Historically (since 2500 years ago), philosophy - "love of wisdom" in Greek - encompassed all intellectual endeavors, and natural philosophy was seen as its part. However, these days the term science has supplanted "natural philosophy" and scientists are not considered to be philosophers.

I seem to recall that there was a watershed event in the second half of 19th century (circa 1870?) when a major (German?) scientist (Helmholtz?) declaimed (at a major scientific convention?) something like

Philosophers think that scientists are conceited and scientists think that philosophers are insane.

Alas, I have not been able to find a specific reference.

So, who/when/where said that?

PS1. The meaning of the phrase is that philosophers, employing their traditional scholarship, managed to learn zilch about how nature actually works, while scientists, employing the scientific method, managed to learn quite a lot.

PS2. Originally asked on History.SE.

PS3. Also related:


1 Answer 1


This paper might be useful, though I haven't read it:

"The Origin of the Separation Between Science and Philosophy" https://www.jstor.org/stable/20023644

  • $\begingroup$ He never mentions anything related to my question. $\endgroup$
    – sds
    Jun 13, 2022 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure? The paper makes a big statement about it on the 23rd page: "Around 1800, the width and depth of the gap between science and philosophy was emphatically affirmed by the chief representative of German Idealism, Immanuel Kant...Kant stated bluntly that the observable facts of the physical world are completely and satisfactorily described and systematized by "science proper"; "philosophy proper" can never tell us anything about them." Even the last sentence states it, "Kant's two worlds exemplify a complete split between science and philosophy." $\endgroup$
    – Andrew R.
    Jun 13, 2022 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, this is the quote I copied to the original question, but it is not blunt enough, and Kant is hardly a scientist. On a second thought, I think it's good enough... $\endgroup$
    – sds
    Jun 13, 2022 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ Who's to say only scientists are allowed to categorize things? The entire process of categorization originates in philosophy. That's like saying "Jesus isn't a Christian because Jesus was a Jew." $\endgroup$
    – Andrew R.
    Jun 13, 2022 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ Kant was insufficiently disparaging towards philosophers ;-) $\endgroup$
    – sds
    Jun 13, 2022 at 21:01

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