What Is The Difference Between Philosophy And Psychology?

"I love studying about human nature. I am a little bit confused on whether I would like to major in philosophy or psychology. Please help me decide by explaining the difference between philosophy and psychology."

asked by Mairin K. from Macon, Georgia

The fact that psychology used to be branch of philosophy has resulted in many lively discussions about the differences between them. Philosophy underpins all sciences and as such, both disciplines also overlap with each other to a certain degree. Both bodies of knowledge deal with people and life but the aspects they focus on vary significantly. In its simplest differentiation, it can be said that philosophy tries to comprehend the existence of human life while psychology endeavors to understand human behavior.

Because understanding human life is a difficult endeavor, philosophy encompasses such a wide spectrum of topics. To make these more digestible, so to speak, the academic discipline of philosophy is divided into the study of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and logic. The nature of reality and questions about the existence of God and the order of things are discussed in metaphysics.

Questions that have to do with knowledge and whether man knows anything at all are discussed in epistemology. Ethics talks about what is good and right and what morality is while logic tackles the topic on reasoning. No matter what discipline is being discussed students in philosophy are constantly engaged in a series of questions and answers that try to give meaning to life and our existence.

Psychology deals with the study of the human mind and human behavior. As both an applied and academic science, it tries to understand why people think, act and feel the way they do. Psychology is subdivided into academic psychology and applied psychology. Academic psychology is concerned with expanding our understanding of such topics as social behavior, personality and human development. Applied psychology promotes the use of psychological principles in order to find solutions to various problems or help people suffering from mental or behavioral disorders.

Aside from the topics that they cover, philosophy and psychology are also different from each other in terms of how they go about finding answers to their questions. Philosophy probes into areas such as life after death and the Supreme Being through relentless question and answer which can never really produce a single correct answer. Psychology uses the scientific method to understand human behavior. They test the hypothesis first so that they can come up with logical conclusions that are supported by observations and data.

One final difference between philosophy and psychology is the career that one majoring in these fields can go into. In many cases, philosophy majors work as a teacher and/or researcher. They may also write books and be resource speakers in academic conferences.

Psychologists can opt to work in various settings. They can be clinical psychologists who diagnose and treat mental health disorders or they can work as counseling psychologists who give advice to people dealing with different problems. They may also work as school psychologists who try to address learning and behavioral issues among students by counseling them and their families.

Career Spotlight: Psychologist

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