Some remarks about philosophy and its relation to the empirical sciences
There are currently two different views about the relation between philosophy and the empirical sciences. One of them – the “Quinean” view – holds that there is only a difference in degree: both are trying to gain insights in parts of the world, but philosophy, in opposition to the empirical sciences, which deal with concrete parts of the world, tries to find out insights of a very general type. The other view – which has a century old history, beginning with Socrates/Plato and ending, in a certain sense, with the late Wittgenstein – holds that philosophy and the empirical sciences are separated by a sharp categorical difference: Empirical sciences deal with parts of the world, and philosophy deals with concepts, that is with our habits of distinguishing and classifying things, which enable us to deal empirically with the world. This paper tries to develop some arguments in favour of the second view, and, furthermore, tries to suggest some implications of this view. One of these implications is that there are three special tasks of philosophy as a concept-reflecting enterprise: the descriptive, the explanatory and the critical. It is remarkable to see that within these aims empirical insights come again to play a certain, although limited role.
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