There are certainly no clear boundaries within science and philosophy. Science is about knowledge of nature, hypothesis, tests and repetition, and philosophy is about knowledge generated purely by reason, not objectively verifiable by the scientific method (hope providing a good approximation, if not, thanks in advance for any correction).

How do we know whether a discipline is science or philosophy?

For example, the systems theory seem to match both descriptions.

  • A rock can be perfectly described by the systems theory from a scientific approach (e.g. we can test with the scientific method that rocks are systems because they are formed by parts holding persistent relations, for example, we can test that molecules joined by molecular bonds under X conditions form rocks); we can test it several times and prove that the systems theory provides a valid and testable hypothesis regarding a natural entity.
  • Or, a rock can also be described from a philosophical approach by the same theory: we can state that as any other system, rocks tend to keep existence as a whole because their parts keep relations (there is no way to prove otherwise: only rocks formed by relations can exist, and the lack of relations between whatever parts can't be considered a rock).

This question is about a discipline, not about philosophy/science. There are clear differences between them, and the point is to assess whether a discipline can be considered to be mostly one or the other.

  • I cannot see a clear dividing line and see no point in making one. I wish we could go back to Natural Philosophy.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 9:58
  • Thanks, @PeterJ, but science is required to have objectivity about what we do (philosophy is not). @ DanHicks: I'm talking about a discipline, not about philosophy and science.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 4:17
  • 1
    Whoah there. Who says philosophy is not required to have objectivity? It is useless without it.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 10:45
  • Please read my statement: sciences provide objectivity to ACT. Philosophy doesn't, you act based on premises not verifiable with the scientific method.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 11:05

1 Answer 1


The simple answer to your question is that if something is governed by the scientific method, it is a science. If not, it might be a philosophy, but you are likely to find people who will argue both that it is and that it is not, since all definitions of philosophy, including yours that it is "knowledge generated purely by reason," are controversial.

The fact that they can consider the same object, however, is not necessarily problematic. Both a chemist and a physicist can consider a substance like water. That doesn't mean they are practicing the same discipline. Both an anthropologist and a theologian can study a religion, that doesn't mean they are practicing the same discipline.

The subjects that are first considered by philosophers often go on to become sciences, when they reach a point where they can be considered in a systematic and experiment governed way. That's arguably where all sciences originally come from --unproven philosophical theories that go on to gain scientific support.

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