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Is science just philosophy with better data?



No. To be sure, philosophers have overstepped their bounds and done para-science and pseudo-science, instead of doing either genuine science or genuine philosophy. But philosophy has a distinct role in the construction of knowledge, its job being to explicate and fine-tune the concepts that are uncritically used in empirical inquiry.

Empirical data tends to be necessary to do this in a way that yields relevant results, as opposed to ones that are of purely theoretical interest, but it is in fact a distinctively philosophical enterprise.

In their attempts to do this, philosophers have frequently made horrible mistakes. The stock example is Kant’s analysis of the structure of space. But more insidious examples relate to the field of psychology, especially psychoanalysis, which philosophers understandably but totally wrongly feel themselves capable weighing in on without having the relevant empirical data.

But such failures reflect the incompetent of specific philosophers and are not inherent in the structure of the discipline of philosophy. When done properly, philosophy is done with sensitivity the relevant empirical data but is not itself an empirical enterprise and consequently generates legitimate results that cannot be absorbed into science proper.


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