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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 wisdom"); another term to describe false philosophy is "cod philosophy".
The term has been used against many different targets, including:
According to Christopher Heumann, an 18th-century scholar, pseudo-philosophy has six characteristics:
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 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".
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.
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."