Philosophy vs Science
Between Science and Philosophy, there are differences even though they have some common ground. Scientists rarely pay any attention to philosophical studies and engage in their research. On the other hand, scientific findings in areas like metaphysics, quantum physics, theory of evolution, experimental psychology, theory of relativity, brain research, etc. have profound implications for philosophical research and thinking. Scientists distrust and dislike philosophy though it is a fact that philosophy has an important place in the mosaic of human endeavor. It is a fact that the world is shaped by researches in science and not in philosophy, but it is equally true that philosophy has an effect on scientific endeavors. Through this article, let us make a quick comparison between science and philosophy.
What is Philosophy?
Philosophy can be defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and the existence. Since ancient civilizations, it was Philosophy that explained everything in the world. If one studies the explanation of a single phenomenon by a philosopher, it is clear that one does not need any special intelligence or training to understand the discourse. Everything is explained in philosophy in everyday words and logic that anyone with average intelligence can understand.
Defining philosophy is not so simple. It is an activity that utilizes reason to explore and understand issues nature of reality (metaphysics), rational thinking (logic), limits of our understanding (epistemology), moral good (ethics), the nature of beauty (aesthetics) etc.
What is Science?
Science, as a study of natural phenomenon, has been there for not more than three centuries. In fact, what we call science today was labeled as natural philosophy in the start of its journey. However, science has grown on its own in such a manner that it is no longer possible, nor is it feasible, to try to find loose ends to join the science with philosophy. Science makes an effort to make sense of various phenomena. Scientific explanation requires help from concepts and equations that require proper explanation and study, and cannot be understood by someone who does not belong to science stream. The scientific text is much more technical, complex and requires understanding of mathematical concepts to have a better understanding.
Science does not stand on its own, and there is no science without philosophical baggage. Science deals with study and understanding of natural phenomenon in an empirical manner, where hypotheses advanced to account for natural phenomenon are testable and verifiable.
After going through these definitions of science and philosophy, one will understand that the two activities are quite distinct (poles apart), though science started its journey as a branch of philosophy (natural philosophy). However, the thinking (mostly by scientists) that science is capable of explaining everything, even religious beliefs, and concepts, is too much to ask for, and this is where philosophy comes to our rescue.
There is a misconception among people that philosophy does not make progress. This is simply not true. However, if you judge progress by scientific yards, you may not find much. This is because, philosophy has a playing field that is different from the ground on which science is played. Can you blame New York Yankees for not having won NBA? No, simply because they are playing a different sport. Thus, it is clear that trying to compare science and philosophy with tools that have a scientific bias is not going to fetch any fruitful results.
What is the Difference Between Philosophy and Science?
- Science can be defined as the study of knowledge of the physical and the natural world based on observation and experiments whereas Philosophy can be defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.
- Science, as a study of natural phenomenon, has been there for not more than three centuries, while it was left to philosophy to explain everything since ancient civilizations.
- Everything is explained in philosophy in everyday words and logic that anyone with average intelligence can understand. On the other hand, scientific explanation requires help from concepts and equations that require proper explanation and study, and cannot be understood by someone who does not belong to science stream.
1. “Plato Silanion Musei Capitolini MC1377” by English: Copy of Silanion – Marie-Lan Nguyen [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
2. “Morian Hall of Paleontology – Houston Museum of Natural Science 2” by Agsftw – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons