Philosophy and Applied Fields
One peculiarity of philosophy is that the question “What is philosophy?” is itself a question of philosophy. But the question “What is art?” is not a question of art. The question is philosophic. The same is true of such questions as “What is history?” and “What is law?” Each is a question of philosophy. Such questions are basic to the philosophy of education, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of law, and other “philosophy of” fields. Each of these fields attempts to determine the foundations, fundamental categories, and methods of a particular institution or area of study. A strong relationship therefore exists between philosophy and other fields of human activity. This relationship can be seen by examining two fields: (1) philosophy and science and (2) philosophy and religion.
Philosophy and Science. Science studies natural phenomena and the phenomena of society. It does not study itself. When science does reflect on itself, it becomes the philosophy of science and examines a number of philosophic questions. These questions include “What is science?” “What is scientific method?” “Does scientific truth provide us with the truth about the universe and reality?” and “What is the value of science?”
Philosophy has given birth to several major fields of scientific study. Until the 1700’s, no distinction was made between science and philosophy. For example, physics was called natural philosophy. Psychology was part of what was called moral philosophy. In the early 1800’s, sociology and linguistics separated from philosophy and became distinct areas of study. Logic has always been considered a branch of philosophy. However, logic has now developed to the point where it is also a branch of mathematics, which is a basic science.
Philosophy and science differ in many respects. For example, science has attained definite and tested knowledge of many matters and has thus resolved disagreement about those matters. Philosophy has not. As a result, controversy has always been characteristic of philosophy. Science and philosophy do share one significant goal. Both seek to discover the truth–to answer questions, solve problems, and satisfy curiosity. In the process, both science and philosophy provoke further questions and problems, with each solution bringing more questions and problems.
Philosophy and Religion. Historically, philosophy originated in religious questions. These questions concerned the nature and purpose of life and death and the relationship of humanity to superhuman powers or a divine creator. Every society has some form of religion. Most people acquire their religion from their society as they acquire their language. Philosophy inquires into the essence of things, and inquiry into the essence of religion is a philosophic inquiry.
Religious ideas generated some of the earliest philosophic speculations about the nature of life and the universe. The speculations often centered on the idea of a supernatural or superpowerful being who created the universe and who governs it according to unchangeable laws and gives it purpose. Western philosophic tradition has paid much attention to the possibility of demonstrating the existence of God.
The chief goal of some philosophers is not understanding and knowledge. Instead, they try to help people endure the pain, anxiety, and suffering of earthly existence. Such philosophers attempt to make philosophic reflection on the nature and purpose of life perform the function of religion.