What is science and what is philosophy
Science, in the broadest sense, is any systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Such an enterprise is distinguished from religion, politics, and other non-systematic enterprises by a focus on empirical evidence and testable explanations, and on the predictability of consequences. [about the label “science”] Philosophy is any systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations about human nature or existence, that is distinguished from science by a focus on human understanding rather than empirical evidence. [in the box] Differences between science and philosophy
More substantively, there are several differences between the two enterprises: Science is organized around testable hypotheses, which can be falsified by experiment. Philosophy is organized around arguments and debate, which may or may not be testable. Scientists hope that their work will be corroborated in future experiments; philosophers hope that the theories they construct will become part of the general understanding of humanity. Scientists are interested in understanding the physical world, and creating technology which can manipulate it. Philosophers are interested in understanding human nature, and creating technology which can manipulate it in turn.
Theoretical physicists who are coming to grips with the possibility that their models may become testable (see below) often call themselves “natural philosophers”. [about the label “scientist”] What is a scientist?
The difference between the two fields
Philosophy deals with questions about the world and with arguments about them, whereas science is only concerned with the world. Philosophy relies on argument and evidence, whereas science proceeds by observation and experiment. Science is committed to the systematic gathering of accurate, testable, reproducible evidence about the world, and consists of data, theories and models. Philosophy is not dependent on empirical evidence and can deal with topics not amenable to scientific examination. [in the box]
Philosophers (p. 5) are interested in the possible, whereas scientists are interested in the actual. For most philosophers, a meaningful world must include consciousness: The world is not simply an arena of interaction between objects and forces.
Philosophy and science provide us with many different kinds of evidence and thus cannot be compared as to which is “more credible. Philosophy is an activity and a way of life, whereas science is a method for revealing the truth about the world. Philosophy consists at least of logical arguments and methods of reasoning, whereas science might include techniques such as computation.
Philosophy asks questions about what we can know, whereas science answers questions about what we can measure. Science requires empirical data to have credibility, but philosophy relies on things like intuition and reason. [in the box]
Similarities and differences between science and philosophy
The differences between science and philosophy are primarily concerned with the areas of focus of the two fields and their reliance on evidence. Science focuses its attention upon the physical world, whilst philosophy is concerned with abstract concepts and questions. The two fields of study differ in their social and cultural perspectives, with science being regarded as more established than philosophy in European culture.
However, both fields are based on the same methods of reasoning and scientific observation, although philosophy is often disparaged as being subjective and indefinable. Scientists attempt to describe the world in terms that make predictions about it and try to build a model in which such descriptions can be tested. This is an aim which generally satisfies philosophers who seek to appreciate the nature of the theories they develop.
However, while both science and philosophy seek to explain the world, they engage in different processes of interpretation. The difference between the two is often a matter of aim, scientists are concerned with seeking to explain and predict whereas philosophers are more concerned with understanding what it is about the world around them which cannot be explained.
Scientific knowledge has been consolidated over centuries by scientists following a number of methods. Philosophical thought has not yet been able to produce uniform knowledge on its own terms, although has been integral to scientific studies throughout history. However, there is still a great debate over the basis of scientific study, which has not been resolved. Evidence gathered by scientific methods of observation has led to theories that explain the properties of the universe around us.
Science’s impact on society compared to philosophy
The impact of science is far greater than that of philosophy, with science having transformed society in a wide variety of ways. These include new inventions and discoveries, such as the telephone and computer, the introduction of new concepts such as the atom, relativity and quantum theory, and the knowledge that prevents war by providing an understanding of nuclear weapons. A positive impact of science has been its influence in improving health, with the discovery of many diseases and vaccines.
Since the creation of the scientific method, science has studied nature, with the knowledge that is derived being used in such things as technology, medicine, agriculture and industry. In order to study nature, science uses a process of observation and experimentation. Observation is done by looking at things with the five senses or with scientific instruments. The information is recorded in a notebook or on a computer and it is then analysed and interpreted to find out more about what is being observed. Once scientists have a sound understanding of what is happening, they can make an accurate prediction about future occurrences. Once the experiment is proceeding as predicted, it is time to evaluate the findings of the experimentation.
Which field is more important – science or philosophy
Many scientists believe that science is the most important field of study. The impact of science in society and culture is far greater than any other area of study and has led many to believe that science is the only area of importance. However, there are some who believe that philosophical thought is equally important. Philosophers have historically been instrumental in the development of science and the philosophy of science is a central part of the philosophy curriculum. Philosophy has had a strong influence on science, particularly in the areas of mathematics, physics and astronomy, but more recently also in biology and medicine. [in the box]
Learn more about philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/ Everybody should study philosophy because everybody should be aware of and think about the answers to these fundamental questions that have puzzled man throughout history. [add a link: Socrates: “What is beauty, what is goodness?”] Whether you find the answers or not, you will learn more about yourself in the process.
Why study philosophy? [in the box] Philosophy links all academic disciplines together. [example of a related article: Mathematics] You can learn all sorts of science in the classroom and learn all sorts of philosophy in your lunch hour. Through philosophy, you will discover how you think and how to think better. Philosophy is an essential skill for everyone and should not be neglected by anyone. [for more, read: “Your Brain on Philosophy”]
Philosophy is not for mathematicians [also added in the box]: Many mathematicians believe that their field does not require the application of philosophy. There are many aspects of everyday life which fall under the rubric of philosophy (and most mathematicians believe they were not meant to be studied in the classroom) such as ethics, religion, aesthetics, politics and economics. How do you separate the practical from the philosophical in the classroom? [add a link]