jueves, 13 de octubre de 2016

Science and Philosophy



At the beginning there was no difference between science and philosophy, because both had the same motive. They tried to understand the world with reason. In fact, the first philosophers were also what we would now call scientists.

For example, Tales de Miletus predicted an eclipse, and Pythagoras is also very well known for his theorem. As Aristotle said, the difference between science and philosophy was only because of the part of the world they studied. He meant that philosophy was a general study of the most fundamental things. For example, biology studies a certain part of reality, such as flowers and plants. Medicine also studies a certain part, namely the human body. But we can also ask, what makes something exist? What do all beings have in common? Philosophy tried to answer these questions.

So in fact there wasn’t a big difference between science and philosophy, or in the way they worked (both used reason). The only difference was what they studied: science, a specific part of the reality, and philosophy, reality in general.

This situation continued until the 16th century. What happened then? We now say that during this century the first scientific revolution started. Scientists began to use experimentation and observation to make their conclusions, and that caused a lot of success and discoveries. For example, we can mention Galileo, who was the inventor of the first telescope, and confirmed that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe.

However, philosophy couldn’t employ the same methods. There are a lot of questions that can’t be observed or investigated with experimentation. Nor can we use mathematics to demonstrate our theory. For example, if we ask what a good life is, or what the meaning of life is, what kind of experimentation could we do? The only things we have are theories, and we can have different points of view. There is no way to definitively say who is right and who is wrong. On the other hand, scientists have a way to end a discussion. They experiment and demonstrate, and the argument is finished – everyone can have the same point of view.

Ortega y Gasset (one of the most famous Spanish philosophers) talked about this difference. He said that science is exact and penultimate, and philosophy is inexact and ultimate.

Now it’s your turn: can you try to find out what Ortega wanted to say with this idea?

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