Why does a person need philosophical knowledge?
The history of philosophy is inextricably linked to the history of natural sciences. Long before the nineteenth century, when the term science began to be used in its modern sense, those who are now considered major figures in the history of Western philosophy were frequently equally famous for their contributions to “natural philosophy,” the collection of inquiries now known as sciences. The first great biologist was Aristotle (384-322 BCE); René Descartes (1596-1650) formulated analytic geometry (“Cartesian geometry”) and discovered the laws of light reflection and refraction; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) claimed priority in the invention of the calculus; and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) provided the basis for a still-current hypothesis regarding the formation of the solar system (the Kant-Laplace).
In addition to their reflections on human understanding, the great philosophers provided explanations of the purposes and techniques of the sciences, extending from Aristotle’s studies in logic to the ideas of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and Descartes, which shaped 17th-century science. The most famous natural scientists joined them in their reflections. Galileo (1564-1642) reinforced his arguments concerning the motions of terrestrial and celestial entities with claims about the roles of mathematics and experiment in discovering natural facts. Similarly, Isaac Newton’s (1642-1727) description of his natural world theory is interrupted by a justification of his techniques and an articulation of a positive program for scientific investigation. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–94), James Clerk Maxwell (1831–79), Charles Darwin (1809–82), and Albert Einstein are all examples of scientists.
Although it can be difficult to identify whether an older individual is a philosopher or a scientist—and the archaic “natural philosopher” may appear to be a good compromise at times—since the early twentieth century, philosophy of science has been increasingly self-conscious about its rightful role. Some philosophers continue to focus on topics that are related to the natural sciences, such as the nature of space and time or the fundamental characteristics of life. They contribute to the philosophy of the special sciences, a topic having a long history of noteworthy work in the philosophy of physics and more recent contributions in the philosophy of biology, psychology, and neuroscience.