Philosophy is not Science

Philosophy is not Science. Most philosophers are not scientists by inclination or training. Some may have studied science subjects at school or university; others may have backgrounds in the liberal arts or mathematics, or they may have just drifted into philosophical studies and later became totally absorbed in it. It was not always thus. In earlier times there were those who called themselves natural-philosophers because their primary interest was in the study of natural phenomena: physics, chemistry, botany, anatomy, whereas others were content to be grouped with theologians, or with students of language, the law, the classics or were clerks or politicians in their daily life.

If Philosophy claims the same status as a Science, it is bad philosophy. It then confuses the diner with the dinner. To stretch this analogy: one may select a menu fix but one does not eat the menu, only the dishes described on the menu.

Philosophers change the world when they prescribe how we should describe it. Thus, they both prescribe and proscribe – habits learned during the long period when philosophers served at the court of princes and popes. They in effect then say to us that we – the non-philosophers – have described the world incorrectly so far and that we should re-describe it according to principles that they have laid out for us. This wanton act authorizes and legitimatizes certain methods, i.e. preferred ways and means of conceptualizing our world. We are being told, often very politely, that we have so far incorrectly described our experiences, and that our descriptions may be replete with unwarranted assumptions. If this is true, who do we blame, but our previous teachers?

Fortunately philosophers tend to disagree more among each other than with those of us on the outside: this saves us all from inevitable perdition.

8 thoughts on “Philosophy is not Science

  1. Nice piece.

    I was delighted to read your menu analogy, which rings very true for me.
    One of the aphorisms I use in my talks is: “Plans are great, but you can’t eat a recipe.”


  2. Lou, delighted to hear of your interest but I did not know whether there were people around in my home-town – Toronto – who would be interested in this idea or how to recruit others to join me. I would be happy to participate in such a club but prefer to join rather than initiate it. One possibility would be a “retreat”, but this may not be what you had in mind.

    • Perhaps we can discuss philosophy and the idea of a club, over coffee.
      I am available on Saturdays between 2 pm – 9 pm, or Fridays between 6 pm – 9 pm.

    • I am a close friend of Lou’s and would also be interested in getting something going along the lines of Lou’s suggestion–maybe online,or skype or actual meetings the the shop or rearby–whatever

  3. I am most grateful for your suggestions. I could certainly meet in Toronto on any day convenient to both Lou and Phil. It may be best if you could send your e mail addresses.

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