A lot of people who I have spoken with in philosophy courses treat science as if it is completely separate from philosophy. Some scientists, like Stephen Hawking when he was still alive, seem to agree with this view of the two being completely separate. However, after reading some text, I discovered that English philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, established the scientific method and argued that " science could be achieved by use of a skeptical and methodical approach whereby scientists aim to avoid misleading themselves." Also, science is seen as part of the Enlightenment philosophical movement according to Stanford:

Scientific method became a revolutionary force of the Enlightenment. -Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Even empiricism, a form of philosophy created by Francis Bacon, is essentially the view that knowledge comes from experience via the senses, and that science also flourishes through observation and experiment. To me, this would make science a branch or part of philosophy. Is this assumption correct, and if so, why do so many people see science and philosophy as completely separate? Was there any philosophical movement or thought reform that led to the separation of the two, or does science continue to be part of philosophy and the idea of them being completely separate is simply a misinterpretation?

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    It is important to distinguish between academic philosophy and philosophy as a concept.
    – Cell
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 16:51
  • Science "evolved from" philosophy (Newton: Philosophia Naturalis) but today is quite different from it. Extensive use of mathematics, collaboration and peer review are basic tools of science. Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 17:39
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Interesting. But couldn't science and empiricism still be seen as somewhat connected to philosophy or a part of it even with its use of math, collaboration, and peer review since it still seeks to do what philosophy does: study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence (lexico.com/en/definition/philosophy)?
    – Tyler Mc
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 17:48
  • Enlightenment was a broadly cultural movement, not a narrowly philosophical one. And the separation of science and philosophy was one of its outcomes. The scientific method is simply unsuitable for philosophy, even philosophy that promotes science and its method, they have different approaches and goals.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 17:50
  • Your questions are pretty much answered in these two responses: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/34438/… Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


If you regularly read the popular scientific magazine New Scientist, you will find that when issues as diverse as fundamental physics or human consciousness come up for discussion, the dividing line is becoming increasingly blurred.

But culturally, an us-vs-them mentality is widespread among scientists (as is also evident from the pages of that journal). Philosophers do things like holding religious beliefs or treating consciousness as a hard problem; that is not for us materialistic, atheistic scientists! Historically it was the other way round, with the likes of Copernicus and Galileo having to watch out for the metaphysicians who ran society. This was reversed during the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the rise of atheistic and materialistic creeds such as communism and positivism to intellectual dominance. Although (or perhaps because) they faltered somewhat in the following decades, the chip on many shoulders still lingers.

Einstein once remarked that scientists tend to make poor philosophers, while his modern successors prefer the jibe that philosophers make poor scientists. Both are undoubtedly true. However modern philosophers (and we may include the current Dalai Lama in that) have at last learned the humility to take their science from the scientists; one wishes that more modern scientists were as wise in matters ontological.

  • Thanks for the answer. What is interesting is reading these articles (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1885356/,https://…). and what I read from Encyclopedia Britannica (britannica.com/topic/ontology-metaphysics#ref276639) , some modern scientists do consider ontology (metaphysics) and the philosophy of science. However, this mostly applies to those working on hypotheses and fields like theoretical physics instead of hard experimentation.
    – Tyler Mc
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 19:35
  • Of course, there is a world of difference between a scientist who thinks about their equations for a bit and says, "Hey, I'm an ontologist now", and a scientist who goes to an ontologist and asks, "WTF?" Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 19:42
  • I'm not sure whether the distinction is between philosophers and "atheistic and materialistic scientists". The philosopher often rejects the supernatural and insists on the real, whereas the typical scientific person who rejects philosophy is, in my view, most closely described as a scholastic in the same sense Galileo encountered. That is, those whose views are highly authoritarian, highly ideological, and who draw their comfort from recieving the approval of what appear to be their social betters, but who have little capacity (or concern) for the critical thinking elements of science.
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 13:14
  • Intolerance of other people's views is more a topic of psychology than philosophy. But yes, "one of the gang" chauvinism is a strong reinforcer of one's chosen prejudices. Fortunately science is like every other walk of life; you find the usual complement of religious, non-materialistic and open-minded people in the mix, they just tend not to shout so loudly. Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 13:20

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