Difference Between Philosophy & Science

  • Both philosophy and science are intellectual enterprises, but they differ in their essential nature and methodology. Science is an objective study of the world supposedly existing independently of any thinking mind. Hence nature it is realistic. But philosophy does not have any compulsion to be realistic-though there are realists among philosophers. 
  • For those who consider philosophy as a second order discipline (confined to conceptual analysis), science is a first order discipline. It is concerned with the real, natural, world of things and events. Those who believe in this kind of difference between philosophy and science, think that philosophy deals with facts (i.e. things in relation) and science deals with things proper.
  • The method of science is observation, experiment, calculation, prediction, verification etc. The only method in philosophy is logical and systematic analysis and debate. It is a discourse based on rational description and study of events and facts. Logical consistency is its central point. Logic is active in science too, but any statement made in science has to be objective by tested before it is accepted as true. .
  • Very often philosophy is synthetic and prescriptive. It concerns itself with the value of life. It guides us in making choices. Hence value-study is confined to philosophy alone. Scientific studies are value-neutral. That is why often ethical charges are brought against some scientific researches. This is the expression of the philosophical mind of the society.
  • Scientific studies tend to break things and go to the minimal constituents of them. In this respect, it is an analytical study-whereas, because it does not break anything, also does not prescribe breaking anything of substantive value, Philosophy is holistic or synthetic study.
  • • Science is not concerned with the moral or aesthetic aspect of events. Philosophy very often raises moral and aesthetic aspect of events. Philosophy very often raises moral and aesthetic questions.

From the above, you should not think that philosophy and science are very different and antagonistic to each other. That is not the case. In the beginning, all serious thoughts were philosophy. Science was ‘natural philosophy’. Slowly, over the years, science has evolved as a distinct field of study separate from philosophy.

The epithet ‘natural’ is still useful in understanding the distinction between science and philosophy. Science purports to enquire into things as they are. We have already told you that there is a growing tendency these days to call science a first order discipline merely concerned with concepts. You must not be carried away by this type of differentiation –though there is some truth in it. On the contrary, you should carefully try to understand the situation. If we strictly contrast science and philosophy as belonging to two worlds, then the outcome may be amusing. Science as the first order discipline is the study of things as they are. Is philosophy, as a second order discipline, a ‘study of things as they are not’? Such an implication is absurd. To bypass this, we have to say that science studies things as they ‘appear’. But the scientists will have objection to this. Anyway, the truth of the ‘appearance’ of things will be only lower than the truth of things ‘as they must be in fact.’ If we say that science studies this aspect only and not the ‘appearances’, then, interestingly, philosophy also does that! Then virtually there is no difference between philosophy and science. Hence, it is wrong to designate only science as the first order discipline.

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