On The Difference Between Science And Philosophy
    By Massimo Pigliucci | November 19th 2009 08:01 AM | 33 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Massimo

    Massimo Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

    His research focuses on the structure of evolutionary


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    Attentive readers of this blog may have noticed that those who post comments to my entries often show two interesting and complementary attitudes: a fundamental distrust of (if not downright contempt for) philosophy, coupled with an overly enthusiastic endorsement of science. Take, for instance, my recurring argument that some (but not all!) of the “new atheists” engage in scientistic attitudes by overplaying the epistemological power of science while downplaying (or even simply negating) the notion that science fundamentally depends on non-empirical (i.e., philosophical) assumptions to even get started. Since my personal career, first as a scientist for 27 years, now as a philosopher, has been marked by experience in both fields, and moreover by a strong belief that the two enterprises are complementary and not adversarial, I feel it is time to make some extended comment on this general issue.

    It is perhaps appropriate to tackle the problem at the end of 2009, the year that marks not just the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the arguably even more momentous On Liberty by John Stuart Mill), but also the 50th anniversary of C.P. Snow’s famous essay “on the two cultures,” on the intellectual divide between the sciences and the humanities.

    In his essay, Snow (rightly) chastised what he saw as an unjustifiable attitude of intellectual superiority on the part of people from the humanities’ side of the divide: “A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?” Indeed, it ought to be indefensible that someone is considered ignorant for not having read Shakespeare, and yet the same charge is unthinkable when it comes to fundamental scientific concepts, like the second principle of thermodynamics.

    But the problem cuts equally deeply on the other side, just consider the following quote from physicist Steven Weinberg (in his Dreams of a Final Theory): “The insights of philosophers have occasionally benefited physicists, but generally in a negative fashion—by protecting them from the preconceptions of other philosophers ... Philosophy of science at its best seems to me a pleasing gloss on the history and discoveries of science.” Here Weinberg makes the all-too common mistake of thinking of philosophy as of an activity whose entire worth is measured by how useful it is to solve scientific problems. But why should that be so? We already have science to help us solve scientific problems, philosophy does something else by using different tools, so why compare apples and oranges? By the same token, why not ask why art critics don’t produce paintings, for instance, or editors write books?

    For the purposes of this discussion, I assume that most people have at least some idea of what science is, if not of the intricacies of the epistemological and metaphysical problems inherent in the practice of science (and there are many: as Daniel Dennett put it in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, “There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.”) Science, broadly speaking, deals with the study and understanding of natural phenomena, and is concerned with empirically (i.e., either observationally or experimentally) testable hypotheses advanced to account for those phenomena.

    Philosophy, on the other hand, is much harder to define. Broadly speaking, it can be thought of as an activity that uses reason to explore issues that include the nature of reality (metaphysics), the structure of rational thinking (logic), the limits of our understanding (epistemology), the meaning implied by our thoughts (philosophy of language), the nature of the moral good (ethics), the nature of beauty (aesthetics), and the inner workings of other disciplines (philosophy of science, philosophy of history, and a variety of other “philosophies of”). Philosophy does this by methods of analysis and questioning that include dialectics and logical argumentation.

    Now, it seems to me obvious, but apparently it needs to be stated that: a) philosophy and science are two distinct activities (at least nowadays, since science did start as a branch of philosophy called natural philosophy); b) they work by different methods (empirically-based hypothesis testing vs. reason-based logical analysis); and c) they inform each other in an inter-dependent fashion (science depends on philosophical assumptions that are outside the scope of empirical validation, but philosophical investigations should be informed by the best science available in a range of situations, from metaphysics to ethics and philosophy of mind).

    So when some commentators for instance defend the Dawkins- and Coyne-style (scientistic) take on atheism, i.e., that science can mount an attack on all religious beliefs, they are granting too much to science and too little to philosophy. Yes, science can empirically test specific religious claims (intercessory prayer, age of the earth, etc.), but the best objections against the concept of, say, an omnibenevolent and onmnipowerful god, are philosophical in nature (e.g., the argument from evil). Why, then, not admit that by far the most effective way to reject religious nonsense is bycombining science and philosophy, rather than trying to arrogate to either more epistemological power than each separate discipline actually possesses?

    Another common misconception is that philosophy, unlike science, doesn’t make progress. This is simply not true, unless one measures progress by the (scientific) standard of empirical discovery. But that would be like accusing the New York Yankees of never having won an NBA title: they can’t, they ain’t playing the same game. Philosophy makes progress because dialectical analysis generates compelling objections to a given position, which lead to either an improvement or the abandonment of said position, which is followed by more critical analysis of either the revised position or of the new one, and so on. For instance, ethical theories (moral philosophy), or theories about consciousness (philosophy of mind), or about the nature of science (philosophy of science), have steadily progressed so that no contemporary professional philosopher would consider herself a utilitarian in the original sense intended by Jeremy Bentham, or a Cartesian dualist, or a Popperian falsificationist — just in the same way in which no scientist today would defend Newtonian mechanics, or the original version of Darwin’s theory.
    It is also interesting to note that the process I just described may never reach and end result, but neither does science! Scientific theories are always tentative, and they are always either improved upon or abandoned in favor of new ones. So how come we are willing to live with uncertainty and constant revision in science, but demand some sort of definitive truth from philosophy?

    Now why is it that so many people take sides on a debate that doesn’t make much sense, rather than rejoice in what the human mind can achieve through the joint efforts of two of its most illustrious intellectual traditions? I think the answer here is no different from the one available to Snow fifty years ago: people in the humanities are afraid of cultural colonization (which is actually the expressed agenda of scientistic thinkers like E.O. Wilson, see his Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge), while scientists have been made arrogant by their recently acquired prestige and enhanced financial resources, so that they don't think they need to bother with activities that don’t bring in millions of dollars in funding every year.

    It’s a rather sad, and indeed positively irritating, state of affairs, which is being fought by a handful of activities (usually, though not always, initiated by philosophers), like my own “sci-phi” effort, or like the Permanent Observatory on Integration between the Human and Natural Sciences in Italy. It’s an uphill battle, especially in an era of ever increasing academic specialization, not to mention the ease with which people can now customize their intellectual experiences online, reading only the sort of things they are already interested in, or authors with whose positions they already agree. Which is actually one of the things that make this particular forum somewhat unusual and, to me at least, stimulating. So fire away your opinions, let the sci-phi discussion begin!


    I've always thought they were complimentary - it's as important to ask "can we" as "should we"


    This is a really interesting article.
    It is true science and philosophy, do share much in common, but there are differences that do matter. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    Here is a more extended reaction to this article.

    What exactly do I, as a scientist, need to learn from modern philosophers in order to do my research? As far as I know, most scientists pay no attention to philosophical debates and it does not prevent them from doing research. On the other hand, as you yourself mentioned, philosophers need to take recent scientific results into account, because the results have profound philosophical implications (e.g., quantum physics, theory of relativity, cosmology, theory of evolution, theory of computation, brain research, experimental psychology, etc).

    Unlike some scientists, I do not try to denigrate philosophy. Conversely; I think that it has an important place in the mosaic of human endeavor. Nevertheless, I think that today the world is shaped mostly by modern science, and much less by modern philosophy.

    Gerhard Adam
    I have to strongly disagree.  Science is rapidly moving into realms that have quite definite philosophical implications whether it be genetic manipulation, bioengineering, etc.  Increasingly there are many facets of scientific research that need to ask more philosophical questions rather than merely keeping a "heads down, full speed ahead" mentality.

    This is particularly striking when one examines the arguments advanced by the transhumanist ideals, so that whenever a concern is raised they wave their arms and say that's a social problem, or a political problem and has nothing to do with science.  

    I think something that is unspoken but needs to be considered.  Most science today is NOT an isolated independent activity and it most certainly is NOT an entitlement.  Science depends on its funding from a variety of sources be it private business or the government, so it isn't enough to argue that the scientist is simply trying to satisfy a personal curiosity. 
    What exactly do I, as a scientist, need to learn from modern philosophers in order to do my research?
    I guess the lesson from this is that a philosophical dispute could dry up funding for research that is considered against the interests of society.  This is clearly evidenced by the fact that many(?) scientists may not have a problem with the idea of cloning humans, but this isn't a technical debate, it's a philosophical one.  Not all research should necessarily be pursued.  While I realize that that may sound like heresy, the point is that there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed (at least not at our present level of understanding and into the foreseeable future).
    Mundus vult decipi
    I admit that some scientists (e.g., bioengineers) should be well aware of ethical implications of their research and they need some philosophy to remind them to be cautious. I fully agree that "heads down, full speed ahead" is a dangerous mentality. But I think that most of modern philosophy is useless for most of modern science (while the converse is not true).

    Consider for instance mathematics, materials science, mineralogy, parasitology, quantum computing, etc. How exactly would scientists in these fields profit from, say, metaphysics or aesthetics? What are the concrete results of modern philosophy that an experimental physicist really needs to know of to do her research?

    From my point of view this discussion is much too general; if the author wants to persuade scientists of an important role of modern philosophy for their research, then he should be more specific. He should give us a list of concrete philosophical results together with explanation of how the results are useful for which specific scientific discipline. (Preferably some results that almost all philosophers agree on. Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

    Mr. Harman,

    This is exactly the point that Mr. Pigluicci made clearly in his posts. Philosophers should NOT be mainly concerned with making themselves relevant to scientists. At the same time, we can - and should - make a list of concrete philosophical results that are useful to the general public.

    In my view, all human endeavors (science, literature, mathematics, art, philosophy, etc.) should be measured by how much they contribute to the public good. They should USE each other (like philosophy is using scientific findings, and science is using mathematical findings), but they shouldn't be mainly concerned with SERVING each other. They should serve humanity and, perhaps more broadly, nature.

    Philosophy is both relevant and useful in all aspects of life, and is therefore useful for science. In science, philosophy is is especially relevant to debates over the determination of good and bad knowledge (epistemology, logic), debates which founded science and which continue today. Philosophy is extremely relevant to the determination of what is worth studying, and of course how we determine the value of one piece of knowledge or another (aesthetics, ethics). The basic axioms of mathematics and logic, that are so often taken for granted, are all grounded in philosophy. And of course philosophy is extremely relevant to the interpretation of scientific findings (philosophy of language, epistemology, logic, aesthetics, ethics, and all other forms of armchair conjecture).
    To say that philosophy is not important to science simply demonstrates an ignorance of the scope of philosophical inquiry.

    I apologize for being a philosophical ignorant, but what exactly do you mean by "good" and "bad" knowledge? Which concrete recent philosophical discoveries changed the way how parasitologists "value one piece of knowledge or another"? Which books from aesthetics are (or should be) the most popular with geneticists to interpret they findings?

    (I have absolutely nothing against philosophy and I know that science owes much to philosophy. Moreover, I would like to add that I am a fan of prof. Pigliucci. I just decided to take the role of an opponent in this discussion. You know, when everybody thinks alike, nobody thinks very much.)

    in science, knowledge is considered better or more valuable if it can be verified empirically. Unverifiable knowledge is of less value in science. In other words, knowledge can be evaluated as good and bad, or, if you prefer, more or less valuable. The arguments used to determine how knowledge should be evaluated are necessarily philosophical, not scientific arguments. Science rests on an argument that empirically verifiable knowledge is more valuable than unverifiable knowledge, and in this sense science rests on a philosophical argument about epistemological value.

    I would guess that utilitarianism, the ethical position, informs a lot of what parasitologists choose to study. I think most scientists would benefit from (at the least) a basic understanding on the debates surrounding philosophy of science, such as the differences between instrumentalism, pragmatism, objective realism, positivism, and other epistemological views.
    I should point out that philosophy doesn't make "discoveries" in the way that science does. In science, there is an assumption that knowledge can be built, and that it can be accumulated in a way that builds on previous knowledge. This is not the case with philosophy, which often revisits very old texts as well as mundane hypothetical situations in order to add to a discussion.
    Your question about geneticists and books about aesthetics is an awkward one to answer. I think that ones own aesthetic preferences, and one's own sense of beauty plays a role in interpreting scientific findings, and therefore I think that learning to be critical about aesthetic judgment is valuable to the interpretation of scientific findings generally. By interpretation, I am referring primarily to discussions about science that are aimed at a broader audience (such as science blogs and journalism), though I think that aesthetics play a role even in the writing of scientific papers.
    I don't know of any books on the aesthetics of science, but discussions on natural and artificial beauty, (which are numerous) are certainly relevant to geneticists. Personally, I really like the writing of Arthur Danto about art. There are lots of fascinating ideas about aesthetics and beauty in his books.

    Nice reply; thank you. I will not ask more questions (although there could be many), but I would like to add my opinion.

    I am a mathematician and a statistician with some contacts to people working in applied science. I think that scientists don't care much about philosophy, because (for them!) it is often unclear or trivial. (For instance, the statement that unverifiable knowledge is less important than verifiable knowledge is somehow both unclear [what exactly is unverifiable knowledge; isn't it an oxymoron?] and trivial [whatever unverifiable knowledge is, every scientists knows that it is less useful than empirically verifiable knowledge].)

    More importantly, scientists are usually extremely busy doing their narrow research and writing papers in order to survive in academia. Thinking about "big picture" (i.e., about some broader philosophical questions) is, in a sense, dangerous. In other words, the academic system of the type "publish or perish" strongly discourages scientists from exploring philosophical issues of their research, because it does not help them increase their scientometric evaluation.

    Now I would like to excuse myself from further discussion, because I need to make corrections in our new textbook on probability, finish 2 papers, and write a report on 2 others. While, of course, preparing lectures for the next week...

    If we started discussing the definitions of many science-related concepts, we would end up in philosophical conversations, not discussions that can be put to rest through science. For example, what is a species? Does a species exist, and if so, in what manner?

    I have to be honest. As one who was trained in philosophy as an undergraduate and then subsequently spent the last 30 years involved in the natural sciences--in particularly astronomy--I have found that not only does science and philosophy compliment one another very nicely, but are inextricably intertwined. From my perspective, I couldn't imagine the one without the other. But, that's just my opinion.
    I really appreciate this discussion. I do not consider myself to be a philosopher or a scientist... But I do study the "humanities" and I believe that my studies are both philosophical and scientific in nature. To simplify science as solely an empirical endeavor is a bit closeminded! For instance, qualitative research has often been written off as illegitimate in the academic world, and I would go as far as to say this is becuase it is "unscientific". This is because the nature of qualitative research is rather subjective; to gather qualitative data and to analyse it relies heavily on the researcher's inherent beliefs on what should be studied and how it ought to be studied. But isn't this so for even empirical studies? I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would consider qualitative research to have scientific merit, as it yields results and furthers knowledge (and please forgive me, because I realize that my perhaps my idea of "science" is broad) even if it's born out of certain humanist perspectives that implicitly rely on "philosophy".

    I think I might be missing some critical distinctions... and perhaps I've completely missed the point. Please, share your thoughts

    While the word "science" once referred to a very broad range of disciplines, I use it exclusively to refer to disciplines and knowledge resulting from the use of the scientific method. Freudian psychoanalysis was referred to as "science" within the past few decades, but in fact it is not based on the scientific method.
    On this basis I would say that the humanities are not science.

    But I think it is crazy to regard disciplines that do not rely on the scientific method as less valuable than science. I find that really shocking. As much as science is an amazing beautiful thing, you certainly can't go through life relying solely on scientific knowledge. I believe that qualitative research is extremely important, but I do not think of it as "science". We should interpret things according to our beliefs, and we should make normative statements of value. And making intelligent qualitative judgments is extremely helpful to society. There are tons of vital questions that science will never be able to address, questions which ask for normative, not positive answers (please look up this distinction if you aren't already familiar with it). Science can really only provide us with positive answers, not normative ones, and even then it can only provide us with positive answers that can be measured in a repeatable way, ruling out all knowledge that relies on the unique interpretation of an individual. Science can't tell us what is important, it can only tell us what is, and even then it only tells us what appears to be the case.

    Here is a basic definition of science from wikipedia:
    "In its more restricted contemporary sense, science is a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research."

    and philosophy:
    "There are at least two senses in which the term philosophy is used. In the more formal sense, philosophy is an intellectual endeavor focusing on the fields of metaphysics, logic, ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics. In the more informal sense, philosophy is a way of life whose focus is resolving the existential questions about the human condition. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing these questions (such as mysticism or mythology) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument"

    I hope that clarifies things a bit more.

    Thank you for the clarification, this helps.

    I understand that the usage of the word "science" in this discussion to be solely based on the scientific method (in the strictest/purest sense), so for that consider this to be a probably embarassing tangent. You said "science can't tell us what is important, it can only tell us what is, and even then it only tells us what appears to the case" which makes sense but, as you alluded to, there are some things "that are" that cannot necessarily be researched via the tradiational scientific method. Consider cultural ethnography... the rich description of one's experience of a particular culture. Evocative language; statements, feelings, observations. This type of research is absolutely subjective, normative, far from empirical, and may or may not seek to resolve philosophical questions. But is it not a way to communicate what "is"? And doesn't the scientific method kind of creep into this kind of research? There is still the question, the hypothesis, the data collection, the analysis and contextualization of information... just under a less conventional method... even if they are based in questions of the human condition? The scientific method, in some way shape or form, permeates most fields of research, it's just that some genres don't attempt to extract the "science" from the "philosophy"... in other words normative and positivist studies may both rely on the scientific method.

    So perhaps the definition of science provided above should explicitly refer to positivism, seeing as the way it stands now still seems quite loose and up for interpretation (namely because the scientific method is so basic and widely applicable... agreed? Or am I way off?). I guess this seems like a petty linguistical issue. I don't claim to know what I'm talking about and I really appreciate your patience and clarification!

    Dave Deamer

    Thanks, Massimo, for a thoughtful statement.  I want to point out one place where science and philosophy inform each other very nicely, hinted at by the melding of “bio-” and “ethics” into a useful neologism: bioethics. A bit of background first: biomedical research is heavily supported by grants from NIH, with individual scientists competing for awards in the million dollar range which they use to support their research.  Furthermore, their success as academic scientists is strongly linked to their grantsmanship, which in turn is tied to their ability to attract talented graduate students and post-doctoral associates to their labs. And, of course, the results of their research are sometimes of great interest to billion dollar pharmaceutical industries. What this means is that the science side of their lives becomes entangled with a whole set of decisions that can only be described within the context of ethics.  Every such decision carries with it the temptation to be, well, unethical, and a rare few scientists inevitably give in to the temptation. If you want to see the effect on their careers, just go the web site of the Office of Research Integrity at NIH, where their sad cases are presented for all to see and learn from.

    To address this problem, major research universities have introduced undergraduate and graduate courses on bioethics. At UC Santa Cruz, we have a very popular course in this area, and when we initiated the course seven years ago we made a conscious decision to have it co-taught by a scientist and a philosopher. I taught the course for the first few years with Ellen Suckiel, then chair of the Philosophy Department, and was astonished by how much we had to learn from each other and from the students who took the course. I hope that our students will be better prepared to use the logic of ethics as they begin their careers and face the temptations that will arise.

    Science was born from philosophy - denying this is rather like disowning one's parents. It was not called natural philosophy for nothing; and a degree in Physics at Oxford is still called Natural Philosophy.

    Many scientists are able to ignore philosophy precisely because those questions of epistemology or nomology have already (seemingly) been resolved. They are thus 'unconscious philosophers' whilst believing that only their consciousness exists. It is in those sciences that call into question philosophical assumptions where discussions become vibrant once again.
    Science and philosophy need each other - science is the what, where and how and philosophy is the why and how far.

    purity of either results in little or outright evil - but tempered - alloyed with each other - they are the path to the pinnacle of what we as human can achieve

    I have wrestled with this issue between science and philosophy myself (als see my own posts here on science 2.0), and my conclusion is that my pet hobby -complexity thinking-  basically, to some extent, dissolves the differences between science, philosophy and the crafts. A lot of scientists seem to be unaware that they themselves take up a more or less philosophical position when they extrapolate their findings to 'the real world', especially when they popularise scientific research. I sometimes jokingly call Richard Dawkins the most post-modern of biologists, as his tale of the sly 'selfish' gene that manages to trick the dumb organism to abide to all its wishes, is in essence a support of postmodern critique of science. Bio-tech in many ways conforms to Foucaults critiques! I love to read Dawkins, but his popular work is NOT objective science!

    Also science would have come to a grinding halt if physicists did not take up the role of philosopher every now and then, for instance when thinking about the true nature of space (Ernst Mach) or the role of uncertainty (Heisenberg, Bohr and Einstein). One may criticise many full-time philosophers of ducking away from these debates, as David Lindley did, but then the discussion is not about philosophy in itself, rather it is about the question if these times really benefit from full-time philosophers who have nothing better to do. I think we do, but philosophy by its nature is exploratory, and it is never sure if these explorations will ever result in something. Also I am deeply critical for any philosophy that purports to say something about our current 'being', or criticises other enterprises, while solely relying on the contributions of other philosophers. I have read a tad too many thick books which are filled with the ideas of other philosophers, with minor reflections of their own to complete the analysis. I have often found myself finally appreciating a philosopher, only to find out s/he was a sociologist, antroplogist or journalist. Maybe it's just a matter of my personal interest, but in general I think a reflexive attitude works better for me if it is based from multiple sources; scientific, news, and so on. But this also applies to is beyond me that in 2011 there are still gene-centric scientists who claim that 'it is scientifically proven' that thingie X 'has a genetic cause', especially when it involves human behaviour and so on. At those moments I am glad that there are philosophers like John Dupré or Samir Okasha who are capable of critically assessing those claims, with a great understanding of the science behind it.

    The problem with many scientists (and techies like myself) is that we are often ethically and normatively 'naive', as I call it. This does not have to be a problem, but it does when we move beyond the immediate scope of our enterprises and start having opinions on things that we both are poorly informed, and often contradicts what we value most. If one considers philosophy to be irrelevant, then I would expect this to be arumented 'objectively' , which is impossible, because the statement is a normative one. I would also wonder how math, logical reasoning and hard scientific evidence can conclusively make statements of an ethical or moral nature. We can't, and as a result, we are usually dealing with a 'Star Wars' kind of ethics, with good guys/gals fighting bad guys, and the solitary hero who will defend our universe.  We see this with the ethics behind wikileaks, open source, and so on. In technology, I have seen this with the idea that there are 'problems' that need to be 'solved', which usually just results in a transformation of the original problems. Pointing this out, often results in very defensive reactions; some of my colleagues have been accused of being 'traitors' to science...which I don't consider to be an 'objective' discourse on these matters.

    I think that when one has gotten sufficient operational knowledge over one's work or enterprises, a reflexive attitude comes naturally; I think it is a matter of becoming intellectually mature within one's work. This also reflects the traditional role of an acadamic mindset..that they were not single-minded, but wise, and with a sharp eye for the wider context of their enterprises.
    With this, the typical academic habit of organising the world according to hierarchies, layers and crisp distinctions starts to dissolve. Science, philosophy and practical knowledge are always in each other's vicinity and can never evolve in isolation
    Without putting a gigantic wall of text, I would say that you ultimately entrust scientific theories to Majority Opinion......

    I was disappointed to find that when I googled the Observatory on Integration between the Human and Natural Sciences I didn't get a single hit outside of your blog. Is it real or does it only exist in italian?

    Hi, I'm a philosophy student with a fair amount of contact with science. I don't think that philosophy informs science.

    Think of science as an attempt to go from phenomena to theory, whilst philosophy is more of an attempt to go from theory to phenomena. Mathematics was a revolution. Science was a revolution. Philosophy is just what anything intelligent enough to be curious and self-reflective does. Its constrained by nothing else.

    To say the least the scientific approach is considerably more successful at producing results and for obvious reasons: theory about phenomena which makes scarce reference to phenomena is often vacuous. Philosophy is often vacuous. However, its hard to see how to get started without it. When you have something new you want to think about and you don't even know what data is relevant to it then philosophy is the act of piecing together some informative theory from intuition and then trying to use it to fit the real world. However, as soon as a subject gets off of the ground it severs its ties to philosophy and conducts a detailed study of itself and establishes its own autonomy.

    Philosophy thus contributes, but never for long. It's always in a state of 99% vacuousness.

    Gerhard Adam
    It strikes me that your explanation fails to address the bigger issues.  It simply views philosophy as a way of piecing together some basic information and then proceed to a reductionist view of science.  However, you've done nothing to establish what your expectation of science is.  If it is merely the collection of data to produce "results", then it seems you've short-changed science.

    What "results" are you expecting from explorations about the origin of life?  or natural selection?  It also seems that your sense of what philosophy is and the wide range of subjects that it covers is being ignored.  Just the ethical element alone, should be clearly important for many scientific endeavors.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well, I said nothing about a reductionist view. I said philosophy is what we do when we don't have a better means.

    Regarding ethics: Ethical questions are not philosophy just because philosophers think about ethical questions. Further, when other people think about ethical questions they are not necessarily philosophising. That's the problem. The two are constantly conflated.

    What "results" are you expecting from philosophy? Don't you think there should be a meta-philosophy to decide what the type of thing philosophical results are? I don't think knowledge really works like that. Philosophy is not the underpinning justification for all other thought. It's simply what we do when we have no better means.

    Consider the sentence: "Philosophy is about asking the right question". I think it sums up what most people expect from philosophy. It implies the special ability to divine what sort of enquiry leads to truth. Such a paradox, and so widely accepted.

    Gerhard Adam
    Philosophy is divided into five branchs; metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics.  How did you arrive at the conclusion that ethics is NOT philosophy?
    It's simply what we do when we have no better means.
    This strikes me as an exceedingly simplistic view.  We utilize mathematics extensively despite the fact that it isn't in the least bit scientific.  In fact, mathematics is much more closely related to philosophy than it is to science, since it represents a logical system rather than an evidentiary one.
    Mundus vult decipi
    There are a plethora of objective, reproducible "results" pertinent to the origin of life and natural selection. Both are fairly well established fields within biology. Neither are philosophical pursuits (at least in any interesting way).

    Gerhard Adam
    ...objective, reproducible "results" pertinent to the origin of life...
    I understand a great deal of the work that has gone into investigating origin of life issues.  Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I should have been, but my use of the term "results" was more inclined towards the "use" of such knowledge rather than the mere possession of it.

    I won't bore you with the details, but just that statement alone is chock full of philosophical issues that can't be ignored.
    Mundus vult decipi
    To repeat what I said: "Regarding ethics: Ethical questions are not philosophy just because philosophers think about ethical questions. Further, when other people think about ethical questions they are not necessarily philosophising. That's the problem. The two are constantly conflated."

    To put it another way: if philosophy didn't exist as a subject, the subject matter of ethics still would. Philosophers think about ethics. It doesn't mean ethics is philosophy, and that when anyone thinks about ethics they are really doing philosophy.

    Regarding maths and philosophy: Logic is, if you like, our distillation of rational argumentation. Science is logical. It also uses evidence. The two are not exclusive (thank God). Science, maths and philosophy all have logic in common as does any other rational thought whether its attached to a subject or not. A good corollary to the scientific method is the statistical method of hypothesis testing. I'm sure the statisticians here will only be too happy to tell you about the huge importance of statistics in science. We believe in the a priori postulates of statistics because statistics work. If they didn't work we'd have good evidence against the a priori postulates of statistics...

    "The science of speculation", thats my new title for philosophy. Do you like it? I actually find it rather satisfying. It at once says what philosophy is and isn't. It makes it clear when its useful and when it isn't. It makes me feel better about being a philosopher.

    The distinction between religion/philosophy/science never existed in Islam.Therefore, neither did we have the tension between church and science nor an absolute trust in Aristotelian, Newtonian or Darwinian theories, although there were always Muslim philosophers who have reacted/appreciated to Old Greek/modern philosophy and science. Yet the new wave of secularism seems to be willing not only to restrict religion to the content of the Bible but also separate the domains of religion, philosophy and science. Science wishes no counterargument on the consequences of science for science. Philosophy is consulted by science about the ethical issues but is not understood as a system (rather few systems) with segments which are interconnected that no part can be referred to in isolation. Religion is studied nowadays through scientific methods but the above mentioned, predominantly Western vision about it by other domains distrust the scientific method of the study of religion as non-orthodox, innovations, and generally speaking not belonging to the religion itself but added to it by apologists.
    Truely, Philosophy does make progress but does not make money and people are generally after science and technology because there is more money in it.
    It might also be the laziness of the practitioners of both disciplines but also the fact that in the hectic sphere of work nowadays, both philosophers and scientists have little time to spend on other disciplines. Those in the managerial positions, especially at the universities must make this possible.

    If science does not accept counterargument, then something must have gone terribly wrong with science education, because counterargument is THE way to advance science. However, there are some forms of argument which are generally considered suspect within the scientific paradigms, and many people with a scientific background are poorly educated on the philosophical foundations of their enterprises. This results in naive perceptions of 'objectivity', 'truth' and 'facts', which are often put in play in discussions (on the superiority) of science without acknowledgment of the philosophical belief systems on which these concepts are based.
    In the end, one of science's strongest assets has always been its ability for critical self-reflection. This is not uniquely scientific -the gnostics were once a religious group who considered critical thought to pave the way to reuniting with the Aon (true God) and bypassing the guile of the Demiurg- and also the protestant movement could be considered partially succesful in critically reassessing the Christian faith-  but it can be argued that science is one of but a few that have managed to incorporate this self-critical attitude in its own knowledge production.
    Profound scientific breakthroughs appear to be made by persons of equally profound philosophy. Every scientist has a philosophy that guides his or her efforts, whether or not acknowledged. If the unexamined life is not worth living, might we extrapolate that the unexamined philosophy results in science of little value?

    Of course, human bias directs scientists in what they pursue as well as what they see in the results. Eventually, however, the results create a paradigm shift and the guiding philosophy changes with that new vision. So, why do we argue? Sounds like professional jealously that may have started when the terms of philosophy and science were artificially separated only in an attempt to label human investigate by methodology. The human desire to categorize is the demon here, not the relative importance of these two intricately woven components of enlightenment.

    so the difference between philosophy and science is that science is empirical and philosophy is rational. if you read plato's writing where socrates argue with other philosophers, you will understand that each of the philosophical argument is based on example or empirical data which everyone can understand.

    for example: in plato's the sophist, the job of a sophist is pointed out by dividing the entire art group systematically. among various arts there is one called hunting. among many types of huning there is one the hunting of living prey. among living prey there is land animal. among land animal there is tame animal which is man himself. sophists hunt men.

    now see these classifications: hunting, living prey, land animal, man: everybody can understand these things, even we at 21st century too. so these things are example of empirical thinking. reason is based on these empirical observation. so how can you say that philosophy has nothing to do with empiricism? i think that from the above example it is clear that philosophy = empiricism + rationalism. it is a complete system.

    one of the beauties of philosophy is that it will not cost million dollars to investigate into natural phenomena. just by seeing what we can see in our daily life philosophy investigates nature. philosophy takes nature AS IT IS, without manipulating or controling anything. socrates investigates many thing from soul to virtue, erotics, rhetoric etc. without spending a single penny where scientists require HUGE money to answer any question. i think philosophy is more economical than science.

    "Philosophy takes nature AS IT IS"

    We may forgive the ancients to think so, but in the 21 st Century this is a very naive idea. Thoughts are communicated, are put into actions and therefore change the nature of our life world. Thinking is subject to limitations, biases and power relations. When Aristotle (or who was it again?) claimed that women, slaves and craftsmen did not have free will, he was not doing any of these categories a favour. Some claim that postmodern thought has brought havoc in traditional lower- and working class milieus because the proclaimed freedom that relativism brought, also tore apart the social values that bound these groups together.
    A big threat to humankind are humans who change the world while claiming that they "just want to understand it". This line of argumentation always makes me think of Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks", where little alien creatures invade earth, killing everything in their stead while proclaiming "We come in peace" with considerable pleasure.
    More and more academic thinkers  are starting to wonder if the differences between science, philosophy and professions are becoming blurred, because of the complexity of the subjects we are dealing with. In a fairly surveyable world these differences may have had their merits, but currently we are dealing with phenomena that do not allow themselves to be represented in a causal, linear fashion (which poses limitations to standard scientific research), interacts with a lot of other phenomena which surpass the boundaries of specialisation (which invites an attitude that is  more in league with that of professionals), are affected by our observations/actions (idem) and go together with a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity (which invites a more reflective or philosophical attitude)
    Philosophy and science traditionally considered the somewhat detached observer who watches subject matter' from a d8istance', to be  an 'ideal'. Many of these classical ideals are still (implicitly) present in scientific methodology and philosophical reflection. We know now however, that observation is always limited and embodied, and whatever position you take, it all comes with limitations. The true test of philosophy then is to self-reflexive of all those things that are taken for granted