Is Philosophy a Science? … A Response

12 Apr

Is Philosophy a Science?  A Response to Jerry Coyne on the Science-Philosophy Debate


Is philosophy a science?  … Yes, in its truest sense as “episteme” or “scientia” (a systematized body of knowledge).  But it starts to get dicey as soon as we start splitting off from stricter forms of rationalism, logic, and intellectual inquiry.  So maybe Colin McGinn is right that we should refer to it as “ontics”, though I prefer to continue calling it by its separate functions —> “Epistemology” in its position as the study of knowledge and “Ontology” in its study of the real world.   Philosophy, in this instance, is a very different affair from the questing after wisdom typified in the etymology of philos-sophia or the “love of wisdom.” … Philosophy, in fact, is a science; but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon through an interaction with the empiriological sciences.

Science as we know it today can assist philosophy in living up to its reputation as a field of rationalistic inquiry. The question is, will philosophy as we understand it survive the encounter, and can today’s instrumentalist science rise to the intellectual rigors of advanced epistemological philosophy? …

And, that’s a question for the History books of the future …


Is philosophy a science?

I’m not going to answer the question posed above, for I haven’t resolved it in my own mind, but I did want to throw out a few thoughts and invite the input of readers.  This post was inspired by two New York Times pieces at The Stone, a forum for philosophers.

The first, “Philosophy by another name“, was published on March 4 by Colin McGinn, a famous philosopher of mind who’s now at The University of Miami. …. In the second piece, “Philosophy is not a science,” Julian Friedland, an assistant professor at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business, demurs. Although he considers philosophy separate from science—a different “way of knowing”—he sees it as adding to the sum of human knowledge. Indeed, he sees it as more efficacious at understanding stuff than science itself, and he manages to get in a curmudgeonly lick at “scientism” …

… I’m prepared, then, to say that philosophy is a “way of knowing,” but not quite comfortable in saying that it’s a science.  I’d love to hear readers’ input on this.


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