Philosophical Dialectics

An Essay on Metaphilosophy

By Nicholas Rescher

Subjects: Metaphysics
Paperback : 9780791467466, 128 pages, June 2007
Hardcover : 9780791467459, 128 pages, March 2006

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Table of contents


1. Philosophical Principles


Philosophical Principles
Principles of Informative Adequacy
Probative Principles of Rational Cogency
Principles of Rational Economy
Issues of Validation
Dealing with Objections


2. Aporetic Method in Philosophy


Consistency and Apories
Some Sample Apories
On Appraising Apories
Enter Distinctions
Apory Resolution as Cost-Benefit Analysis


3. On Distinctions in Philosophy


What Distinctions Are
How Distinctions Fail
Historical Background
The Role of Distinctions in Philosophy
Philosophical Apories
Tie Issues Together


4. Respect Neglect and Misassimilation as Fallacies of Philosophical Distinctions


Respect Neglect


5. Systemic Interconnectedness and Explanatory Holism in Philosophy


The Problem
Summative Features
Fallacies of Composition and Division
Is Existence Mereologically Summative? No—A Whole is More Than Its Parts
The Analytical/Constructionist Program
Instances of the Implementation of the Constructionist Program
Problem Number One: The Fallacy of Termination Presumption
Problem Number Two: The Disintegration of Simplicity and the Fallacy of Respect Neglect
Perspectival Dissonance and Nonamalgamation
Cognition Is Not Summative
Externalities and Negative Side Effects
Systematic Interconnectedness as a Consequence of Aporetic Complexity


6. The Structure of Philosophical Dialectic


Philosophical Aporetics
The Role of Distinctions
The Structure of Dialectic
Developmental Dialectics
The Burden of History
The Structure of Philosophical History


7. Ignorance and Cognitive Horizons


Intractable Questions about the Cognitive Future and Surd Generalities
Insolubilia Then and Now
Cognitive Limits
Identifying Insolubilia
Relating Knowledge to Ignorance



A study in philosophical methodology aimed at providing a clear view of the scope and limits of philosophical inquiry.


While the pursuit of philosophy "of" studies—of science, of art, of politics—has blossomed, the philosophy of philosophy remains a comparatively neglected domain. In this book, Nicholas Rescher fills this gap by offering a study in methodology aimed at providing a clear view of the scope and limits of philosophical inquiry. He argues that philosophy's inability to resolve all of the problems of the field does not preclude the prospect of achieving a satisfactory resolution of many or even most of them.

Nicholas Rescher is University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of more than one hundred books, including Epistemology: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge; Realistic Pragmatism: An Introduction to Pragmatic Philosophy; Predicting the Future: An Introduction to the Theory of Forecasting; Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy; and Dialectics: A Controversy-Oriented Approach to the Theory of Knowledge; all published by SUNY Press. Among his many achievements, he is former president of the American Philosophical Association and recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Prize for Humanistic Scholarship.