ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: What is the difference between science and philosophy? —Sincerely, Dr. Tiarella von Sachs, Ph.D., Professor of Phenomenology at the Pennsylvania University of Indiana.

Dear Madam: “Philosophy,” a Greek term meaning “the love of wisdom,” once embraced all the studies we now think of as science, as well as problems of ethics, psychology, and every other branch of knowledge. The ancient Greeks classed all these as species of the same endeavor, because they believed that the way to address any question in any field of knowledge was by getting drunk and talking about it (see Plato, Symposium; Xenophon, Symposium; Theognis, Symposium; &c.).

With the advent of the experimental method, however, those branches of the discipline previously classified as “natural philosophy” drifted away from their alcoholic roots, and eventually came to be known as “science,” distinguishing them from pure philosophy, which no longer attempts to explain the natural world, considering that endeavor beneath its dignity. Philosophers, in turn, attempted to imitate what they perceived as the rigor of science by embracing impenetrable technical language and rules of reasoning. Thus we may define science as “the use of rigorous procedure and highly technical language to describe the natural world,” and philosophy as “the use of rigorous procedure and highly technical language to describe the works of other philosophers.” We may add that there is still a fair amount of drinking involved.