Running google search: "philosophy is the mother of all science" at the time of this post yields about 114,000 results, and while this Quora post: Is philosophy the "queen of the sciences?" puts forth the question to determine the truth of the matter, it does not address the historical, etymological, and philosophical import of the matter. This PhilSE Post: How is Philosophy related to Science? clearly addresses theory, but does not address the historical aspect. The related question in Researchgate post: Philosophy and Science, what is the connection? seems to not provide a substantial answer either.


What is the philosophically historical context in which the statement 'Philosophy is the mother of all science' or related ones began to recognize as a term the epistemological relationship between philosophy and the advent of modern science under thinkers like Galileo Galilei? That is to say, what historical and social consequences were responsible for seeing philosophy somehow superior as a theory to the natural sciences?


The question is intended to determine the metaphilosophical insights of philosophers. For example, if Karl Popper used the phrase or one similar, did he appeal to previous philosophers for insight on that same relationship?

See Also

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    Did you do some research? Searching for 'philosophy mother of all sciences' on Google gives many results. Especially quora.com/Why-is-philosophy-called-the-mother-of-all-sciences is relevant. Is there something you would like to know in addition to what is said elsewhere already? – user2953 Jun 29 '15 at 12:44
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    Welcome to Phil.SE! It might be useful if you specify who you are quoting. – Mozibur Ullah Jun 29 '15 at 12:45
  • Question edited to bring within community guidelines. – J D Oct 29 '20 at 19:10
  • @gonzo Given our prior conversation on Zammito, may be an easy one for you. – J D Oct 29 '20 at 19:13

Because they are all born of it, at least in the sense of being 'the flesh of its flesh'. The most recent example is Psychology. What we call psychology existed, in a rude state before there was a science for it. And where was that precursor material studied -- in philosophy.

Wundt and James were philosophers until they showed there was enough understanding to begin directly studying behavior and cognition, without relapsing back into confusion constantly. And then they weren't anymore -- they were psychologists. They literally held academic positions in philosophy and then outside of it.

Each science we know of either peeled itself off of a science that was already functioning or emerged out of philosophical considerations. Aristotle may have been a terrible physicist, but he named the discipline and set its boundaries. Alchemy arose out of philosophy, and eventually gave birth to chemistry as a science.

Likewise for biology, mathematics, and even such latecomers as sociology. Before they had enough structure to cohere as independent fields of study, these were studied as philosophy or they were formed as a part of something that originally was.

  • For mathematics, I would have to respectfully disagree. The first non-trivial mathematical findings of humanity date from (at least) the early second millennium BC (Rhind papyrus, Plimpton 322, etc.), which is way before Thales of Milete kicked off the presocratic movement. But I think the main thesis of this thread is still valid if one excepts mathematics from the sciences. – RP_ Jul 2 '15 at 22:46
  • Or if one exempts sheer computation from mathematics, and declares it engineering. I would claim that any valid proof is already philosophy whether the field had a name yet, or not. Giving Thales the right to create philosophy writes off every other human civilization as a source of thought. I would rather accept that philosophy (at least in the forms of theology and logic) has always been with us, since we began to speak, and what Thales kicked in the West was willingness to accept the application of philosophy to everything else, where it had been reserved for engineering and religion. – user9166 Jul 3 '15 at 11:07
  • Regarding the exclusion of 'sheer computation' from mathematics, I think that's known as 'shifting the goalposts'. Anyway, historians of mathematics generally agree that the Pythagorean triples found on Plimpton 322 (from around 1800 BC) were not found just by computing, some of them being in the order of magnitude of tens of thousands. Mathematics (in any reasonable sense of the word) surely did exist in the second millennium BC; I am less sure about philosophy though. – RP_ Jul 3 '15 at 11:32
  • This is all about vocabulary, and the opportunity to be condescending. I don't care about either. – user9166 Jul 3 '15 at 12:09
  • I did not mean to be condescending. I just wanted to take issue with your claim that mathematics either "peeled itself off of a science that was already functioning or emerged out of philosophical considerations". I think you're exactly right about all the non-mathematical sciences. Sorry if I offended you. – RP_ Jul 3 '15 at 12:19

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