Difference Between Philosophy and Psychology

There is always a general confusion between Philosophy and Psychology despite them being two different branches of knowledge

Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

Psychology deals with the study of the human mind and its behaviour in a given social context.

Difference Between Psychology and Philosophy - UPSC 2020

*Both Psychology and Philosophy are optional subjects in the UPSC Mains Exam.

This article will highlight the differences between Philosophy and Psychology while providing a thorough understanding of the two branches of knowledge.                                                                                                                                                           

Differences between Philosophy and Psychology



Philosophy can be defined as the branch of knowledge that deals with the nature of life. A philosopher attempts to explore the various possibilities establishing the truth about the origin of the universe  Psychology is the study of the human mind and its manifestations. A psychologist will focus on understanding how the human mind functions in a given social set up
Methods of philosophical examination include:

  • Include questioning, 
  • Critical analysis 
  • Rational debates
Concepts explored by psychologists include:

  • Perceptions
  • Emotion
  • Intelligence
  • Personality
  • Behaviour
  • Relationships
While examining the nature of life, it is not always necessary the Philosophy will come with the correct answers.  Most of it will be open to debate and will be under constant scrutiny Psychology uses scientific methods to study the human mind. This involves formulating a hypothesis testing that results in a logical conclusion backed by physical data
Those who major in philosophy are employed as teachers, researchers, authors and academic speakers Psychologists will be employed in diagnosing and treating mental health and also double up as counsellors who give advice on different issues
The four main branches of philosophy are as follows:

  • Metaphysics
  • Epistemology
  • Axiology
  • Logic
The branches of Psychology are as follows:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Evolutionary Psychology
The term ‘philosophy’ was coined by the Greek Philosopher and Mathematician, Pythagoras ( 570 BC – 495 BC). Socrates (469 BC 0-399 BC)  is considered as the father of Western Philosophy for outlining the relationship between the human body and soul. The relationship between the two has formed the basis of further philosophical studies. Modern Psychology as we know it had its origins in the first laboratories dedicated to psychological research set up in Leipzig, Germany by Wilhelm Wundt in 1879 

Now that there is a proper understanding of the differences between Psychology and Philosophy, aspirants can refer to the following links given below to for the study materials related to the two optional subjects of the UPSC Exams:

Difference Between Philosophy and Psychology – Download PDF Here

FAQ about Philosophy and Psychology


How to prepare philosophy optional for UPSC exam?

After choosing the subject as optional, the candidates can go through the syllabus of philosophy optional, booklist and strategy for preparing Philosophy optional. Refer to the toppers strategy and opinion. Practice Answer Writing and join test series.

What are the pros and cons of choosing psychology as an optional subject?

Pros – highly interesting subject, availability of study materials, help in certain portions in GS I (social issues) and the essay paper. Cons – the subject is quite vague, the syllabus is vast and has little overlap with GS paper when compared to few other optional subjects.
To know more about the pros and cons of choosing psychology optional, click here.

Aspirants can become familiar with the general pattern of the IAS exam by visiting the IAS Syllabus page. For more preparation materials they can refer to the links given in the table below:

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