What Is the Connection between Philosophy and Science?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
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  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2017
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The connection between philosophy and science is multifaceted and complex. Science has a philosophical basis at its very core, and philosophy often uses scientific rigor in its methodology. Most people think of science as a physically justified type of knowledge, but many types of science are theoretical. Philosophy is often thought of as purely existing in the realm of thought, but some aspects of philosophy are used in math, language, and other disciplines. There are many ways in which philosophy and science relate, and the specific relation depends on the context.

People often do not realize that science relies on a view of the world that is itself a philosophy. Humans tend to see the world as a series of causes and effects over time, and this basic philosophy is evident in the way in which scientific observations are encoded in scientific theories. It is possible to think about scientific processes deterministically or even through other perspectives. The way in which people philosophically believe the world works affects science drastically.

Philosophy often seems to exist purely in the mental realm, but one important connection between philosophy and science is the rigor with which both disciplines evaluate hypotheses. Both scientific hypotheses and philosophical arguments must be evaluated against all other possible claims. Some types of philosophy are less rigorous than science, but the idea that a proposition can be challenged and tested is important to both philosophy and science.


In ancient times, philosophy and science were much more closely related. The inability to test hypotheses made most scientific experiments the equivalent of philosophical thought experiments. This did not impede scientific progress, and many ideas from ancient times did, in fact, turn out to be correct.

Another one of the most important relationships between philosophy and science has to do with ethics. Science often creates changes in the world, and those changes are subject to ethical considerations. Thinking about the effects of science through a philosophical lens is important both for scientists and people who must live with the results of science.

Besides these broad connections, philosophy and science are also deliberately connected in some situations. The philosophy of science is itself a type of philosophy that considers many aspects of science. Science often makes use of philosophy in the form of logic, but it also draws on the ethical thoughts of the era in which the scientists live. Although science and philosophy are connected, they do not always necessarily draw the same conclusions, and problems must thus be evaluated independently in some cases.


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Post 3

@pastanaga - I guess that's what I think the connection between philosophy and science really is. They both allow you to look at the world critically, but in a different way. Science allows you to examine the outer trappings of it, while philosophy encourages people to lift the lid and look at what is going on underneath and what it all means.

I have a friend who majored in philosophy and he often brings up points made by philosophers when we discuss the latest scientific breakthrough, or anything else that might impact the world. It just helps you to see all the angles without coloring them with emotion.

Post 2

The other one that had a lot of interdisciplinary use was philosophy of ethics and I believe there was a later paper that examined the ethics of science particularly.

I think that's a really good paper for people who are planning to work in scientific fields. Ethics shouldn't be something that you tick off a list when you design an experiment. The scientific method needs to be moderated by a robust sense of what is right and what is wrong.

People like to think that there are no longer any breeches of major ethical concern by scientists in developed countries, but it still happens all the time, sometimes even inadvertently by scientists who simply didn't know how to look at

the world in that way.
Post 1

Philosophy often gets a bad rap, but it can be very valuable to people in all sorts of other fields, including science. My cousin had finished his computer science degree and had found a job where he was paid quite a lot and he actually came back to university in his spare time to take a couple of philosophy courses.

They were recommended to computer science majors because they expanded on Boolean logic in a way that helped programmers to see it differently or something. It was actually really good to have people of different disciplines in the class, as they added quite a lot to the different debates we had.

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