In fields like mathematics and physics and other so-called "hard sciences", there is not much room for disagreement. Usually, those who disagree with well-established physical theories like relativity, or who deny that, to give a specific example, that squaring the circle is impossible, are viewed as cranks, and rightly so. But philosophy is rife with disagreement. I used to think this was bad, but perhaps it is actually a good thing. So, what have philosophers themselves said about this topic? I would like to see some references. I am sure that even in this area, there is disagreement, but I would like some references nonetheless.

  • One might guess that those philosophers who think that philosophy journals that don't seem to care about being right aren't worth publishing in... don't publish in philosophy journals about why they think so.
    – g s
    Apr 9 at 22:41
  • Perhaps it is because scientists like to think they (almost) fully understand life, the universe, everything, whereas philosphers like to keep the question open. Take one example: I ask the doctor "What is wrong with my splojit?" and the doctor thinks about it and replies "You have non-specific splojicitis." IOW "I won't admit that I don't know, but make it sound as though I do." Apr 9 at 23:30
  • At the cutting edge of research, there is plenty of disagreement among physicists, just think of multiverse or string theory, and even among mathematicians, on the Riemann hypothesis or infinitude of twin primes. The difference is that the disagreement goes away as the area is settled. Philosophy is always "at the cutting edge" because settled areas are moved outside of it, as happened with (most of) natural philosophy. Philosophy is about sorting things out and generating viable options in areas that are far from being settled, achieving agreement is left to other fields. Division of labor.
    – Conifold
    Apr 10 at 0:22
  • Mathematics is very precise and well-defined, which is kind of an exception if you compare that to any other topic. There is no room for disagreement about the impossibility of squaring the circle in Euclidean geometry. But you could say "What if I relaxed this axiom of geometry, would squaring the circle be possible then?". It's not a disagreement, it's a different definition. And these alternate definitions might or might not be useful (by changing axioms of geometry you get projective geometry, spherical geometry, etc).
    – Stef
    Apr 10 at 8:44

1 Answer 1


Philosophy, almost by definition, operates at the edges of human understanding, at the border region between established theory and wild speculation.

The reason you don't get fundamental disagreements in fields like math or physics (there ARE disagreements to be sure) is everyone has agreed on an acceptable set of rules and starting premises that enable a field to continue to add additional "true" statements to the field.

Philosophy debates the rules and axioms themselves. Unfortunately, there is no higher court of appeal in Philosophy so we just occupy ourselves with exploring implications, refining definitions, and finding contradictions.

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