What is the relationship between philosophy and science? Times have passed from the Presocratics, through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle to Blaise Pascal and so on – just as the definition of philosophy is problematic, its role and purpose of study seem to be disputed. Given that Philosophy seems to be confused with Science, for what I say, given the fact that philosophy seems to be in science and science in philosophy – there is to clearly define the role and object of study of philosophy, as well as its relation to science. And it is this task that is devoted to this article.
The Role of Philosophy
Even though in the past philosophy has been the systematized whole of human knowledge. But the dispersion, the lack of connection of this knowledge did not allow us to find in themselves the principle of their unity; metaphysics and its conjectures supplemented them. The immense problem, which philosophy vainly attempted to solve, was divided into the many problems of the particular sciences.
But philosophy retains a role, under the condition of becoming, like the sciences themselves, positive. Locked in his specialty, the scientist cannot see anything outside of her. The role of philosophy is precise to satisfy the need for unity of the mind, by remedying the dangers that result from the division of labor in the field of knowledge. The sciences are distinct, they must not remain isolated. Seizing phenomena in their relations, they tend by their progress even to become a science.
Every science has its philosophy, becomes philosophical, when it attaches itself to the highest generalities of its object, discusses its own method or its relations with other sciences. The philosophy of any science (Mathematics, Physics, and History) is the search for the most general principles upon which this science rests, and the most general results to which it leads, the attempt to embrace from a superior point of view the sequence of its parts.
Positive philosophy, without departing from the relative, aims to establish between the sciences, as between their objects, an order of subordination and dependence, to form, from mathematics to sociology, a hierarchical system, in which the most general and abstract science serves as a point of departure, a condition, an elementary basis for the more concrete and particular science which immediately follows it in classification.
Positive philosophy does for the sciences what they do for the phenomena they study, it links them to each other, it marks their relationships and their sequence, it coordinates their results and their principles, and their diversity does the unity of science. Reflecting on positive knowledge, which tends to their systematization, it fulfills the role that metaphysics has played in the past.
Relationship Between Philosophy and Science-Philosophical Analysis of Science
Is it possible to reduce philosophy to nothing more than the unified whole of the positive sciences? Has it had no other role than to prepare and make possible an objective systematization of phenomena that suppresses it by rendering it useless?
Without a doubt, the sciences, all originally understood in philosophy, have gradually detached themselves from them, and the moral sciences themselves tend to take on a proper existence. But, on the other hand, science has risen thus to the positive state only by simplifying its object by a deliberate elimination of questions, the whole of which constitutes precisely the philosophical problem. How, then, to solve this problem, would it be enough to reconcile and coordinate their results?
In the first place, the sciences do not discuss the principles or the data from which they come, nor the logical processes they use. “They cannot have for the object of investigation that same whose admission is a condition of the possibility of their investigations.” (Renouvier)
That the geometer discusses the nature of space, instead of focusing on the study of figures and their properties, geometry stops; that the physicist wonders about matter, about the origin of the world, instead of observing phenomena, that he is worried about the value of induction, its guarantees, its foundation, its science is compromised from the beginning. If scientists of the same order agree on their conclusions, it is because they start from data accepted in common, that is, they leave their principles and methods out of all discussion. The proof of these primary facts is that they succeed: they are justified by the success of the science that goes with them. Science is thus only facts like the others, which pose to the mind the problem of their possibility and their existence.
But if they do not discuss the data from which they come, do the sciences not find, in advance, the more and more general principles which are present to the phenomena, since they release them? Do they not tend thus by their progress even to give an overview, and an exact view, of the universe?
No doubt it is possible from the objective and strictly scientific point of view to obtain a general conception of things, but this point of view, legitimate and necessary, is partial and partial, it cannot reveal to us what it neglects. There is something contradictory about asking the sciences for the solution of the metaphysical problem, which they eliminated to constitute themselves. One cannot be too much afraid of a so-called scientific philosophy, which is maintained only by forgetting the conditions under which a science exists, by the confusion of methods and problems.
” The public is accustomed to confusing, under the name of science, all the possible sciences, so diverse in certainty and in process, then in each science the certain acquired with the very probable acquis, and this with the less probable, and with the litigious mass of common facts and explanations, and again many times with what an author devours a devoured zeal of propaganda. ” (Renouvier)
Hypotheses are no longer subordinate to facts, but facts to hypotheses which are generalized without measure. The inductive method is falsified, in attempting to draw from it the first principles of being, when it can give only axiomatamedia, laws limited to the order of the phenomena which verify them. When it claims to solve the questions of origin and existence, science is nothing more than a metaphysics that ignores itself. It establishes in absolute principles relative and abstract data, which simplify the reality of bias and can only justify their application to a certain order of phenomena.
Thus science can be confounded with philosophy only by an illusion which distorts its characters and nature. On the one hand the sciences, by the reflection on their methods, on their data, on their theories, on the relation of the subject to the object in the experiment, call for a theory of knowledge; on the other hand, the sciences cannot by their progress give a metaphysics and solve the problem of being, because their object is an abstract world, a world of relations, which is the substitute of the concrete world for the understanding and does not can be confused with the reality that it impoverishes.
As different as their object may be, science consists of concepts, judgments, reasonings, exist only by the general laws of thought. But the thought does not create phenomena, that it links to one another and that it organizes; she finds them before her like a resistant material to which her effort applies. This agreement of thought and its object is a problem that cannot be solved by passing it over in silence. How is science possible? The sciences by their very success call for a critique of knowledge, of the mind and its laws, of its agreement with the given. If the world exists for us only to the extent that it becomes our thought, we are tempted to understand the facts and relationships we have seen, to rise from the how to the why, to pursue the intelligence of the given to the hypothesis of a world that truly conforms to the laws of thought and action and is capable of satisfying them.
The Study of the Interior Man
The critical problem posed by the very existence of the sciences brings us back from the outside to the inside, from the object to the subject, from the sciences to the active and living spirit that creates them. The curricula of our classical teaching place with metaphysics and before it, as integral parts of philosophy, psychology, logic, morality, and aesthetics, that is to say in a single word the study of the inner man.
Psychology, in fact, is the science of man as a conscious subject. Logic is the science of thought and the laws that must guide it in seeking and demonstrating the truth, in other words, the science of the human spirit in search of knowledge and evidence.
Morality is the science of good, of the human ideal and of the rules of action that derive from it, in other words, the science of man, as a reasonable and free, and by that very fact to grant his will and his reason, by ordering his inner life.
Aesthetics is the science of beauty, of the genius that creates it, of the feelings that it inspires, therefore the science of man as he finds in nature the language of his own emotions or that he creates as a very spiritual nature to express oneself.
Doubtless, psychology, logic, morality, and aesthetics, like all other sciences, as we have said, are detached from metaphysics and are increasingly constituted in their independence. They leave the discussions of principles and the questions to focus on the observation of phenomena and the discovery of their reports.
Morality itself stands out from speculations about the obligation, about the good in itself, claims its own principles, when it is not reduced to being only the science of manners, rules issued in fact conditions that impose on the individual life in society. But if the mind can be considered in its phenomena, as an object, if as such it enters the objective sciences, the mind remains the subject, the principle of all knowledge, the only real activity that we reach directly, otherwise only by conjecture. The moral sciences may be inclined to lose interest in philosophy, to simplify, like the other sciences, their object, to eliminate certain problems, to which they spontaneously lead thought, philosophy will never be able to lose interest in these sciences, because it may not be interested in the study of the mind itself, which is its center of perspective.
Positive sciences are characterized by their objectivity. They seek the impersonal truth, which is evident, which imposes itself, without worrying more about its consequences than about its genesis. For them, the mind is a necessary and temporary instrument: it observes the phenomena, it releases their reports, it imagines the mathematical language, which allows to apply the calculation to these reports and to bring back all that is quality, difference irreducible, to the homogeneous and measurable quantity. As movement is linked to all the qualitative variations of things, and because it lends itself to a mathematical expression, science strives to bring quality, everything that moves us, all that solicits our activity back to the movement. In the end, she is tempted to deny what she has neglected, to suppress what does not fit into her formulas, and to take for reality the abstract element which is her substitute for it. The mind itself is an object like the others, which must be studied from without, a set of phenomena, a complication of the movement and its laws. Consciousness with its various sensations, seemingly irreducible, is only an “epiphenomenon” without reality, without efficiency, which does not intervene in the course of things.
In view of all the above, it is wise to question ourselves: nowadays what is the object of study of philosophy? And that’s the answer to this question that we’ll deal with in the following lines obviously follow.
Philosophy and Its Subject: The Metaphysics or the Study of the Spirit
Philosophy restores the spirit in its reality and in its rights. By reflecting on science and its conditions, it shows the role it plays in positive knowledge and in the invention of the concepts that make it possible, what is paradoxical and contradictory in a science whose conclusion is the negation and annihilation of the spirit by which alone it exists. Movement is not a reality, it is a set of relationships, it is reduced, like any object, to representative elements, visual and tactile sensations, forms of space and time. Its advantage is that it allows the most extensive systematization of the experiment, but it is only a frame where the phenomena return, it orders them, it does not explain them. As soon as we realize the movement, we fall into insoluble contradictions. The sciences thus appear to us as partial points of view of the thought which defines their objects by abstractions which do not suppress what they neglect. They are objective in the sense that they seek an impersonal truth, which experience confirms and seems to impose, not in the sense that they are made from the outside by a passive recording of phenomena, and even less in the sense that they-we would reveal the very nature of being. Scientific knowledge is abstract and symbolic; we have the right to shut ourselves in, but on the condition of not transforming it into the knowledge of the absolute.
Criticism of knowledge brings us back from objective science to the mind by which alone it exists. As Kant has shown, the experience is not a simple term, an immediate, irreducible datum; it results from the concurrence of two terms, from the meeting of the object and the thought. By the same token, science, in reflecting itself, introduces to philosophy. Science is one of the modes of action by which the mind works to constitute itself. The subject finds in front of him an object that seems foreign to him, a world that seems to him indifferent or hostile.
Philosophy is the point of view that the mind takes on the world to understand itself in its relation to the whole of things, to find itself in what seems to limit or deny it, to confer on it a full reality, by solving the contradictions that divide him against himself. From the point of view of the mind, philosophy is placed on the human point of view, of which, indeed, the sciences themselves do not come out.
His effort is to identify and define the harmonic relations of nature and the mind, which are involved in the multiple forms of action, scientific, aesthetic, moral, which bring them together, associate them, and make them as supportive as they are one of the other.
The characters of the philosophical truth answer to the problem of which it tries the solution. Positive truths can be verified, controlled, shown in facts, which bring them an irrefutable testimony, a reflection on scientific knowledge, on its principles and results, an effort to give all things a human meaning, to interpret relations of the subject to the object in the various modes of action which connect them to each other, the philosophical truth depends on what we do even more than on what we know, it comes from within, It interests the whole man, and consequently retains a hypothetical, conjectural, voluntary character. The repeated failures of metaphysical speculation, the criticism of Kant, no longer allow us to admit with a dogmatism that being is confused with the idea, and that we can build a priori the world of intelligible notions combined according to intelligible. The history and criticism of scientific concepts do not seem to agree with the hypothesis of innate, universal forms, which determine in advance the idea of nature and guarantee the objectivity of science by the very necessity that imposes on all minds.
Truth is no longer, for us, an eternal, immutable thing, which is manifested in what appears and towards which thought, to which it pre-exists, must turn to be enlightened. It is a human work, progressive, it becomes or better it is done.
Modes of Action of Philosophy
Science is the first form of action.
The mind works on the data of the experiment, simplifies them, little by little defines the principles which allow, with the least expenditure, to systematize the greatest number of phenomena. The concepts of science are thus human ideas, which nature realizes in one sense since they make it possible to establish between the facts relations which mark their sequence. Science is not alien to the life of the spirit, it increases its inner reality, at the same time as it gives it the means to act on the world and to intervene. By it first we come out of the confusion of sensible experience, we pick up the diversity of phenomena in the unity of concepts, we multiply our representations by ordering them. In the second place, if it does not reveal to us the intimate nature of things, it gives us the objective, a system of fixed relations, a resistant medium, which in a sense opposes the mind, and upon which can act, provided he obeys his laws. Science is thus a moment of the spiritual life, of the action which constitutes it: by the order it puts into representations, it enriches and unifies the consciousness; by the determinism, at least relative, which it establishes, it prepares and makes possible the higher forms of action; by anticipating the future that it allows, it marks the first agreement of nature and thought.
Art is a mode of action
Like science, art is a mode of action, a relation of man to nature, therefore, for who thinks it, a point of view, a center of perspective on all things. For the aesthetic feeling, nature is not a blind mechanism, an indifferent and dead thing, it is the living language of the emotions that its sight inspires us, the verb of a sympathetic and fraternal soul. Genius recognizes itself for nature itself, pursuing its work by the spirit, continuing real forms by ideal forms, and discovering its true desire through the creation of beauty.
The aesthetic creation shows the thought reflected and the unconscious spontaneity collaborating, brought of the same movement towards the harmony; but it moves in a world of happy appearances, it does not transform reality. Ideas of personality, of justice, of fraternity, are not free from facts; no doubt they are not constituted outside of them, they are not foreign to them, pure fantasies, they are born and develop at their contact, but they are a new order, a possible and superior order, which the mind imagine between them; hence, they are ideas, human inventions.
In the aesthetic life, nature and the spirit seem to go ahead of each other, to agree freely, in a spontaneous impulse; moral action does not remain in appearance; it is a real, efficacious, imperative action, a struggle in which nature resists, obstinate in its inertia, but where the mind can triumph, a struggle which thus marks all at once and the opposition and the possible agreement of the two terms in presence.
Morality is a mode of action
Moral action makes use of the natural order itself to bring out a higher order, a spiritual order, which would not exist without it; it compels facts to translate, to express human ideas; it changes the individual, the society, in a measure the world itself. Acting on nature to transform it, to spiritualize it, it gives in turn, and even more than science and art, since it moves in reality, the proof that the opposition of the subject and the object is not irreducible, and a superior point of view must be discovered, from which the points of view which we take on the universe in relations are united by the action which we support with it.
By Synthesis and Conclusion
Philosophy, thus understood, is not the contemplation of an eternal, immovable truth, which stands in the face of the mind as a thing, it is connected with the various forms of action, it develops like them, she is full of intelligence. It does not bring an external evidence, a passive certainty, it interests the whole man, it depends on what we want and what we do as much as we know; it is a life that accepts itself with its risks and strives to understand itself in all its complexity and in all its magnitude.
For dogmatism, truth in one sense is external to the mind, to which it is self-evident: “Just as light shows itself and shows darkness with itself, so the truth is with it. even its criterion and it is also that of error “(Spinoza). From another point of view, we can say that, if the truth is not received from without, that if always, to varying degrees, it is an act, where is expressed the relation of nature to the mind, we do not doubt what we do, at the very moment we do it, and where we find in success itself the proof of reality.