Why was the creation of philosophy so important to us humans? After all, we are curious and we always want answers, and philosophy was a field of thinking that helped develop sciences. But how did the creation of philosophy contribute to science and human development? Because science helps us develop? Yes, philosophy did create science, but we are curious, as I mentioned. Are there any notable contributions to science made by philosophy?

My question is: Why and how was the creation of philosophy so important to contributions to science and human development?

Note: human development: not practically a direct connection with philosophy, but a connection through science. No timestamp included; talking about the entire history of philosophy.

  • This question is too broad, too vague, and too subjective for this site, "importance to human development" depends on one's priorities, and one so inclined can write a book about importance of philosophy for any particular development in science. If this is a class assignment please provide more context and your own thinking on the matter. Otherwise consult online posts like Importance of Philosophy in Human Life and narrow the question to something much more specific.
    – Conifold
    Aug 13 '18 at 7:17
  • @Conifold, although I don't agree with your statement, I did edit the question a bit, and narrowed it to contributions to science and human development, will narrow it more if I see the need, Thanks for your comment!
    – captindfru
    Aug 13 '18 at 7:26
  • 1
    @DanHicks, the question asks about the creation of philosophy which happened earlier than in the last 20 years.
    – rus9384
    Aug 13 '18 at 14:48
  • If I may recommend reading Dr. Wilson's testimony before Congress for the construction of Fermilab. Technically he is discussing sciences, but I think it's reasonably easy to read between the lines and see the philosophy between them.
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 13 '18 at 15:35

From the New Science of Giambattista Vico, book II, chapter II:

But because metaphysics is the sublime science which distributes their determinate subject matters to all the so-called subaltern sciences; and because the wisdom of the ancients was that of the theological poets, who without doubt were the first sages of the gentile world; and because the origins of all things must by nature have been crude: for all these reasons we must trace the beginnings of poetic wisdom to a crude metaphysics.

From this, as from a trunk, there branch out from one limb logic, morals, economics, and politics, all poetic; and from another, physics, the mother of cosmography and astronomy, the latter of which gives their certainty to its two daughters, chronology and geography - all likewise poetic.


I think the most natural answers are the contributions to science by Popper and Kuhn. They developed what I would loosely consider "ground rules" which ensure science stays on point. Popper advanced the concept of falsification, which provides a key piece of humility to science: science never proves anything. It merely disproves theories which are inconsistent with reality. Using the terminology of the scientific method as taught in schools, we never prove the alternate hypothesis to be true. We merely reject the null hypothesis because it is statistically unlikely to be true.

Kuhn built on this and added a social aspect to science. Kuhn's theories claim that science runs through two phases. In one phase, there is a strong effort to demonstrate that the current theories work, and refine them into better theories. In the other phase, completely new theories are created to replace the old theories entirely. I would argue it's Kuhn's work that permits one to talk about "scientific truths," because he is the one who defined the social constructs which capture that.

Beyond that, I think most of the time it's the philosophy providing a stable foundation for the science. I'd say its analogous to the famous ad by BASF, a chemical company:

At BASF, we don't make a lot of the products you buy, we make a lot of the products you buy better.

And sometimes, it's really hard to tell the philosophy apart from the science. If you read Dr. Wilson's testimony before Congress for the construction of Fermilab, I find it's not easy to see where the boundary between the science and the philosophy lies. In such cases, what you describe is a demarcation problem. You have two things intimately entwined together, and you ask what the contribution of one half is. But it wasn't clear where to draw the line in the first place. None the less, I think there are reasonable arguments to be made for the contributions of philosophy to furthering science. Philosophy shows science its place, as all of science's arguments fit square in the philosophical concept of empiricism. Given that there's a known demarcation problem separating science from pseudo-science, I think providing some bounds on science is a value added effort. At the very least, philosophy can give you a framework within which you can prove that some concepts, like God or freewill, are simply out of scope for science. That makes science more efficient, as it isn't busy wasting its time on things like that.

  • 2
    I think saying that "Kuhn built on Popper" is very misleading. They were bitter opponents with radically different views of what science is or should be, how it developed, etc. In particular, Kuhn denied existence of any "ground rules", and saw his work as purely descriptive, his view of "scientific truths" was relativistic, "you cannot simply describe the other science as false", etc. Popper in turn called his view a "disaster". To the extent that Kuhn (and Feyerabend) built on something it was Quine, with whom he worked in 1950-s, not Popper, specifically his holism and skepticism.
    – Conifold
    Aug 14 '18 at 0:39

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