I would like to delve into an interesting query? Is the number of sciences possible predefined? And more specifically-have we already discovered all the "major" sciences so we don't have room for any more?

How about complexity? Sure we see a lot of complex things around us, so, why don't we invent a new science about them? Or is it better to "stick to the old" because it had worked so well in the past? I would like to explore the question "Can there be a new science for things we everyday see constantly with all of our senses but don't know what forces shape them?" Like currents, patterns, social change, Life? All they have the same property we can well recognize-they are complex but does it imply the need of a new science or is it better to "leave them be as they are" and shut the door for any new field of exploration because we have enough old sciences and there is really no room for anything new?

I would just like to reflect on the question has science became biased by now because there are "enough"(according to the subjective criteria of some researchers)sciences already and we don't "need" new ones even if there are phenomena which became accessible only after the development of other sciences and can just now begin to be uncovered for our knowledge(I envision here the behaviour of complex systems)? Or is it better to follow the "piece by piece" approach and regard each science by its own field of investigation adopting the view that cross-referencing the sciences and searching for a common phenomenon amongst them is causa perduta?

I wonder which approach a philosophically inclined scientist should take?

P.S.Thank you for your replies in advance.

  • The science of complexity is already invented, see Complexity. New sciences bubble up all the time by splitting off from more general established ones, and by interdisciplinary mixing, data science is a recent addition. The demarcation questions you are asking are mostly pragmatic questions for scientists themselves to handle, the answers are highly context dependent. Some methodology of science issues may arise but your question is so broad it is hard to tell which ones specifically.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 0:38
  • See how many different "possible sciences" are listed in your Wikipedia entry. Are you sure it is invented? If it is why are there so many different paths and yet no common ground among them? Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 4:00
  • All sciences have multiple subdisciplines, presumably "the" science of complexity will incorporate all those dealing with complexity. But could you be make the question more specific? Is it about something like the Unity of Science? Or perhaps the view on the subject of some particular philosopher or school? I am afraid, this question might be closed as too broad or unclear like the one before. It may seem counter-intuitive but SE is not designed for reflections, discussions or exchange of personal opinions on open-ended topics.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 4:18
  • Basically, I want to know do philosophers seriously regard the possibility of the existence of science able to define the term complexity in a broader range-e.g. go out of the concept of a particular science and concentrate on traits systems in many different fields can have, center itself on a single tenet(this is what I mean when I ask you about many different "possible sciences"-if it is the true science of complexity there will be only one central tenet able to link all the rest in a single paradigm)and yet have the means to be readily experimentally verifiable? Am I now clearer? Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 4:36
  • Now, how about those 3 points? Are they enough for a new science? Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 4:38

2 Answers 2


The number and organization of the sciences is not-predetermined, and in fact it constantly changes as the sciences evolve and scientists find new reasons to collaborate across disciplines.

Two prominent examples of new sciences from the recent past include:

  • Environmental science, an amalgam of certain subfields of other sciences that has become a subject in its own right over the last few decades.

  • Computer science, which arguably branched off from a combination of mathematics and electrical engineering (though it's not clear that either mathematics or electrical engineering are sciences).

Many other smaller interdisciplinary fields of science exist, and new ones are being created all the time as researchers find new connections between different disciplines. The field of complexity that you are looking for resembles systems science, though I'm not sure it's quite what you have in mind.

For the most part, these new sciences are created organically as researchers on the ground find new and fruitful ways to collaborate. Sciences that seem relevant and produce interesting results grow over time, while sciences that run out of ideas or things to investigate disappear.

But I also think you overestimate the importance of subdivision of science into fields. Individual scientists do not always feel bound to specific fields, and there are a large number of researchers who investigate connections between different fields and collaborate outside their discipline. You're perceiving science as a centrally planned activity with some sort of hierarchical organization, but in fact scientists more closely resemble a swarm of individual actors moving from place to place and searching everywhere they can for significant scientific results. Indeed, formal interdisciplinary fields usually arise because there are already scientists working on them, not the other way around.

  • Unfortunately, your point of view depends too much on political situation in the respective country. In some countries(may be where you are)science may be a free-of-limits activity, but in others science is part of a very well organized institutes which get their grants and proposals on the basis of the results their respective field can propose to achieve. It is true some people can consider science to lack a general "division" by Nature and anybody can explore anything and turn it into a science but this isn't always the case in academic institutions. This is why division is important, Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 1:32
  • Well, grants and organization exist everywhere, and it's true that these can be forces that push science into a sort of rigid structure. At the same time, there is also a lot of incentive for researchers to go off the beaten path, since you're more likely to discover something significant if you're not investigating the same thing as everyone else. I think my essential point remains that new fields of science are created all the time, usually by small groups of researchers who discover something new worth investigating.
    – Jim Belk
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:06
  • Why not then universal principle behind complexity be one such [citation]something new worth investigating[citation]? :) Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:24
  • @YordanYordanov Oh this is a about the search for grants and not the search for truth! You are making a political point, not a technical one. This is much more clear now. You mean why is the scientific establishment in your country the way it is. I don't know. Human nature, probably.
    – user4894
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:27
  • My country is a country like any other country-there are good things about our science and there are bad things about it. But one good thing is we have quite good standards as to what is science and what isn't. The moment you can provide mechanism to explain your findings you can start a science. If however you have no idea what is the reason behind the phenomena you are investigating you can't claim this is a science. How about that criterion? Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 2:35

To declare interest, first of all, I studied chemistry as an undergraduate, then computing and I am currently a philosophy undergraduate in London.

So, I feel that there is something of a hierarchy, with maths, physics, chemistry always supporting the newer fields. I don't have a reductionist view, in that I feel, for example, that biochemistry has emergent features which are a product of complexity. However, if I had a reductionist view, I would probably put the biochemists in with the chemists, so, for me, it is somewhat a matter of philosophy.

A great deal of base computer science is maths and logic, but when looking at networks with many computers and lots of messages, complexity reappears. Also, expressing logic efficiently as circuits combines physics, programming (Verilog, for example) topology and other pieces of maths, so as @jim-belk above says, collaborations and connections appear.

Lastly, it's worth looking at the Santa Fe Institute, their research projects are based on the belief that complexity is a scientific subject.

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