SCIENCE and PHILOSOPHY – Seeking answers together

Science and philosophy have always learned from each other. Philosophy tirelessly draws from scientific discoveries fresh strength, material for broad generalizations, while to the sciences it imparts the world-view and methodological impulses of its universal principles. Many general guiding ideas that lie at the foundation of modern science were first enunciated by the perceptive force of philosophical thought.

In many  areas  philosophy and science seems alike, Both of them are interested in knowledge, both of them asks questions and seek to determine answers, both of them uses inquiry and investigation and for both  the goal is knowledge.

The historical relationship between science and philosophy has not been a friendly one.  We’ve all seen philosophy at its worst.  Philosophers are often completely disconnected from reality and, more recently, don’t care.  Rationalism, the view that only deductive  knowledge is really reliable, is commonplace.  Philosophers often expound their ideas from armchairs and ivory towers, where the facts of reality don’t concern them Can philosophy develop by itself, without the support of science? Can science “work” without philosophy? Some people think that the sciences can stand apart from philosophy, that the scientist should actually avoid philosophizing, the latter often being understood as groundless and generally vague theorizing. If the term philosophy is he given such a poor interpretation, then of course anyone would agree with the warning “Physics, beware of metaphysics!” But no such warning applies to philosophy in the higher sense of the term. The specific sciences cannot and should not break their connections with true philosophy.

Now a day’s some people believes that science has reached such a level of theoretical thought that it no longer needs philosophy. But the  scientists, particularly the theoreticians, knows in their heart that their creative activity is closely linked with philosophy and that without serious knowledge of philosophical culture the results of that activity cannot become theoretically effective. All the outstanding theoreticians have themselves been guided by philosophical thought and tried to inspire their students with its beneficent influence in order to make them specialists capable of comprehensively and critically analyzing all the principles and systems known to science, discovering their internal contradictions and overcoming them by means of new concepts. Real scientists, and the scientists with a powerful theoretical grasp, have never turned their backs on philosophy. Truly scientific thought is philosophical to the core, just as truly philosophical thought is profoundly scientific, rooted in the sum-total of scientific achievements Philosophical training gives the scientist a breadth and penetration, a wider scope in posing and resolving problems.

If we trace the whole history of natural and social science, we cannot fail to notice that scientists in their specific researches, in constructing hypotheses and theories have constantly applied, sometimes unconsciously, world-views and methodological principles, categories and logical systems today evolved by philosophers and absorbed by scientists in the process of their training and self-education. All scientists who think in terms of theory constantly speak of this with a deep feeling of gratitude both in their works.  So the connection between philosophy and science is mutual and characterized by their ever deepening interaction.

Philosophy is not simply an abstract science. It also possesses an evaluative aspect, its moral principles. Science has given man a lot of things, but ethics or, to put it more bluntly, conscience, is not one of them. The evaluative, axiological and aesthetic aspects are also important for science.

The total concept of philosophy and science can be summarized in two .words- ‘IS’ and ‘OUGHT’- There is a relationship between “is” and “ought” — that what is, determines what one ought to do. Because people think that science identifies the “is” and philosophy says what we “ought” to do, that science (the “is”) determines philosophy (the “ought”). This is an error because science can only identify what “is” in terms defined by philosophy, and for reasons defined by philosophy. Science is a tool for man to accomplish goals, and is preceded by philosophic conclusions.

The concept “is” is defined through the axiom of existence. The law of existence states that “existence exists”, or that “what is, is”. Without this philosophic premise, science cannot begin to ask the question, “What is there in the universe?”

The most general purpose of science is to produce useful models of reality Indeed; the very purpose of science is a philosophic purpose! Man constructs the sciences in order to further man’s life. Physics, astronomy, psychology, sociology, and all sciences exist in order to make man’s life easier, more productive, and ultimately more pleasurable. If it were not for the philosophic premise that happiness is man’s goal, man would have no need for the sciences at all, and would never engage in their study.

The physical sciences, such as physics, can and must use mathematics as the means of inducing new discoveries. But mathematics itself presupposes a litany of philosophic conclusions, such as the law of existence and the law of identity. The numeral “1″, for example, is an abstraction representing the law of existence — that a singular thing exists as apart from the rest of the universe. Thus counting, multiplying, and all math are derived from and based upon a philosophic conclusion — the conclusion that entities exist apart from other entities — and could not exist without it.

The relationship between the two fields can be marked all the more clearly be distinguishing the respective methods of science and philosophy.

The methods of science are observation, experimentation, description, and explanation of the immediate relations of facts. The method of philosophy involves interpretation and explanation of the ultimate relations and meaning of facts.

The philosopher’s method on the other hand is more inclusive. He takes given facts and pointing to their relations to the totality of our experience, suggests their meaning for life. He infers from the facts of human experience, the nature of the universe the meaning and purpose of living. Whereas the method of scientist is descriptive and observational, his method is interpretative

A methodology is a system of principles and general ways of organizing and structuring theoretical and practical activity, and also the theory of this system. As philosophy emerged, methodology became a special target of cognition and could be defined as a system of socially approved rules and standards of intellectual and practical activity. These rules and standards had to be aligned with the objective logic of events, with the properties and laws of phenomena. The problems of accumulating and transmitting experience called for a certain formalization of the principles and precepts, the techniques and operations involved in activity itself.

In science, methodology often decides the fate of a research project. Different approaches may lead to opposite conclusions being drawn from one and the same factual material.

Describing the role of correct method in scientific cognition, philosophers have compared it to a torch illuminating the road for the traveler in darkness. Even a lame man who chooses the right road will arrive ahead of the aimless wanderer. It goes without saying that method in itself cannot guarantee success in research. Not only a good method but skill in applying it is required.

Science uses induction as its method, and renames it the “scientific method”. Beginning with already established knowledge, a scientist asks the question: what do these facts suggest? He then constructs experiments to test his theories and discover the answers. But induction is only valid as a means of knowledge if philosophy can confirm it. Induction must be valid in order for the scientific method to be valid. There is no way to validate induction through any means other than a philosophic one, because you cannot use induction to prove induction (i.e. the fallacy of self-reference). Thus, math cannot be used, nor can any other scientific (i.e. inductive) process be used to do so. Only philosophy can answer the question: is induction valid? And thus, philosophic identification and validation is presupposed by all science, since science is applied induction.

The world presents us with a picture of an infinite diversity of properties, connections and events. This kaleidoscope of impressions must be permeated by an organizing principle, a certain method, that is to say, by certain regulative techniques and means of the practical and theoretical mastering of reality. Practical and theoretical activities follow different methods. While science indicate the ways of doing things and corresponding human skills that have been historically formed and socially established in the instruments of labor. The philosophy characterizes the modes of activity of the mind resulting in the finding truth and the correct, rational solution of problems.

In the rationalistic method, the first rule being the demand that only propositions that are clearly and distinctly comprehensible may be accepted as true. The first principles are axiomatic knowledge, that is, ideas perceived intuitively by reason, without any proof. From these immediately perceived propositions new knowledge is deduced by means of deductive proof. This assumes the breaking down of complex problems into more specific and comprehensible problems and a strictly logical advance from the known to the unknown..

Until modern times, however, the problems of methodology had no independent place in the system of knowledge and arose only in the context of logical and natural philosophical arguments. Scientific progress is not limited to the accumulation of knowledge. It is also a process of evolving new means of seeking knowledge. The rapid advance of natural science called for radical changes in methodology. This need was reflected in new principles of methodology and corresponding philosophical ideas, both rationalistic and empirical, directed against scholasticism. According to Galileo, scientific knowledge, by uniting the inductive and deductive methods, should be based on planned, accurate mental and practical experiment

Another classification relies on different methods of qualitative and quantitative study of reality. One or another method makes it possible to know only separate aspects of the object of research. In order to comprehend all the essential aspects of the object, there must be complementarily of methods. The whole system of methodological knowledge necessarily involves a world-view interpretation of the basis of the research and its results. It should be stressed that general methodology is always at work in the brain of every scientist but, as a rule, it is kept in obscurity, as the intellectual background of a searching mind. This obscurity is sometimes so complete that the scientist may even deny that he acts according to any philosophical methodology, and insist that he is in general free of any philosophy. But this is merely an illusion of the consciousness.

As far as proof, science alone cannot prove anything. The concept of proof itself rests upon the foundation of an array of philosophic conclusions, such as consciousness and the fact that knowledge of the truth is possible. Without philosophy, there could be no such thing as “proof”, and science would have no purpose.

Philosophy tells us whether existence exists or not, it tells us what that existence means to man, it tells us what consciousness is, it tells us the proper means of knowledge, and it gives us a reason for seeking it. Without all of these prerequisites, science would never have come into existence. Without recognition of these facts, the short-sighted scientist is doomed to exclaim erroneously that “pure science” is necessary to prove or disprove the very philosophic premises which give rise to the existence of science in the first place. In reality, the best science can do is illustrate an already-established philosophic premise. It cannot suggest new ones or even prove any premises upon which the idea of science itself is based..

Besides influencing the development of the specialized fields of knowledge, philosophy itself has been substantially enriched by progress in the concrete sciences. Every major scientific discovery is at the same time a step forward in the development of the philosophical world-view. Philosophical statements are based on sets of facts studied by the sciences and also on the system of propositions, principles, concepts and laws discovered through the generalization of these facts. The achievements of the specialized sciences are summed up in philosophical statements. The latest theories of the unity of matter, motion, space and time, the unity of the discontinuous and continuous, the principles of the conservation of matter and motion, the ideas of the infinity and inexhaustibility of matter were stated in a general form in philosophy Euclidian geometry, the mechanics of Galileo and Newton, which have influenced men’s minds for centuries, were great achievements of human reason which played ‘a significant role in forming world-views. And what an intellectual revolution was produced by Copernicus’ heliocentric system, which changed the whole conception of the structure of the universe, or by Darwin’s theory of evolution, which had a profound impact on biological science in general and our whole conception of man’s place in nature.  The theory of higher nervous activity evolved by Watson and Pavlov deepened the understanding of the material foundations of mental activity, of consciousness.,

The common ground of a substantial part of the content of science, its facts and laws has always related it to philosophy, particularly in the field of the theory of knowledge, and today this common ground links it with the problems of the moral and social aspects of scientific discoveries and technical inventions. This is understandable enough.. In ancient times, as we have seen, nearly every notable scientist was at the same time a philosopher and every philosopher was to some extent a scientist. The connection between science and philosophy has endured for thousands of years. In present-day conditions it has not only been preserved but is also growing substantially stronger. The scale of the scientific work and the social significance of research have acquired huge proportions. At one time it was commonly held that philosophy was the science of sciences, their supreme ruler. Today physics is regarded as the queen of sciences. Both views contain a certain measure of truth. Physics with its tradition, the specific objects of study and vast range of exact methods of observation and experiment exerts an exceptionally fruitful influence on all or nearly all spheres of knowledge. Philosophy may be called the “science of sciences” probably in the sense that it is, in effect, the self-awareness of the sciences and the source from which all the sciences draw their world-view and methodological principles, which in the course of centuries have been honed down into concise forms. As a whole, philosophy and the sciences are equal partners assisting creative thought in its explorations to attain generalizing truth. Philosophy does not replace the specialized sciences and does not command them, but it does arm them with general principles of theoretical thinking, with a method of cognition and world-view. In this sense scientific philosophy legitimately holds one of the key positions in the system of the sciences.

To artificially isolate the specialized sciences from philosophy amounts to condemning scientists to finding for themselves world-view and methodological guidelines for their researches. Ignorance of philosophical culture is bound to have a negative effect on any general theoretical conclusions from a given set of scientific facts. One cannot achieve any real theoretical comprehension, particularly of the global problems of a specialized science, without a broad grasp of inter-disciplinary and philosophical views. The specialized scientists who ignore philosophical problems sometimes turn out to be in thrall to completely obsolete or makeshift philosophical ideas without even knowing it themselves. The desire to ignore philosophy is particularly characteristic of such a trend in bourgeois thought as positivism, whose advocates have claimed that science has no need of philosophy. Their ill-considered principle is that “science is in itself philosophy”. They work on the assumption that scientific knowledge has developed widely enough to provide answers to all philosophical problems without resorting to any actual philosophical system. But the “cunning” of philosophy lies in the fact that any form of contempt for it, any rejection of philosophy is in itself a kind of philosophy. It is as impossible to get rid of philosophy as it is to rid oneself of all convictions. Philosophy is the regulative nucleus of the theoretically-minded individual. Philosophy takes its revenge on those who dissociate themselves from it. This can be seen from the example of a number of scientists who after maintaining the positions of crude empiricism and scorning philosophy have eventually fallen into mysticism. So, calls for freedom from any philosophical assumptions are a sign of intellectual narrowness. The positivists, while denying philosophy in words, actually preach the flawed philosophy of agnosticism and deny the possibility of knowing the laws of existence, particularly those of the development of society. This is also a philosophy, but one that is totally misguided and also socially harmful.

It may appear to some scientists that they are using the logical and methodological means evolved strictly within the framework of their particular specialist. But this is a profound delusion. In reality every scientist, whether he realizes it or not, even in simple acts of theoretical thought, makes use of the overall results of the development of mankind’s cognitive activity enshrined mainly in the philosophical categories, which we absorb as we are absorbing our own natural that no man can put together any theoretical statement language, and later, the special language of theoretical thought.

As for as the concept of knowledge for both is concerned the basic difference between the two lies in the kind of knowledge which they seek, science seeks knowledge of facts while philosophy seeks ultimate knowledge. Sometimes this ultimate knowledge seems to be fundamentals than the facts of science. Compromisingly if it is to keep pace with the time and have any meaning for the contemporary mind. Philosophy must take full cognizance of the findings of science and   vice-versa

Knowledge of the course and results of the historical development of cognition, of the philosophical views that have been held at various times of the world’s universal objective connections is also essential for theoretical thinking because it gives the scientist a reliable yardstick for assessing the hypotheses and theories that he himself produces. Everything is known through comparison. Philosophy plays a tremendous integrating role in scientific knowledge, particularly in the present age, when knowledge has formed an extremely ramified system.

Sciences have become so ramified that no brain, however versatile can master all their branches, or even one chosen field. Like Goethe’s Faust, scientists realize that they cannot know everything about everything. So they are trying to know as much as possible about as little as possible and becoming like people digging deeper and deeper into a well and seeing less and less of what is going on around them, or like a chorus of the deaf, in which each member sings his own tune without hearing anyone else. Such narrow specialization may lead, and has in some cases already led, to professional narrow-mindedness. Here we have a paradox. This process is both harmful and historically necessary and justified. Without narrow specialization we cannot make progress and at the same time such specialization must be constantly filled out by a broad inter-disciplinary approach, by the integrative power of philosophical reason. Otherwise a situation may arise when the common front of developing science will move ahead more and more rapidly and humanity’s total knowledge will increase while the individual, the scientist,

As for as assembling integral knowledge is concerned Such an assembly can nevertheless be built by the integrative power of philosophy, which is the highest form of generalization of all human knowledge and life experience, . By means of philosophy the human reason synthesizes the results of human knowledge of nature, society, man and his self-awareness, which gives people a sense of freedom, an open-ended view of the world, an understanding of what is to be found beyond the limits of his usual occupation and narrow professional interests. If we take not the hacks of science but scientists on the big scale, with a truly creative cast of mind, who honestly, wisely and responsibly consider what their hands and minds are doing, we find that they do ultimately realize that to get their bearings in their own field they must take into consideration the results and methods of other fields of knowledge; such scientists range as widely as possible over the history and theory of cognition, building a scientific picture of the world, and absorb philosophical culture through its historically formed system of categories by consciously mastering all the subtleties of logical thought. Max Born, one of the creators of quantum mechanics, provides us with a vivid example of this process .Einstein  had a profound grasp of physical thought illumined by philosophical understanding of his subject. He was the author of many philosophical works and he himself admitted that the philosophical implications of science had always interested him more than narrow specialized results. he was one of the first of the world’s leading scientists to realize the futility of positivism’s attempts to act as a basis for understanding the external world and science and to deny this role to philosophy.

The philosophical approach enables us to overcome the one-sidedness in research which has a negative effect in modern highly specialized scientific work. For example, natural science today is strongly influenced by integrative trends. It is seeking new generalizing theories, such as a unitary field theory, a general theory of elementary particles, a general theory of systems, a general theory of control, information, and so on. Generalizations at such a high level presuppose a high degree of general scientific, natural-humanitarian and also philosophical culture. It is philosophy that safeguards the unity and interconnection of all aspects of knowledge of the vast and diversified world whose substance is matter. As for senses the world consists of an infinite variety of things and events, colors and sounds. But in order to understand it we have to introduce some kind of order, and order means to recognize what is equal, it means some sort of unity. From this spring’s the belief that there is one fundamental principle, and at the same time the difficulty to derive from it the infinite variety of things. The natural point of departure is that there exists a material prime cause of things since the world consists of matter.

The intensive development of modern science, which by its brilliance has tended to eclipse other forms of intellectual activity, the process of its differentiation and integration, gives rise to a vast number of new problems involving world-view. Certain fields of knowledge constantly run into difficulties of a methodological nature. In modern science not only has there been an unusually rapid accumulation of new knowledge; the techniques, methods and style of thinking have also substantially changed and continue to change. The very methods of research attract the scientist’s growing interest,. Hence the higher demands on philosophy, on theoretical thought in general. The further scientific knowledge in various fields develops, the stronger is the tendency to study the logical system by which we obtain knowledge, the nature of theory and how it is constructed, to analyze the empirical and theoretical levels of cognition, the initial concepts of science and methods of arriving at the truth. In short, the sciences show an increasing desire to know them; the mind is becoming more and more reflective.

The methodological significance of the philosophical principles, categories and laws should not be oversimplified. It is wrong to suggest that not a single specific problem can be solved without them. When we think of the place and role of philosophy in the system of scientific cognition, we have in mind not separate experiments or calculations but the development of science as a whole, the making and substantiation of hypotheses, the battle of opinions, the creation of theory, the solving of inner contradictions in a given theory, the examination in depth of the initial concepts of science, the comprehension of new, pivotal facts and assessment of the conclusions drawn from them, the methods of scientific research, and so on.

Philosophy, besides all its other functions, goes deep into the personal side of human life. The destinies of the individual, his inner emotions and desires, in a word, his life and death, have from time immemorial constituted one of the cardinal philosophical problems. The indifference to this “human” set of problems, which is a characteristic feature of neopositivism, is rightly regarded as one-sided scientism, the essence of which is primitively simple: philosophy must be a science like natural science, and strive to reach the same ideal of mathematical precision and authenticity. But while many scientific researchers look only outwards, philosophers look both outwards and inwards, that is to say, at the world around man and man’s place in that world. Philosophical consciousness is reflective in its very essence. The degree of precision and the very character of precision and authenticity in science and philosophy must therefore differ. Who, for instance, reflects man’s inner world with all its pathological aberrations “more precisely”—the natural scientist with his experimental techniques,  or, for example,  Indian caravakas, in their immortal works that are so highly charged with philosophical meaning.

At this point a huge philosophical problem arises. How are we to overcome the yawning gap between mathematical natural-scientific and technological thinking, on the one hand, and humanitarian, social thought, on the other? How are we to resolve the intense and continuing argument between the so-called “lyricists and physicists”, who symbolize these two diverging styles of thought? This is something that has a harmful effect on the human personality, dragged in opposite directions by the two principles. This morbid dichotomy may have negative consequences for the present and future of both the individual and collective human reason.

Philosophy helps us to achieve a deeper understanding of the social significance and general prospects of scientific discoveries and their technical applications. The impressive achievements of the scientific and technological revolution, the contradictions and social consequences it has evoked, raise profound philosophical problems.. But this raises the question of the responsibility of philosophy, since philosophy seeks to understand the essence of things and here we are dealing with the activity of human reason and its “unreasonable” consequences. Revolutionary changes have today invaded all spheres of life: Man himself is changing. What is the essence, the cause of these changes that are spreading across the world and affecting the most diverse aspects of human life? Only the collective effort of philosophy and science can provide some insight to these situations.

Somebody said that philosophy promises truth and delivers only a quibble about its definition. Certainly, he who crosses the threshold into philosophy must be prepared to have everything argued about! That is the whole point of the game: to take nothing for granted. It should not be surprising or disheartening, therefore, to find that the definition of philosophy is itself a philosophical issue and a point upon which disagreement prevails. Traditionally, philosophy has been approached as the study of things by natural reason according to their ultimate causes and principles. “Naturally reason” implies that this subject does not draw upon faith or revelation, although it need not deny them. “Ultimate” means that philosophy par excellence is metaphysics, or the study of being as such

For several centuries people hopefully observed the development of technology on the assumption that taming the forces of nature would bring them happiness and plenty, and that this would be enough to allow human life to be arranged on rational principles. Mankind has achieved a great deal, but we have also made “a great deal of mess”. For how long and on what scale can we go on accumulating the waste products among which modern man has to live? Here we need a clear and philosophical view of history. Why, because of what contradictions, do the forces created and activated by human brains and hands turn against man himself and his mind? Why is the world so constructed that too many gifted minds are oriented on destructive goals are bent on destruction instead of creation .These and other great questions of our time cannot be answered by the supreme science of physics, by mathematics, cybernetics, chemistry, biology, or by natural science as a whole, great though their discoveries have been. These questions, which exercise the minds of all mankind and relate to life today and in the future, must be answered by scientific philosophy.

The sciences are the windows through which philosophy views the world – Will Durant


1. Bridgman PW, “On Scientific Method,” Reflections of a Physicist, 1955

2. “Ignorance reveals itself through arrogance.” JP Siepmann quote 1997


4. Excepted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition 1996.

5. Siepmann JP, “The Laws of Space and Observation,” Journal of Theoretic, April/May 1999, Vol.1

6. http://www./

7. Maheshwari &Maheshwari, “teaching of science” R.Lall Book Depot, Meerut, India

.8. Thilly Frank, “A History of Philosophy”, Central Publishing House, Allahabad. India.



Dr. Suraksha Bansal for being the scribe for this article

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