Naturalism

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Contents

  1. Issues and positions
    1. What is naturalism?
    2. Science and scientism
    3. Rejection of a priori metaphysics
    4. Natural kinds
    5. Monism
    6. Rejection of the supernatural
    7. Ethical naturalism
    8. Criticisms of naturalism
  2. My thoughts
  3. Annotated bibliography
    1. Quine, W.V.O. (1969). Epistemology Naturalized.
    2. Quine, W.V.O. (1969). Natural Kinds.
    3. Bhaskar, R. (1979). The Possibility of Naturalism.
    4. Ross, D. et al. (2000). Dennett’s Philosophy: A Comprehensive Assessment.
    5. Maddy, P. (2007). Second Philosophy.
    6. More articles to do
  4. Links and encyclopedia articles
    1. SEP
    2. IEP
    3. Wikipedia
    4. Others
    5. Videos
  5. References

Issues and positions

What is naturalism?

Maddy defines naturalism1:

These days, as more and more philosophers count themselves as naturalists, the term has come to mark little more than a vague science-friendliness. To qualify as unnaturalistic, a contemporary thinker has to insist, for example, that epistemology is an a priori discipline with nothing to learn from empirical psychology or that metaphysical intuitions show quantum mechanics to be false. (Maddy, 2007, p. 1)

So our inquirer will continue her investigation of the world in her familiar ways, despite her encounter with Descartes and his meditator. She will ask traditionally philosophical questions about what there is and how we know it, just as they do, but she will take perception as a mostly reliable guide to the existence of medium-sized physical objects, she will consult her astronomical observations and theories to weigh the existence of black holes, and she will treat questions of knowledge as involving the relations between the world—as she understands it in her physics, chemistry, optics, geology, and so on—and human beings—as she understands them in her physiology, cognitive science, neuroscience, linguistics, and so on. While Descartes’s meditator begins by rejecting science and common sense in the hope of founding them more firmly by philosophical means, our inquirer proceeds scientifically and attempts to answer even philosophical questions by appeal to its resources. For Descartes’s meditator, philosophy comes first; for our inquirer, it comes second—hence ‘Second Philosophy’ as opposed to ‘First’. Our Character now has a name: she is the Second Philosopher. (Maddy, 2007, pp. 18–19)

Science and scientism

Methodological naturalism.

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Scientism.

Naturalism could be defined as a support for philosophy that is filtered for plausibility given the information from science.

Figure 1: The scale of the universe mapped to the branches of science and the hierarchy of science. CC BY-SA 3.0 (2013) Wikimedia Commons.

Figure 1: The scale of the universe mapped to the branches of science and the hierarchy of science. CC BY-SA 3.0 (2013) Wikimedia Commons.

Also compare with the model of levels in Oppenheim & Putnam (1958).

Alex Rosenberg is a mad dog against emergence. Video: Alex Rosenberg interviewed for Why Are We Here?

Figure 2: Reductionism (philosophy-in-figures.tumblr.com).

Figure 2: Reductionism (philosophy-in-figures.tumblr.com).

Rejection of a priori metaphysics

Metaphysical naturalism.

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TODO: While promoting the careful gathering of empirical information, naturalism is not against (largely non-empirical) rational pursuits like mathematics. Indeed some naturalist may even see logic and mathematics as scientific pursuits of a priori truths.

TODO: Naturalism shares much in common with schools of thought surrounding positivism, through its respect for science and skepticism of a priori metaphysics, but naturalism is a more general distinction, being a more much longer thread throughout the history of philosophy and science.

If controversies were to arise, there would be no more need of disputation between two philosophers than between two accountants. For it would suffice to take their pencils in their hands, and say to each other: Calculemus—Let us calculate.2

Natural kinds

TODO.

Part of metaphysical naturalism.

Figure 3: How naturalist climb the ladd to realism (philosophy-in-figures.tumblr.com).

Figure 3: How naturalist climb the ladd to realism (philosophy-in-figures.tumblr.com).

See the outline on scientific realism.

See the outline on philosophy of mathematics.

Monism

TODO.

Rejection of the supernatural

TODO.

Part of methodological naturalism.

Ethical naturalism

TODO.

Part of metaphysical naturalism.

See the outline on ethics.

Criticisms of naturalism

Rebutals

My thoughts

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Annotated bibliography

Quine, W.V.O. (1969). Epistemology Naturalized.

My thoughts


Quine, W.V.O. (1969). Natural Kinds.

My thoughts


Bhaskar, R. (1979). The Possibility of Naturalism.

1. Section

My thoughts


Ross, D. et al. (2000). Dennett’s Philosophy: A Comprehensive Assessment.

1. Section

My thoughts


Maddy, P. (2007). Second Philosophy.

1. Section

My thoughts


SEP

IEP

Wikipedia

Others

Videos

References

Boghossian, P. (2006). Fear of Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ladyman, J., Ross, D., Spurrett, D., & Collier, J. (2007). Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalised. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Leibniz, G. (1951). The Art of Discovery. In P. Wiener (Ed.), Leibniz: Selections. Scribner. (Originally published in 1685).

———. (1989). Dissertatio de Arte Combinatoria. In L. Loemker (Ed.), Philosophical Papers and Letters: The New Synthese Historical Library (Texts and Studies in the History of Philosophy), vol 2 (pp. 73–84). Dordrecht: Springer. (Originally published in 1666).

Maddy, P. (2007). Second Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oppenheim, P., & Putnam, H. (1958). Unity of science as a working hypothesis. In H. F. et al. (Ed.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. II. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

Pluckrose, H. (2017). How French “intellectuals” ruined the west: Postmodernism and its impact, explained. Areo Magazine. March 27, 2017. https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-west-postmodernism-and-its-impact-explained/

Sokal, A. D. (1996a). A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies. http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/lingua_franca_v4.pdf

———. (1996b). Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/transgress_v2_noafterword.pdf

Sokal, A. D., & Bricmont, J. (1998). Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. New York: Picador.

Weinberg, S. (1996). Sokal’s Hoax. The New York Review of Books, 43, 11–15. August 8, 1996. http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/weinberg.html


  1. Maddy (2007).

  2. Leibniz has similar quotes in several works. This quote is taken from a translation of his first book, Dissertatio de arte combinatoria, written in 1666 (Leibniz, 1989, p. 73). TODO: Actually, I haven’t found this yet. See also Leibniz (1951), p. 51.

  3. Sokal (1996a), Sokal (1996b), Sokal & Bricmont (1998).

  4. Weinberg (1996).

  5. Boghossian (2006).

  6. Ladyman, Ross, Spurrett, & Collier (2007).

  7. Pluckrose (2017).