The 6 Differences Between Science And Philosophy

These parcels of knowledge differ in several aspects that are important to take into account.

Science and philosophy are two areas of knowledge creation that, many times, are confused with each other.

Philosophers and scientists are often taken simply as experts on everything and nothing, intellectual authorities on any subject, and this blurs the boundaries between their functions. Next we will see what exactly it is that distinguishes science from philosophy and what are its fields of action.

Main differences between science and philosophy

These differences are very basic and general, and it should be borne in mind that both science and philosophy are very broad and diverse areas of knowledge, so it is not always easy to generalize about them. 

However, in global terms all forms of science have a series of characteristics in common that bring them closer to each other than to philosophy, and the same occurs with the latter discipline.

1. One wants to explain reality, the other manipulates ideas

Philosophy, unlike science, does not depend on empirical tests. This means that while all the work of scientists revolves around whether their hypotheses and theories are confirmed by experience, philosophers do not need to carry out these kinds of tests to carry out their work.

This is so because scientists try to find the basic mechanisms by which reality works, while philosophers focus more on investigating the relationships between certain groups of ideas based on basic theoretical assumptions.

For example, the work of René Descartes developed from an exercise in logic: there is a subject, because otherwise he could not think of himself.

2. One is speculative and the other is not

Philosophy is basically based on speculation, to a greater or lesser degree, while science, although it also incorporates a certain degree of speculation, limits its power through empirical testing. That is, in the second, those ideas and theories that do not fit with what is observed and do not explain things as well as others are no longer used, since it is considered that they have reached a dead end.

In philosophy, on the other hand, it is possible to accept any theoretical starting point (however far-fetched it may seem at first) if it allows the creation of a map of ideas or a philosophical system that is interesting from some point of view.

3. Philosophy deals with morals

Science tries to answer questions, not to point out which ethical positions are the best. Your task is to describe things in the most objective and aseptic way possible.

Philosophy, on the other hand, has incorporated the theme of ethics and morals for thousands of years. Not only is it responsible for building knowledge;  it also tries to answer questions about what is right and what is wrong.

4. They answer different questions

Science asks very specific questions that are very carefully formulated. In addition, he tries to use very clear and specific definitions in the vocabulary he uses, so that it is clearly known whether a theory or hypothesis is fulfilled or not.

Philosophy, on the other hand, asks much more general questions than science, and normally uses concepts much more difficult to define that, to be understood, first require that the philosophical system to which they belong be known.

5. They have different needs

For science to develop, it is necessary to invest a lot of money in it, since this type of research is very expensive and requires very expensive instruments, such as special machines or a staff of people who dedicate several months to work in coordination to respond to a very specific question.

Philosophy, on the other hand, is not so expensive, but instead requires a social climate in which it is feasible to initiate certain types of philosophical investigations without suffering censorship. Furthermore, since philosophy is not usually as applied a character as science, it is currently not easy that it can be used to earn a salary.

6. One has given way to the next

Science has emerged from philosophy, since at the beginning all forms of knowledge were a mixture between systematic empirical testing, philosophy and myth.

This is clearly seen, for example, in the way of thinking typical of the Pythagorean sects, which investigated mathematical properties at the same time as they attributed an almost divine character to numbers and linked their existence to that of an afterlife in which, hypothetically They inhabited disembodied souls (since mathematical rules are always valid, regardless of what matter does).

The split between science and philosophy began with the Scientific Revolution, at the end of the Middle Ages, and since then it has developed more and more. However, it has never become totally autonomous from philosophy, since the latter watches over the epistemological conditions of the discoveries that are being made and the conclusions they allow to reach.

Bibliographic references:

  • Blackburn, S., Ed. (1996) The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Bunnin, Nicholas; Tsui-James, Eric, eds. (2008). The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Popkin, RH (1999). The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Rutherford, D. (2006). The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
  • Sober, Elliott. (2001). Core Questions in Philosophy: A Text with Readings. Upper Saddle River, Prentice Hall.

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