Pseudophilosophy is a term, often considered derogatory, applied to criticize philosophical ideas or systems which are claimed not to meet an expected set of standards. The etymology of the term is based on appending the prefix pseudo- ("false") to the word philosophy ("love of knowledge"); another term to describe false philosophy is "cod philosophy".
The term has been used against many different targets, including:
- To criticise dogmatism in general, which is dissolved when philosophy incorporates the scientific method;
- To criticise any philosophy in general which does not meet the criteria of analytical and positivistic philosophy;
- To criticise specific philosophical schools, traditions and systems:
- To criticise some forms of idealism: subjective idealism etc.
- To label entire specific political worldviews as illogical:
- To criticise several (pseudo)sciences:
- To criticise some theistic worldviews:
According to Christopher Heumann, an 18th-century scholar, pseudo-philosophy has six characteristics:
- A preference for useless speculation
- It appeals merely to human authority
- It appeals to tradition instead of reason
- It syncretises philosophy with superstition
- It has a preference for obscure and enigmatic language and symbolism
- It is immoral
Pieper notes 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. 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.
Nicholas Rescher, in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, describes 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." 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."
According to Pieper, for Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle philosophy is the human search "oriented toward wisdom such as God possesses". It suggests that philosophy includes, in its essence, an orientation toward theology. 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.
Ernest Newman (30 November 1868 – 7 July 1959), 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 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.
For Kant, intellectual knowledge is discursive knowledge, not intuitive knowledge. 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". Kant criticised Romantic philosophy, which is based on feeling and intuition, and not on "philosophical work":
In philosophy, Kant writes, "the law of reason, of acquiring possensions 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".
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".
Mysticism has a long history. In the Age of Enlightenment mysticism had fallen into disrepute. Kant called mysticism pseudophilosophy. 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.
Interest in Eckhart's works was revived in the early nineteenth century, especially by German Romantics and Idealist philosophers. Since the 1960s debate has been going on in Germany whether Eckhart should be called a "mystic". 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. Heribert Fischer argued in the 1960s that Eckhart was a mediaeval theologian.
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.
However his opinion is not widely held of Hegelianism or German Idealism.
Since the rise of analytic philosophy, a virtual Berlin wall seems to be inserted with respect to continental philosophy.
Vanderbeeken distinguishes the two traditions as follows:
Contemporary continental philosophy is founded in the work of German philosophers, from Kant till Heidegger, and is mainly associated with French philosophy, psychoanalysis, existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism and its deconstructivism [...] Analytic philosophy, on the other hand, emerged from logical positivism and is largely dominated by logic, philosophy of science and philosophy of language. It readdresses some metaphysical questions in an Anglo-Saxon manner, mainly relying on conceptual analysis and common-sense argumentation. It particularly focuses on specific topics like e.g. colours, properties, Universals, mind/ body, perception, consciousness and causation.
Soccio notes that analytical inclined philosophers tend to dismiss Heidegger's philosophy as pseudophilosophy. According to Christensen, Heidegger himself called the philosophy of Husserl scheinphilosophy.
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.
Jonathan Chait used the term in the title "Ayn Rand's Pseudo-Philosophy" of an article in 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."
- Kant called Plato's ideas "dogmatic metaphysics" and "mysticism".
- Bunge mentions Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, "and their Britisn followers".
- Soccio mentions Heidegger; Kritzman mentions Albert Camus.
- In 2007, book critic Leslie Clark described her fiction as "romance novels with a patina of pseudo-philosophy".
- Clarke: "The 'official' Freudian 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 schizophrenia, Jung descended 'into pseudo-philosophy out of which he never emerged'."
- 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."
- Irwin and Gracia: "Philosophy needs to replace pseudo-philosophy (crystals, astrology, tarot cards)".
- Kearney & Rainwater 1996, p. 60.
- Taylor & Kelly 2013, p. 116-117.
- Baur & Dahlstrom 1999, p. 37.
- Nichols 1997, p. 326.
- Inglis 1998, p. 31, 34-35.
- Pieper 2006.
- Bunge 2010, p. 260.
- Schopenhauer 1965, p. 15-16.
- Soccio 2011, p. 497.
- Kritzman & Reilly 2007, p. 368.
- Von Hildebrand 1960, p. 7.
- Fletcher Luther, Neumaier & Parsons 1995, p. 70.
- Kolinsky & Paterson 1976, p. 79.
- Wiener 2010, p. 76.
- Lepenies 2009, p. 110.
- Jonathan Chait, Ayn Rand's Pseudo-Philosophy. New republic, April 25, 2011
- Clark, Leslie (February 17, 2007). "The philosophical art of looking out number one". The Herald. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
- Adler & Pouwels 2010, p. 545.
- Clark 1992, p. 4.
- McGrath 2006, p. 49.
- Clark 2013, p. 26.
- Irwin & Gracia 2007, p. 48.
- Hanegraaf 2012, p. 131-134.
- Nardin 2001.
- Johnson & Tuite 2011.
- Pieper 2006, p. 14.
- Pieper 2006, p. 13.
- Pieper 2006, p. 13-14.
- McGinn 2001, p. 1.
- Hackett 2012, p. xxvii.
- Hackett 2012, p. xxii.
- Hackett 2012, p. xxiii.
- Vanderbeeken 2011, p. 2.
- Vanderbeeken 2011.
- Vanderbeeken 2011, p. 1.
- Vanderbeeken 2011, p. 1-2.
- Christensen 2008, p. 7.
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