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Philosophy as Scientia Scientiarum and a History of Classifications of the Sciences

Nature volume 71, pages 505506 (30 March 1905) | Download Citation



THE relation of science to philosophy is, in theory, filial. It is, perhaps, no contradiction of the filial relationship that in practice it has an unfortunate tendency to run to mutual recrimination. The man of science too often ignores the philosopher, or despises him as an obscurantist who habitually confounds abstraction with generalisation. To the metaphysical philosopher, on the other hand, the typical specialist in science is a variety of day-labourer, dulled by the drudgery of occupational routine. Amidst such conjugal plain-speaking on both sides, it is no wonder that we hear much of what is called the divorce of philosophy and science; and yet there are many problems which for their adequate treatment surely require the combined resources of both science and philosophy. Is not the problem of the classification of the sciences one of these? Yet the comparative isolation of the scientific and philosophic approaches to this subject is a conspicuous fact, well attested by some recent instances. One of the most eminent of European men of science quite recently brought forward, as an original contribution, a scheme of classification which the philosophical critics at once detected as almost identical with that of Auguste Comte. Another very eminent man of science not long ago published a critical survey of some of the best known schemes of classification. His criticsm of Comte's scheme was apparently based upon an allusion in the practical treatise (the “Positive Polity”), the critic himself being presumably in ignorance that Comte's treatment of the subject can only be adequately studied in the “Positive Philosophy,” where indeed the general theory of science is so elaborately worked out as to extend over several volumes.

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