I would like to know whether philosophy can be treated as science since both science and philosophy search for truth, but philosophical theories, I think, are not provable.

So my question is:

Is philosophy a science and can it prove facts like science?

  • 1
    First off welcome to philosophy.SE. This question is way too broad to be reasonably answerable within the confines of an SE. Moreover, there's going to be quite a few different opinions on this to begin with.
    – virmaior
    Sep 20 '19 at 11:24
  • Also, as far as I'm aware, many Buddhists do believe in reincarnation or at least something like it -- while the majority of contemporary professional philosophers are atheists.
    – virmaior
    Sep 20 '19 at 11:24
  • 1
    Short answer : NO.If it "proves facts" it is science. The main business of philosophy is the enquiry about problems that have no solution : what is life, what is good and beatiful, what is existence,... Sep 21 '19 at 12:37
  • 2
    The whole presupposition of your question that natural science is somehow provable and better than “philosophy” [note, remember philosophy is a broad field] is the result of growing up during the last days of the extreme scientism of the 20th Century, but there are already signs that that era is surely over, and if we make it to the end of the 21st, then things will be quite different, I think.
    – Gordon
    Sep 21 '19 at 13:17
  • 1
    @PeterJ this question now looks nothing like the original question and seems on-topic and answerable.
    – virmaior
    Sep 21 '19 at 23:21

Philosophy and science should not be confused. In philosophy something may be proven or demonstrated. As Edward Feser puts it (page 235), philosophical arguments

are more like (though of course not exactly like) the proofs of geometry than they are like the probabilistic hypotheses put forward in empirical science. One could, of course, try to show that they fail as proofs; but it is as proofs that they need to be evaluated, rather than as second-rate quasi-scientific hypotheses.

Feser claims that what he calls "scientism" is (page 235-6)

so widespread that many philosophers who are committed to it seem unaware of how deeply it has influenced their own understanding of many traditional philosophical problems. Hence, they reflexively interpret rival philosophical positions (like dualism) as if they were attempts to formulate scientific hypotheses, or, if it is understood that they are not intended to be "scientific," it is assumed that this must mean that they are somehow irrational or indefensible.

he explains why would they might do that: (page 236)

What such philosophers too often fail seriously to consider is the possibility that empirical science is simply not the only form of rational inquiry. Mathematics, of course, would be the paradigm of a form of inquiry that is both clearly rational and not plausibly empirical (as at least some philosophers otherwise committed to scientism would concede). For the dualist, metaphysics is another example, a form of inquiry that is every bit as rational as empirical science, but non-empirical.

Let's consider the question:

Is philosophy a science and can it prove facts like science?

Philosophy is not a science. It is closer to mathematics in the sense that it provides proofs rather than probabilistic hypotheses. However, as an inquiry it is, like science, rational and defensible.

Feser, E. Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner's Guide. (2013) Oneworld.


In the world of mathematics, there are postulates and theorems which with time have been settled i.e., rigorously proven to be true or discarded as false. Those known mathematical facts then furnish the basis for further mathematical reasoning; in this sense, mathematics has been incrementally built up over time via the accumulation of such knowledge.

In philosophy (excluding the branch of formal logic), there are no settled questions in that same sense because the task of philosophical inquiry is different and the rules by which the game gets played are flexible, and subject to change by any practitioner. Because those rules are nowhere near as rigorously defined as they are in the field of mathematics, the edifice of philosophy cannot be said to sit atop a foundation consisting of hundreds of years' worth of settled questions in the way that the field of mathematics does.

It may be true that empirical science is "simply not the only form of rational inquiry". However, it is nonetheless the premier method by which things like cars, computers, and airplanes are designed and built.

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