What is the basic difference between philosophy and science?

The difficulty Peter reports might encourage the thought that there is no "basic difference" between the two. For various sociological, historical, and bureaucratic reasons, we might label some rational inquiry "science" and some "philosophy", but one should not imagine that the labels follow fault lines within the world of inquiry. (But then one wants to say: isn't the basic difference between science and philosophy, or the manifestation thereof, that the former would never stop to ask what the basic difference is between science and philosophy, while the latter is kept up at night by that question?)

Which is more important, the question or the answer?

I'm not sure how to rank questions and answers by their importance. But I do think that if you focus exclusively on the questions and answers in philosophy you'll miss half (well, maybe a third) of the fun. Because one of the joys of philosophy is its arguments . Sometimes, the point of a question once deemed pressing has been dulled with time, and correlatively the answers it generated have dimmed in interest. But nevertheless an argument offered in defense of one of those answers might still be the subject of intense fascination.

Psychology is advancing at a rapid rate and it's providing us with answers that were previously unthought of. Who we are and why we act the way we do is all being deciphered in a scientific and irrefutable way. In light of this change in the human attempt to understand itself, why should people continue to waste their energies in the non-empirical and unscientific approach known as philosophy?

Here are some reactions, each of which would require greater amplification and defense: 1) If psychology is a science, then it's results are not irrefutable. Science doesn't prove claims to be true in the way mathematics does. It's a fallible enterprise, and even its strongest results are advanced in the knowledge that they just might be wrong. 2) Quite a few philosophers are not impressed by what they consider bureaucratic boundaries and take themselves to be working on the same problems that psychologists are, perhaps at a slightly greater level of abstraction. They believe that their own work is really of a piece with psychological research: both constrained by it and simultaneously contributing to it. Their contributions don't usually consist in gathering data with which to test theories, but rather in the clarification and development of concepts or claims that figure in those theories. 3) Finally, some philosophers are skeptical that many of the most vexing philosophical problems about...

Is philosophy above politics?

There is a branch of philosophy called "political philosophy" (questions pertaining to it are in the category Justice ). I take politics most broadly to be the practice or process of managing groups of people. Political philosophy is rather a branch of inquiry that seeks to determine whether political power (the force used by those who manage groups of people) can be justified and, if it can be, what conditions or arrangements need to be in place before it can be.

Do you think "philosophy" defines a set of knowledge (facts, data, beliefs) or a system of thought ("if we approach this problem philosophically...")? I think the discipline is unnecessarily saddled with the idea that only 'weighty' questions fall in philosophy's domain. Why don't we see more mundane questions? Is a philosopher really only qualified to answer questions about the finite set of categories on this site?

Philosophy is one of the few disciplines (the only discipline?) thestudy of whose own nature is still part of that very discipline. Youcan investigate the nature of chemistry, but that's no longer part ofchemistry. You can reflect on the nature of religious belief, butthat's no longer to be entertaining religious beliefs. But to thinkabout the nature of philosophy is very much a part of philosophy.(That's why one of the Categories of this site is "Philosophy" itself.)So it shouldn't be a surprise to you that philosophers have said a lotabout what you ask and offered different views. Some believe thatphilosophical reflection does have as its end the articulation ofclaims, philosophical truths. Others have held that there are noproperly philosophical assertions: philosophy isn't a field of inquiry,like biology, that seeks to articulate truths — it's rather a methodfor clarifying the claims of, say, the natural sciences. As foryour second question, aren't many of the questions posed on this site...

As science progresses, it seems that it starts to infringe more deeply on philosophical questions - things like the anthropic principle in physics or neuroscience's discoveries about consciousness. What are things that scientists can take from philosophers? Also, do philosophers have an obligation to look into the science if it impacts their area of expertise?

Perhaps philosophers can offer the scientist clarification of some of the concepts or claims in play in his or her theories. For the most advanced sciences, like physics, such insight typically does not lead to any change in the practice of the working scientist. (That said, some philosophers believe that philosophical illumination of the foundations of mathematics, the most advanced exact science, might lead to a revision of our mathematical practice.) For less advanced sciences, like psychology, such clarification can have far greater impact on how the subject matter is understood and the research is pursued. Philosophers can also offer scientists help in thinking about issues that cut across particular sciences, for instance questions about how to understand claims about unobservable objects, the nature of explanation, the goals of science, the rationality of science, the nature of scientific laws, and so on. I think most philosophers would agree with the conditional claim that if some...

How is it that such can be true, as in many historic philosophical works and their base, that all has been done... that nothing is to be seen as new... when quite factually (according to science) the relative age of our existence in regard to all else that is known and yet to be discovered in our perception and reality, is comparable to that of an infant at best? Perhaps even yet to have been "born" being still in a gestative state..... Is such opinion not simply from our confined and very limited perspective?

There are a few philosophical works that express the conviction that they have solved all the important problems and that nothing new of any interest should be expected. But these are in the minority. Most philosophical works on the contrary emphasize how much work is left to be done, how much we don't know, how much room and need there is for new ideas and approaches.

Why do I feel stupid when confronted with questions about Philosophy and yet, I'm strangely attracted to it? Am I a masochist or someone who doesn't know better? Cheers! Victor

Of course I can't say what's up with you, Victor, since I don't know you, but I can report that the questions in philosophy often have that dual effect on people. On the one hand, they are utterly seductive and mesmerizing. On the other hand, their elusiveness and apparent intractability can be painful at times. Some of the greatest of philosophers have felt the stupidity before philosophical problems that you report; for instance, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein felt this very strongly and would frequently castigate himself — often before his dumbfounded students — for his stupidity. Perhaps you're right in your suggestion that these traits might be connected: for some people are most attracted by precisely that which remains out of their reach.

If you were sent back 100 years in time and met a fellow philosopher, what advances in the field since his or her time would you tell him or her of? Would you be able to convince him or her of what you said?

To my mind, the formulation, discussion, appreciation, and absorption of the work of Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W.V. Quine, Donald Davidson, and Saul Kripke have allowed for far deeper, sharper, and more sophisticated discussions in the philosophy of language than have ever been possible before. Could I convince someone of this after traveling back in time, you ask. Could I convince someone of that now ?