Philosophy and Other Fields

What is the relationship of philosophy and science?  Philosophy and religious faith? Philosophy and history, art, psychology, anthropology, politics, and literature?  Is philosophy a single path and all other paths are different?

Actually, historically, ‘philosophy’ (which means the Greek ‘love of wisdom’) was first used of Pythagoras, 6th century BCE) was the term used for many forms of inquiry we would (today) call geometry, mathematics, cosmology (the origin and nature of the cosmos), the history of ideas, politics, ethics, our relationship with the good, the true and the beautiful, the sacred (including the existence of God or gods), the significance of birth, aging, death, and the possibility of life after life, and more.  The widespread, comprehensive nature of philosophy is reflected today in the fact that any person who receives a “Ph.D.” is technically receiving a doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D. stands for doctor philosophiae in Latin).

Philosophy, today, may be practiced in a way that links and is in partnership with multiple other disciplines.

The different fields of inquiry (law, medicine, logic, theology, mathematics, the natural sciences, psychology, etc.) came to form their own disciplines over time as they emerged as distinctive forms of inquiry with their own philosophical presuppositions.  So, in the practice of law, one assumes the existence of persons in society who are capable of rational disputes over responsibility and the importance of comparing the cogency of different models of governance.  If, rather than assume such a ‘common sense’ perspective, one wants to question whether any of our perceptions and beliefs about reality are reliable this would not be a question for lawyers, but a question that would be addressed in what is often called epistemology (or the theory of knowledge).  You will find below some observations on the relationship of philosophy to:

Religious faith

Though many other areas are equally significant.
Philosophy and science: the term “science” emerged in English in the 19th century.  Earlier, someone we called a scientist would be called a natural philosopher.  In fact, Darwin thought of himself as a natural historian.  The sciences themselves may be thought of as based on a philosophy of nature and inquiry, an account of observations and hypotheses, confirmation and falsification, reason and reliability.  The history of science was, from the beginning in Ancient Greece, virtually inseparable, but today the sciences are often thought of as providing an increasing body of evidence and theories that are vital for philosophical reflection.  For example, is biological evolution (and chemistry and physics) able to account for ethics and religion?  Moreover, the value of science is frequently a topic for philosophical inquiry.  In the history of science one may also see the influence and study of human life, animal consciousness, space and time that have important implications for our values and the meaning of life.

A good philosophy department, in our view, is one that takes seriously both the intrinsic value of philosophy as a field, while also appreciating how bc1e50abb0875b616b9fe46ddbc92227philosophy plays a role in all other disciplines –for example, physics rests on or involves a worldview or philosophy of the physical and methods- and how students with non-philosophy majors can benefit from taking one or more courses in philosophy.  Science majors may particularly be drawn to courses in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of space and time, the Making of the Modern Mind, for example. An art major may benefit from the course Aesthetics, offered by the Philosophy Department, which focuses on the philosophy of art.