No discipline can be entirely independent, however, to some degree, it must or else we would otherwise confuse all the different studies together. The separation in different studies kind of organize our areas of focus and helps keep us from thinking too abroad. For example, one can argue that language and imagination ( an anthropological suggestion ) is formerly the first sign of mathematical intelligence instead of regarding ( as nearly every mathematician would insist ) simple arithmetic operations as being the first. Both are correct because language and imagination inevitably lead to mathematical intelligence, yet the question is carried to a very obscure place where ( if we are going to think that abroad ) there would be far too many factors and possibilities to consider that we would eventually change course from the main focus.

My question is, the study of psychology and philosophy are separate fields that focus on different things but can they intermix to bring more clarity without the results being too broad and obscure?


2 Answers 2


Philosophy is separate from psychology because it's about explanations, not about what people happen to think at the moment.

Epistemology is about the growth of knowledge and so it is, in part, about how people ought to think if they want to create knowledge, it is not primarily about how they do think (psychology). In addition, knowledge often is not instantiated in the mind of any human being, e.g. - a computer program, a scientific paper. So then epistemology must be in part about pieces of information that are not instantiated in the brain of any person.

Philosophy of physics also has nothing to do with psychology, it is about the implications of physical theories for what exists in reality. Likewise for philosophy of biology and so on.

  • Are you suggesting 'explanations' are not based on what people feel and think at the moments (perhaps even very long ones)? You have wrong understanding of psychology - it is not only about what you think at the moment, it is also about very long processes which can take years - midlife crisis and so so so on.
    – Asphir Dom
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:05
  • Last but not least almost all philosophical schools are based on psychologies of their creators. Pessimists optimists realists humanists. Saying that psychology is separate from philosophy is like saying that gun is separated from war. Wrong.
    – Asphir Dom
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:09

The answer is a resounding yes. There is philosophy, philosophy of psychology, the psychology of philosophy, and psychology proper. Some questions fall neatly into these buckets, but others are edge cases and are controversial to classify.

Let's take the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, a famous example from historical philosophical discourse which itself has become a euphemism of sorts for the absurdity of metaphysical speculation, and an implicit attack (IMNSHO) on Scholasticism and Aquinas. Is this a psychological question? In no possible world. It has nothing to do with the mind and is a highly non-empirical topic, and thus isn't subject to psychological investigation, which is the science of the mind.

On the opposite spectrum, Dunning-Kruger Effect is a popular question for psychologists. David Dunning's views on the matter as given in Pacific Standard form the basis for his and many others' continuing research in psychological departments all over the world. So, there's little doubt that Aquinas's views are at home here on this board, and Dunning's papers would be home in Psychology SE. But what about questions characterized by the middle ground?

First, there is certainly a psychology at play when doing philosophy. Kruglanski's The Psychology of the Closed Mindness (GB) is in this territory. On the one hand, close-mindedness deals with the resilience of belief in the face of large discrepancies between expectations and objective reality. And belief is undoubtedly central in epistemology. But yet, it's not primarily a philosophical question, but rather a matter for empirical investigation, and hence a reification of the psychology of philosophy.

On the other hand, philosophers routinely explore what exactly psychology is. Just like natural philosophy became the physical science of physics, the philosophy of mind grew an offshoot called psychology in the 19th century starting with thinkers like Wundt and Freud. Today, introductory textbooks on the philosophy of psychology are printed, this being an accessible example (GB). You'd be hard pressed to find professional analytical philosophers that reject this textbook as primarily a work of philosophy.

What are some of the obvious factors involved? Well, does the work use generally accepted psychological practices like psychometrics to reach a conclusion? Does the work have strong epistemological and ontological exploration? Do the references appeal to the claims of Frege, Wundt, and Freud, or to contemporary professional psychologists? Are the topics discussed primarily entertained by professional psychologists or professional philosophers? If you looked at the vocabulary, which sort of dictionary would you find it, philosophy or psychology? These are all context clues that would be used to form arguments about whether a psychologist has gone too far astray in philosophy or vice versa; and these sorts of arguments, at least on the philosophical side, might be contentious among philosophers who practice metaphilosophy (IEP).

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