sullivan 2014 discusses some of the most important views about the nature, scope, and tenability of metaphysical inquiry, and comes closest to providing a general overview of metametaphysics. Hofweber 2017 discusses how issues in the foundations of logic bear on matters of ontology. Philosophy Compass is also an excellent source for up-to-date (yet also somewhat more opinionated) introductions to most topics in contemporary analytic philosophy. Relevant sources include Eklund 2006, which offers a comprehensive introduction to metaontology; Rayo 2007, which discusses the notion of ontological commitment; Jenkins 2010, in which realism in the context of metaontology is critically investigated; Mikkola 2016, which discusses methodological issues raised by feminist philosophy regarding the scope and methodology of metaphysics more generally; and Bryant 2018, which discusses the science-metaphysics interface in the context of the study of metaphysical grounding.

  • Bricker, Phillip. “Ontological Commitment.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2014.

    Entry explaining how the ‘problem of ontological commitment’ is a problem in meta-ontology rather than in (first-order) ontology. Provides a good overview over different types of accounts—including quantifier-, entailment-, and truthmaker-accounts—of ontological commitment.

  • Bryant, Amanda. “Naturalizing Grounding: How Theories of Ground Can Engage Science.” Philosophy Compass 13.5 (2018).

    DOI: 10.1111/phc3.12489

    Paper surveying some of the points of contact between theories of ground and science to then propose a list of recommendations for how science may be put to good use in theories of ground.

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

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2006.00026.x

    Summarizes some of the most central views and arguments in the contemporary debate on metaontology. The focus is mainly on the viability of the Fregean/Quinean approach to ontology on the one hand, and the plausibility of the skeptical or deflationary critique of ontology on the other.

  • Hofweber, Thomas. “Logic and Ontology.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2017.

    Investigates issues in the intersection of logic and ontology. For a discussion of issues of direct relevance to matters metametaphysical or metaontological, see section 3.

  • Jenkins, Carrie. “What is Ontological Realism?” Philosophy Compass 5.10 (2010): 880–890.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2010.00332.x

    Distinguishes between three senses of ontological realism and argues that only the sense in which ontological realism amounts to the claim that the facts of ontology are objective is useful for the contemporary metaontological debate.

  • Khlentzos, Drew. “Challenges to Metaphysical Realism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2016.

    Reviews a number of semantic and epistemological challenges to realism (i.e., the view that the world is as it is independently of how humans take it) that all concern how links can be set up between our beliefs and the mind-independent states they allegedly represent.

  • Mikkola, Mari. “Feminist Metaphysics and Philosophical Methodology.” Philosophy Compass 11.11 (2016): 661–670.

    DOI: 10.1111/phc3.12349

    Surveys some of the ways feminist philosophy suggests analytic metaphysics expand its scope and methodology. More precisely, the paper shows how feminism is about negotiating the natural and going beyond the fundamental, among other things by letting norms and political values guide the investigation.

  • Miller, Alexander. “Realism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2014.

    Distinguishes realism understood as a thesis about existence from realism understood as a thesis about independence and then discusses the notion in light of canonical critiques of realism in either guise.

  • Rayo, Augustín. “Ontological Commitment.” Philosophy Compass 2.3 (2007): 428–444.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2007.00080.x

    Elucidates the notion of ontological commitment and assesses the adequacy of criteria of ontological commitment for different languages.

  • van Inwagen, Peter, and Meghan Sullivan. “Metaphysics.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2014.

    Examines a selection of problems normally classified as metaphysical in order to pinpoint what metaphysical problems have in common. Argues that no common feature can be found. Also examines the view that the metaphysical enterprise is impossible. Especially relevant to the subject matter of metametaphysics are sections 4–5.

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