I was hearing a recorded lecture on the philosophy of science, and I heard the author mention that various disciplines (math, physics, etc...) separated from philosophy and became established scientific disciplines, a well known fact. He then stated that psychology was the latest discipline to do so, without further elaborating on that point. My question(s):

  1. When did it do so and what result or publication marked the event?
  2. Is it really the latest? What about social studies, anthropology? are they not considered sciences (especially if psychology is)?
  3. Is psychology really a science at all? Does is make accurate testable or falsifiable predictions?
  • 1
    Science shouldn't be seen as a term synonymous with the hard sciences; it originally meant a disciplined area of study - and it's in this sense that psychology should be taken for as a science. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 10:18
  • 2
    Modern day scientists, especially those in the 'hard' sciences, like to consider themselves separate from philosophy, but science still remains a philosophy. They are still given a PhD - doctor of philosophy. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 14:24
  • @MoziburUllah The rest of the lecture was mostly about the demarcation problem (an a brief mention of the problem of induction). From what I gathered from the lecture (sorry I can't find a link to it), what the spreaker meant by "sciences" was "hard sciences", since he was mostly discussing falsifiability and testability. That in itself is an interesting question: Where to draw the line between hard science and other (social? soft?) sciences? Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 20:56
  • @SwamiVishwananda actually the use of Ph.D is outdated. People can now be awarded Doctor of Science or Doctor of Engineering. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 20:58
  • Who said psychology is a science? I can tell you that if you a college student and want to get laid, psychology classes are where the women are. (oh lordy, they are going to hang me for sure now) Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


1) Wilhelm Wundt is the first person to segregate out psychology as a specific part of philosophy and actively conduct experimental research in psychology in a way we would recognize today. A U.S. follower of his, William James, is often seen as the first thinker to conceive of psychology as a field of science that includes the full range of what we currently consider in psychology. He pretty much set the boundaries of what we now call psychology in is book "The Principles of Psychology".

Before these two, various predecessors had discovered pieces, or focussed on individual theories that we now consider psychological (From Aquinas (or even Aristotle) to Pavlov). But they had no collected view of how physiology, mental models and behavior fit together into a single subject.

2) Although it has many scientific tools, anthropology accepts a different view of science, and will never move toward integration with the other modern sciences. Historiography can never be scientific, as stories always have tellers, and the results always contain relativised perspectives that cannot be otherwise captured and contained. Sociology logically precedes psychology. Although it remains a weaker science, it is slightly older. It was mature enough to generate 'Suicide' (sometimes considered its first work) at a point where psychology was still coming together.

One could claim that modern Linguistics is the latest new science, the Chomsky school pulled a critical mass of it away from the anthropological model and into a framework that generates more testable hypotheses. And Chomsky is still alive. But maybe folks are thinking that while its progenitor is still alive, such a change may not be permanent.

3) Despite a lot of failures to converge, and a tendency to back away from the challenges of paradigmatic consistency, psychology has already had fairly long periods of modern science, where work in various schools proceeded within a logical paradigm, and were fully accepted by all the other schools. One can see the ascendency of Behaviorism as such a period. So I think by Kuhnian standards, this is an established science, just one prone to a lot of weak paradigms and pointless revolutions that circle around and undermine progress.

  • 1
    Hello. Could you provide references for this assertion: " William James is often seen as the first thinker to conceive of psychology as a field of science that includes the full range of what we currently consider in psychology"? Thanks Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 17:39
  • The 'often' is a little biased. To me, his book The Principles of Psychology was the first text to capture that entire range in a single work. You could follow that title down to something adequately scholarly.
    – user9166
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 17:57
  • Wilhelm Wundt is more often seen as the originator of the field, but 1) he did not get to the point of collecting and correlating the whole field from physiology to high-level phenomena like will and religion, 2) his work only precedes James' by a year and 3) he continued to identify psychology as philosophy rather than science, whereas James, although principally a philosopher, really considered psychology a specific separate thing (which he did not actually want to specialise in)
    – user9166
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 17:59
  • Thanks. you may want to incorporate these remarks in your answer, and also to give Wundt his due. We might go even more backwards, to David Hume, or even to Aristotle's On The Soul.. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 18:18
  • Is Sigmund Freud a possibility? He was a Neurologist/Physician by training and if my memory is correct, he actually worked as a Professional Physician in his earlier years.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 2:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .