The Similarities and Differences between Philosophy and Psychology

Psychology has similarities with philosophy, since it actually descends from it. However, they're not the same. What makes them different? Learn the answer here!
The Similarities and Differences between Philosophy and Psychology
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 29 July, 2022

There are often discussions about the scope and usefulness of philosophy and psychology. However, their starting points and how each one analyzes the different topics are confused.

For this, it’s necessary to understand what are the similarities and differences between the two. In this article, we’ll reveal them to you.

The similarities between philosophy and psychology

For a long time, philosophy has been a source of knowledge for psychology. In fact, the latter has depended on and been subsidiary to the former, since until the mid-19th century it was considered a philosophical branch.

Nevertheless, both have allowed the progress of knowledge. Some topics addressed by philosophy, such as identity, the mind, and consciousness, for example, are also of interest to psychology.

A typical conceptual approach shared by both is the mind-body relationship. They have some concepts and ideas that they use to approach their topics of interest in common.

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The differences between philosophy and psychology

As already mentioned, philosophy and psychology have points in common. However, they also have many differences. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

psychology was an internal branch of philosophy
For years, psychology was an internal branch of philosophy and not a discipline in itself.

The subject of study and thematic orientation

Philosophy, in its etymology, means “love of wisdom.” On the other hand, psychology represents the “study of the soul.”

In general, philosophy is oriented by more abstract and broader themes than psychology. For example, it’s interested in existence, the meaning of life, truth, knowledge, and morality.

As for psychology, it’s interested in the study of human behavior and how mental processes occur and influence behavior. For example, personality, memory, cognition, and volition are some of the thematic axes of interest for this science.

Mode of obtaining knowledge

Philosophy doesn’t need to appeal to the scientific method and empirical verification to be considered valid. That is to say, it can produce knowledge through conceptual analysis, speculation, argumentation, and critical thinking.

However, psychology, being oriented to work with human beings, must be reliable. For this reason, its theories and hypotheses must be contrasted and corroborated in experimental situations in compliance with ethical standards.

To be considered a science, psychology had to define an observable object of study that could be known through the experimental method.

Even when referring to its origins, many researchers mention its alliance with physiology, the branch that would provide the objectivity that psychology needed to free itself from philosophical biases and enter the positivist scientific tradition. Thus, the beginnings of psychology as science are tied to the figure of Wundt and the creation of his experimental laboratory.

On the other hand, philosophy can use logic and reasoning, while psychology can make use of statistics, psychometry, and tests, for example.

On validity

Philosophy does not need to be correct or testable, nor does it require a consensus on the different issues it raises. In fact, it is permanently nourished by discussion, debate, and argumentation about what interests it.

On the contrary, psychology must make use of hypotheses, contrast them and establish conclusions. There can be no speculation, much less in a clinical practice.

Applications, derivations, and branches of knowledge

Some branches are derived from philosophy, such as logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. For its part, psychology has other applications, such as clinical, criminological, educational, experimental, and social.

Psychology must follow scientific method
The clinical aspect of psychology is a major point of divergence with philosophy. The care of a human being requires other tools and knowledge.

On training and its application

To enter into philosophical debates, it’s not necessary to have had specific and formal training in philosophy. We can be avid readers and be interested in its topics.

However, psychology requires academic training, since reading and study is a necessary condition, but not sufficient for the practice of its practice.

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Dogmatism always ends in dead ends

As Bunge states, psychology should not deny its philosophical origins. Philosophy has provided it with multiple themes and points of view on the nature of the mind and science.

However, although it could have taken a different path, knowledge is enriched from dissimilar points of view. It’s not only nourished by agreements, but especially by those points that cause disagreement.

Therefore, nowadays, instead of entering into discussions about the alliance between philosophy and psychology regarding certain issues, it’s best to appreciate what contributions each one has and decide what our position is. We must do this without being open to the fact that there are so many other opinions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Lopez Calvo de Feijoo, A. M., & Moreira Protasio, M. (2014). Identidad y diferencia: de la Filosofía a la Psicología. Psicología desde el Caribe31(3), 531-556.
  • Bunge, M., & Ardila, R. (2002). Filosofía de la psicología. Siglo XXI.
  • López, Luis (2014). CONTRIBUCIÓN DE LA FILOSOFÍA PARA LA CONSTITUCIÓN DE LA PSICOLOGÍA COMO CIENCIA. Sophia, Colección de Filosofía de la Educación, (16),171-188.[fecha de Consulta 3 de Abril de 2022]. ISSN: 1390-3861. Disponible en:
  • Canguilhem, G. (1998). ¿ Qué es la psicología?. Revista colombiana de psicología7(1), 7-14.
  • Poseck, B. V. (2006). Psicología positiva: una nueva forma de entender la psicología. Papeles del psicólogo27(1), 3-8.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.