What are the similarities and differences between philosophy and science?

In the broadest sense, there is no difference. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Wisdom is understanding reality (which includes ourselves) and the most powerful ways of relating to it. Science is the the most powerful method of gathering accurate information about reality.

And of course both sets of terms have broad spectra of interpretation, and some people focus on very narrow subsets, and from within very narrows sets of models of understanding. Much misunderstanding and mischaracterisation results.

All specialists tend to understand something of the complexities of their own fields, but have overly simplistic models of other fields – so arguments over “straw men” are very common. More humility would help.

All of our models and understandings seem to be heuristic at base, and as such subject to all sorts of failure modalities outside of their historical context – a profound problem in exponentially changing times like those we currently live in.

The spectra of complexity of the models of understanding are vast.

The probability of misunderstanding is extremely high, and the simpler the models the greater it is.

Any attempts at communication require active listening, listening from the space of “not knowing”, like the other person really might have something interesting and important to communicate. Unfortunately that is not a common mode of listening. Most teaching is done from an authoritarian perspective, rather than one of acknowledged ignorance in a shared journey.

So at their best, science and philosophy are the same thing, a shared journey on a potentially infinite path where (as the Buddhist saying goes) for every step on the path, the path grows two steps longer (ie the more you know, the more you know you don’t know and the less certain you become about many of the things you were once absolutely certain of).

At their worst, each is dogma – a grasping to a small aspect of some contextually relevant truth as if it were eternal and unchanging TRUTH.

Unfortunately the latter is far too common.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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