Metaphysical naturalism

Metaphysical naturalism

Metaphysical naturalism, also called ontological naturalism and philosophical naturalism, or just naturalism, is a philosophical worldview and belief system that holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences, i.e., those required to understand our physical environment by mathematical modeling. Methodological naturalism however, refers exclusively to the methodology of science, for which metaphysical naturalism provides only one possible ontological foundation.

Metaphysical naturalism holds that all properties related to consciousness and the mind are reducible to, or supervene upon, nature. Broadly, the corresponding theological perspective is religious naturalism or spiritual naturalism. More specifically, it rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.



Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophy that maintains that:

Naturalism is therefore a metaphysical philosophy opposed primarily by Biblical creationism."[1]

Philosophers view naturalism as a positive term so few dare to announce themselves as non-naturalists. The religiously inclined philosophers tend to be indifferent toward metaphysical naturalism. Philosophers who are more apathetic toward metaphysical naturalism prefer to understand it in a nonrestrictive way in order not to disqualify themselves as naturalists. Those who are keen on metaphysical naturalist doctrines are happy to set the bar for naturalism higher.[2]

Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophy "wherein worship is replaced with curiosity, devotion with diligence, holiness with sincerity, ritual with study, and scripture with the whole world and the whole of human learning," and it is the naturalist’s duty "to question all things and have a well grounded faith in what is well-investigated and well-proved, rather than what is merely well-asserted or well-liked."[3] "It is presumably not a religion. In one very important respect, however, it resembles religion: it can be said to perform the cognitive function of a religion. There is that range of deep human questions to which a religion typically provides an answer: ... Like a typical religion, naturalism gives a set of answers to these and similar questions."[4]

Metaphysical naturalism is an approach to metaphysics or ontology, which deals with existence per se. It should not be confused with methodological naturalism, which sees empiricism as the basis for the scientific method. Immaterial entities can occur in a rational worldview (such as that of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Newton or Darwin) which are deduced from empirical data and seen as integral to a complete understanding of natural operations.[citation needed]

Metaphysical naturalism regards nature as all that exists or can exist, and assumes that events in nature are explainable by empirically observable causes. However, various abstractions, such as numbers, are considered to be immaterial for practical purposes. (See Mathematical Platonism).


Some have charged that this focus on science is really a form of scientism.[5] However, other fields besides science (e.g., history) sometimes find acceptance with metaphysical naturalists.[6]

Metaphysical naturalism is an approach to metaphysics or ontology. These subjects deal with existence per se.

Metaphysical naturalism is sometimes confused with methodological naturalism.[7]

Science and metaphysical naturalism

The philosophy of naturalism is necessary for science to take place.[8] Methodological naturalism is "the adoption or assumption of philosophical naturalism within scientific method with or without fully accepting or believing it ... science is not metaphysical and does not depend on the ultimate truth of any metaphysics for its success (although science does have metaphysical implications), but methodological naturalism must be adopted as a strategy or working hypothesis for science to succeed. We may therefore be agnostic about the ultimate truth of naturalism, but must nevertheless adopt it and investigate nature as if nature is all that there is."[9] Metaphysical naturalism provides basic philosophical assumptions required to do the scientific method[10] - namely, that reality is objective and consistent, that humans have the capacity to perceive reality accurately, and that rational explanations exist for elements of the real world.[11] Variously known as background independence, the cosmological principle, the principle of universality, the principle of uniformity, or uniformitarianism, these are important philosophical assumptions derived from naturalism[12][13][14] and natural processes[15] across time and space--are needed for scientists to extrapolate into the unobservable past.[16][17]

The mind is caused by natural phenomena

What all metaphysical naturalists agree on, however, is that the fundamental constituents of reality, from which everything derives and upon which everything depends, are fundamentally mindless. So if any variety of metaphysical naturalism is true, any mental properties that exist (hence any mental powers or beings) are causally derived from, and ontologically dependent on, systems of nonmental properties, powers, or things. This means metaphysical naturalism would be false if any distinctly mental property, power, or entity exists that is not ontologically dependent on some arrangement of nonmental things, or that is not causally derived from some arrangement of nonmental things, or that has causal effects without the involvement of any arrangement of nonmental things that is already causally sufficient to produce that effect.[18][19]

Absolute vs. Contingent methodological naturalism

The relationship between metaphysical and methodological naturalism varies among thinkers. To understand, two varieties of methodological naturalism should be distinguished. Absolute methodological naturalism is the view that it is in some sense impossible for any empirical method to discover supernatural facts, even if there are some. [This is compatible with (but does not entail) the view that something other than empirical methods might be able to discover supernatural facts.] Contingent methodological naturalism entails the belief that, judging from past experience, empirical methods are far more likely to uncover natural facts than supernatural ones. It is generally counterproductive, but not impossible, to pursue supernatural hypotheses empirically. Thus not all methodological naturalists are metaphysical naturalists. It is also possible to be a methodological naturalist in natural science, but hold that other rational methods can demonstrate spiritual realities such as God or souls.[citation needed]

Common beliefs

Contemporary naturalists possess a wide diversity of beliefs and engage each other in healthy debate and disagreement on many issues. However, besides the basic beliefs already described above, most if not all contemporary naturalists believe the following as the logical consequences of the core beliefs of naturalism. These form the basis for the naturalistic interpretation of science.

Undesigned universe

Naturalists argue that the universe has either always existed or had a purely natural origin, being neither created nor designed. It has been asserted[who?] that the Big Bang cosmology was developed within this assumption, proposing that the observable universe had a beginning, unfolding from a process of natural laws. In fact, it was championed by a Belgian Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître and criticized by naturalists for being "too Biblical." Some naturalists propose a multiverse theory, where it is thought that the observable universe is only part of a much larger whole. Citing the first law of thermodynamics, other naturalists propose that matter has always existed; matter, not the universe in its current state, exists eternally.[20]

Deep Time

The concept of time as associated with the existence of a universe or universes is known as Deep Time. Its measurement is conceived in billions of earth years. As an indispensable part of the Cosmos, deep time is an accepted fact, not a hypothesis. "By recognizing the vastness of Earth history compared to human history, we internalize what John McPhee has termed Deep Time"[21]


Since matter is all there is, and since there was once no life and now there is, and since there are no creative gods, then abiogenesis (life arising from inorganic compounds through natural causes) must have happened. There are several current hypotheses about how abiogenesis happened, none of which question if it happened. As the preconditions of abiogenesis currently appear to be statistically rare in the universe, some naturalists argue that humanity's existence is therefore seen as lucky rather than planned or intended.[22][23]


Since there were once only simple life forms and now there is a rich diversity of life on Earth and since there are no supernatural gods, evolution by natural selection or other means is a fact. Naturalists hypothesize about how, not if evolution happened. They maintain that humanity's existence as rational animals is not by intelligent design but rather a natural process of emergence. Whereas naturalists do not interpret evolution as purpose driven, many see no compelling argument against ethical naturalism. (See Value of society below).[24]

Mind as brain

Metaphysical naturalists believe there exists no soul or spirit which constitutes the mind. If one's mind, and hence one's identity and existence as a person, is entirely the product of a physical process, three conclusions follow. First, all mental contents (such as ideas, theories, emotions, moral and personal values, or beauty and ugliness) exist solely as computational constructions of a brain, and not as things that exist independently of conscious thought. Second, damage to the brain (from disease, drugs, malnutrition, or injury) frequently entails damage to the self and therefore should be of great concern. Third, the death or destruction of one's brain cannot be survived, and therefore all humans are mortal. Stace, however, holds that work on ecstatic mysticism calls into question the underlying assumption of this argument, that awareness is not possible without data processing.[25]

Utility of reason

Metaphysical naturalists hold that reason is the refinement and improvement of naturally evolved faculties, through discovering, then learning, and then employing methods and procedures that are found to increase the frequency with which one arrives at true conclusions and correct information about oneself and the universe. The certitude of deductive logic remains unexplained by this essentially probabilistic view (see philosopher Alvin Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism), leading many mathematicians to espouse some from of Platonist idealism. Nevertheless, naturalists believe that reason is superior to all the other tools available in ascertaining the truth, so anyone who wishes to have more beliefs that are true than are false should seek to perfect and consistently employ their reason in testing and forming beliefs. One outcome of this principle has been the discovery that empirical methods (especially those of proven use in the sciences) are unsurpassed for discovering the facts of reality, while methods of pure reason alone can securely discover only truths inherent in concepts and systems of ideas.[26]

Value of society

Humans evolved as social animals, which is the only reason humanity has developed culture and civilization, and now in fact depends on them. This means that even in the neutral terms of differential reproductive success, humanity's future as a species depends on developing and maintaining a healthy and productive culture and civilization. Any behavior contrary to that end threatens humanity's survival and the survival of one's neighbors, kin, and descendants. Naturalists believe this means humans have been "designed" by blind natural forces to require a healthy society in order to flourish and feel happy and content. Therefore the pursuit of human happiness requires the pursuit of a healthy society so people can live in it, interact with it, and benefit from it.


Ancient period

Metaphysical naturalism appears to have originated in early Greek philosophy. The earliest presocratic philosophers, such as Thales, Anaxagoras or especially the atomist Democritus, were labeled by their peers and successors "the physikoi" (from the Greek φυσικός or physikos, meaning "natural philosopher," borrowing on the word φύσις or physis, meaning "nature") because they investigated natural causes, often excluding any role for gods in the creation or operation of the world. This eventually led to fully developed systems such as Epicureanism, which sought to explain everything that exists as the product of atoms falling and swerving in a void.

In their definition of nature, the ancient Greeks distinguished "nature" from "artifice." Anything that resulted from the innate properties of a thing was regarded as having a natural cause, regardless of whether those properties themselves were intelligently arranged or not, while anything that resulted from human action was regarded as having an artificial cause. Thus, natural causes were distinguished from human intelligent causes. It was often assumed that some intelligent causes were primary causes and not solely the product of natural properties, but not everyone agreed. Following the physikoi and their successors, some ancients denied the existence of any intelligent causes that were not entirely the product of natural causes (thus reducing all intelligent causes to natural causes), and they are the earliest metaphysical naturalists. However, only a few Greek and Romans embraced such a view. Of these Epicurus and Strato of Lampsacus were the most famous.

Metaphysical naturalism is most notably a Western phenomenon, but an equivalent idea has long existed in the East. Though unnamed and never articulated into a coherent system, one tradition within Confucian philosophy embraced a view that can be called metaphysical naturalism, dating back at least to Wang Chong in the 1st century, if not earlier. But this tradition arose independently and had little influence on the development of modern naturalist philosophy or on Eastern or Western culture.

Middle ages to modernity

With the rise and dominance of Christianity in the West and the later spread of Islam, metaphysical naturalism was generally abandoned by intellectuals. Thus, there is little evidence for it in the Middle Ages. The reintroduction of Aristotle's empirical epistemology as well as previously lost treatises by Greco-Roman natural philosophers during the Renaissance contributed to Scientific Revolution which was begun by the medieval Scholastics without resulting in any noticeable increase in commitment to naturalism. It was not until the early modern era and Age of Enlightenment that naturalism, like that of Benedict Spinoza, David Hume, Denis Diderot, Julien La Mettrie, and Baron d'Holbach, among others, started to emerge again in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In this period, some metaphysical naturalists adhered to a distinct doctrine, materialism, which became the only category of metaphysical naturalism widely defended until the 20th century, when advances in physics resulted in widespread abandonment of prior formulations of materialism. 19th century physics added electromagnetic force fields, and in the 20th century matter was found to be a form of energy and therefore not fundamental as materialists had assumed. (See History of physics.) In philosophy, renewed attention to the problem of universals, philosophy of mathematics, the development of mathematical logic, and the post-positivist revival of metaphysics and the philosophy of religion, initially by way of Wittgensteinian linguistic philosophy, further called the naturalistic paradigm into question. Developments such as these, along with those within science and the philosophy of science brought new advancements and revisions of naturalistic doctrines by naturalistic philosophers into metaphysics, ethics, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, epistemology, etc., the products of which include physicalism and eliminative materialism, supervenience, causal theories of reference, anomalous monism, naturalized epistemology (e.g. reliabilism), internalism and externalism, ethical naturalism, and property dualism, for example.

Current naturalism derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. Naturalists John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook, and Roy Wood Sellars worked to ally philosophy more closely with science. They promoted the ideas that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’ and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality.[27]

Currently, metaphysical naturalism is more widely embraced than in previous centuries, especially but not exclusively in the natural sciences and the Anglo-American, analytic philosophical communities. While the vast majority of the population of the world remains firmly committed to non-naturalistic worldviews, prominent contemporary defenders of naturalism and/or naturalistic theses and doctrines today include J. J. C. Smart, David Malet Armstrong, David Papineau, Paul Kurtz, Brian Leiter, Daniel Dennett, Michael Devitt, Fred Dretske, Paul and Patricia Churchland, Mario Bunge, Jonathan Schaffer, Hilary Kornblith, Quentin Smith, Paul Draper, Michael Martin, among many other academic philosophers.

Marxism, Objectivism, and secular humanism

A number of politicized versions of naturalism have arisen in the Western world, most notably Marxism in the 19th century and Randian Objectivism in the 20th century.[citation needed] Marxism is an expression of communist or socialist idealism within a naturalistic framework, while Objectivism extols the virtues of liberal individualism, an expression of capitalist idealism within a naturalist framework. Most proponents of metaphysical naturalism in First World countries, however, are neither Marxists nor Objectivists, and instead embrace the more moderate political ideals of secular humanism or cultural moral relativism.[citation needed]

Arguments for metaphysical naturalism

There are many arguments for belief in metaphysical naturalism. Only a few will be surveyed here, and only in brief. There are many others, but most involve refinements, variants or sub-arguments to the following.

Argument from precedent

For over three hundred years empirical methods have consistently discovered only natural things and causes, even underlying many things once thought to be supernatural. Meanwhile, no other methods have produced any consistent conclusions about the substance or causes of anything, much less anything supernatural. The logical inference is that since countless past gaps in knowledge have been filled by naturalism, and by nothing else, probably all remaining gaps in knowledge will be filled by naturalism as well. This simply extends a principle fundamental to science as a whole, that we should presume any new phenomenon obeys known laws of physics until we have empirically proven otherwise. Hence we should presume that any unexplained fact has a natural explanation until we have empirically proven otherwise. Therefore, since we have not found empirical proof of anything supernatural, and since we have abundant reason from past precedent to expect that natural explanations underlie everything, metaphysical naturalism is most probably true.

There are two unanswered objections to this argument. The first is that empirical methods restrict human experience to what is external and measurable without showing that only what is external and measurable exists. The argument is thus founded on an anti-empirical, a priori rejection of entire areas of human experience. The second is that in past applications of physics, what was to be explained was empirically measurable, whereas what naturalists claim can be explained by physics (intentions, awareness as opposed or data processing, God) are not empirically measurable and physics has never claimed that it is applicable to them. It must be recalled that physics uses abstractions, and that abstractions necessarily abstract from some data in order to focus on other data. Methods are not automatically applicable until empirically proven otherwise, but have conditions of applicability which must be met in advance of applying them. For example, no amount of empirical data will ever show that 2 + 2 = 4 always and everywhere.

Argument to naturalism as best explanation

Some naturalists argue that sound naturalist hypotheses about facts still scientifically unexplained outperform all other hypotheses in explanatory scope and power, relative to explanatory simplicity. If that's true, then metaphysical naturalism is the best explanation of everything we observe and experience, and is therefore probably true. This amounts to arguing that everything makes more sense if naturalism is true, many details about ourselves and the world are more probable if naturalism is true, and to explain even the most mysterious of facts naturalism has to resort to fewer ad hoc assumptions than any known alternative. For example, resorting to the supernatural as explanation typically requires an array of completely ad hoc assumptions about the abilities, nature, limitations, and desires of supernatural forces. Even so, much of what remains unexplained is then elucidated as simply the "mystery" of the enigmatic will of the supernatural or as beyond human ken. Naturalism, on the other hand, relies much more heavily on assumptions already scientifically established as precedents and principles, and makes more specific predictions about what the observed results would be if naturalism were true, which align very well with actual observations.

This argument assumes that the hypothetico-deductive method is the only way to truth. Furthermore, this argument does draw an equivalence between methodological naturalism which focuses on epistemology with ontological naturalism which focuses on metaphysics. Whilst methodological naturalism has produced great success in explaining observed phenomena by testing hypotheses according to natural laws, this does not preclude on a priori grounds the possibility of supernatural phenomena existing within the universe. In addition, if something purported to be "supernatural" was confirmed by scientific observations, naturalists would discount these as anomalies or unexplained natural events. Empiricists place experience above theory, but naturalists reject whole classes of data based on an a priori ontological theory. Natural philosophers, from Aristotle on, have claimed that the facts of experience are adequate to deduce the existence of the metaphysical, not as hypothesis, but as a rational certainty entailed by observable facts. Regarding theology, a subject that Aristotle considered to be within the scope of Natural science or Physics, he observed that merely requiring one of something is, in general, a more parsimonious explanation than requiring many. However, not unlike later physicists, he was trying to explain the eternal circular motion of the planets and stars by reason of one or more instances of an unchanging principle. In a more recognizably theological argument, Thomas Aquinas reasoned deductively for additional properties that characterized a creator God.

Argument from absence

One major way in which naturalism is claimed to explain things better than alternatives is that if the supernatural exists (whether as gods, powers, or spirits), it is so silent and inert that its effects are almost never observed, despite vast and extensive searching. Even the relatively few alleged observations take place only under dubious conditions lacking in sound empirical controls or tests, and on those occasions when they are subsequently subjected to sound controls or tests, they turn out to be false. Our inability to uncover clear evidence of anything supernatural is somewhat improbable if anything supernatural exists, but very probable if nothing supernatural exists, and therefore metaphysical naturalism is probably true.

This argument is met by the case built by theists such as Aristotle, Ibn Sina, and Aquinas that the entire natural world is an effect of and evidence for the Existence of God. If this argument is to be made, it should include a refutation of arguments purporting to show that all of nature is evidence.

Argument from physical minds

Neuroscientists have accumulated vast evidence that the functions and activities of the human mind correspond to the functions and activities of the human brain, which is constructed from different interacting physical systems that evolved over time through the animal kingdom. Our brains are now the most complex machines found anywhere in nature, and our minds appear limited to our brain's physical needs and capabilities. We have discovered no clear evidence of any other kind of mind, no clear evidence that our minds can exceed the limitations of our physical brain, and no clear evidence that all of the structures and functions of the brain did not slowly evolve through billions of years of undirected mutation and indifferent natural selection. This is the only way we would observe the facts to be if naturalism were true (since there is no other way to have a mind on naturalism except as the product of a slowly evolved, highly complex physical system like our brain), but if supernatural entities or processes exist (and some minds or mental content exist independently of a physical machine, like our brain), then what we observe is not the only way things could be (since by now we could have and likely would have observed some supernatural elements of our own or other minds or observed mental powers in other objects). Since this observation is less probable if supernaturalism is true, metaphysical naturalism is more likely to be true.

This argument presupposes that the mind consists of data processing only, which is what has been investigated and shown to be possible in physical systems such as computers. However, we know that most data processing in the brain occurs absent awareness, so it is fallacious to assume that awareness is a side effect of data processing. Since the primary function of the mind is to know, and knowing requires awareness of the known contents, naturalism has not provided an explanation of mind, but only of its data processing subsystem. If that subsystem is traumatized, what we are aware of may be defective, but that does not show that the existence of subjective awareness is a consequent of data processing.

Cosmological argument for naturalism

If naturalism is true, then the formation of intelligent life via natural processes in any one given small corner of a young universe is unlikely. Therefore, the only way we would observe life to exist if naturalism were true, is if the universe were old enough and of sufficient size that events of such an improbability would be very rare but still likely to occur. We observe the universe to be immensely old and large with life that is, as far as our observations allow, very rare. In addition, the universe is almost entirely lethal to life. By far most of what exists is a deadly radiation-filled vacuum, and by far most matter in the cosmos composes lethal environments like stars and black holes. Insofar as supernaturalism allows other possible arrangements for us to observe, such as universes more universally hospitable to life, universes far too young or small to produce life by mechanical accident, or universes in which life is far more common, what we observe to be the case is less probable given supernaturalism than given naturalism; therefore, metaphysical naturalism is more likely to be true.


It seems difficult to see how this argument supports naturalism. Naturalism does not, in itself, predict that the universe is old, nor does theism necessarily predict that it is young. If the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe were such that intelligent life evolved quickly, naturalists would still explain that observation by laws of nature and assume that those laws are independent of a deity. Similarly, theists can argue that the plan of their deity(ies) is such that our existence be a consequence of the actual laws and initial conditions.

Arguments against metaphysical naturalism

Metaphysical naturalism has been criticized by many, particularly by specific religious communities. Some arguments against metaphysical naturalism are surveyed below.

Evolutionary argument against metaphysical naturalism

Alvin Plantinga, a contemporary philosopher of epistemology at Notre Dame, has argued that anyone who holds to the truth of both metaphysical naturalism and evolution is inherently irrational in doing so. His argument relies on establishing that the probability that unguided evolution would have produced reliable cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable. For example, imagine a hunter who very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief. If this argument holds, one who holds both naturalism and evolution acquires a “defeater” for every belief he holds, including the beliefs associated with naturalism and evolution.[28]

Since its inception, Plantinga's argument has been criticized by many naturalist philosophers. Mental philosopher Daniel Dennett and historian Richard Carrier have attacked it on the grounds of misunderstanding natural selection. They argue in their respective works that nature selects the genes of organisms that survive longer. Since pattern seeking in any multitude offer a substantial survival advantage, nature can effectively breed a cognitive apparatus for truth-finding. For example, primitive men that understood fertilizing plants and that flint makes fire would live longer because of their reasoning skills. This would allow them to pass reasoning abilities to their offspring. Out of this second generation, the offspring with the best rational faculties would live the longest because they discovered even more true patterns. Thus natural selection would continue to fine-tune man's truth seeking skills over time.[29]

Argument from design

Recently popular is the claim that certain structures in evolved organisms are too complex to have evolved by natural selection and can only be explained as the result of intelligent design. This argument suggests that certain biological instances (the favorite example being the eye) could not have occurred gradually, but must have come to be instantaneously. This is referred to as the argument from irreducible complexity.

A cosmologically-based argument, fine-tuning, states that the fundamental constants of physics and laws of nature appear so finely tuned to permit life that only the existence of a supernatural designer could explain them.

However, this has been asserted by many naturalists, like Victor Stenger, to be a god of the gaps argument because it creates a problem, says it is unanswerable, then fills in God as the solution. He also accuses fine-tuning as being a statistics fallacy, because it asserts after the fact what the chances were before the big bang. This fallacy makes it appear as though it was purposeful, because humans observe the after effect when it was just as likely[citation needed] to have any other combination that did not permit life.

It is also argued by Lawrence Krauss and Neil DeGrasse Tyson that the universe is not fine-tuned and is very unfriendly to life with only a small percentage of the universe being habitable. They argue life evolves to the conditions of the universe through natural selection, not the other way around.

A related approach which is consistent with existing science is that of physicist-philosopher Dennis Polis. He grants all of the science advanced by naturalists to support their case and shows it entails both the existence of God and a teleological view of nature.[30] Naturalist simply project data into a solely mechanistic conceptual space, when the same data can be more adequately represented by a conceptual space in which mechanism and teleology are seen as complimentary.

Argument from consciousness

Since neuroscience has yet to explain the qualitative nature of conscious experience and its elements, commonly called qualia, some argue that naturalism is therefore refuted or should not be believed (see hard problem of consciousness). Proponents of this argument suggest that naturalism's lack of a satisfying explanation on this matter is not a result of a simple lack of research (which would indicate that science may one day explain qualia), but that naturalism cannot explain qualia because no valid physical explanation exists in principle. One response by naturalists is to maintain that, while conscious experience exists, qualia do not. Yet another is to claim that this denial of a possible physical explanation has not been rationally demonstrated or factually grounded, but is an argument from personal incredulity and there is no reason to think that the mystery of consciousness is inherently unsolvable, that the apparent gulf between objectivity and subjectivity is unbridgeable, and that no sufficient reductionistic explanation can be offered.

A more decisive, semiotic argument is that naturalistic accounts of mind rely on the notion of instrumental signs, which are different in nature from the formal signs used in the mind, and furthermore, that instrumental signs require formal signs to operate as signs at all.[31]

See also

Further reading

Historical overview

  • Edward B. Davis and Robin Collins, "Scientific Naturalism." In Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Gary B. Ferngren, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, pp. 322–34.



  • James Beilby, ed., 2002, Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8763-3
  • William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, eds., 2000, Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23524-3
  • Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro, 2008, Naturalism, Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-0768-7
  • Phillip E. Johnson, 1998, Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education, InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-1929-0 and 2002, The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-2395-6
  • C.S. Lewis, ed., 1996, "Miracles", Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-065301-9
  • Michael Rea, 2004, World without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924761-7
  • Victor Reppert, 2003, C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason, InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-2732-3
  • Mark Steiner, 2002, The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem, Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00970-3


  1. ^ Schafersman 1996.
  2. ^ Papineau 2007.
  3. ^ Carrier 2005, p. 26
  4. ^ Plantinga, Alvin. "Religion and Science". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Rea, Michael (2002). World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199247609. 
  6. ^ Clark, Tom W. Epistemology, "Reality and its Rivals", Retrieved 2009-11-26 (self published)
  7. ^ Naturalism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Retrieved 2009-11-30
  8. ^ "Since philosophy is at least implicitly at the core of every decision we make or position we take, it is obvious that correct philosophy is a necessity for scientific inquiry to take place." (A. 2000)
  9. ^ "while science as a process only requires methodological naturalism, I think that the assumption of methodological naturalism by scientists and others logically and morally entails ontological naturalism." "I maintain that the practice or adoption of methodological naturalism entails a logical and moral belief in ontological naturalism, so they are not logically decoupled." (Schafersman)
  10. ^ "naturalism is the "fundamental assumption" espoused by science." (Strahler 1992, p. 3)
  11. ^ A. 2000
  12. ^ "You cannot go to a rocky outcrop and observe either the constancy of nature's laws or the working of unknown processes. It works the other way around." You first assume these propositions and "then you go to the out crop of rock." (Gould 1987, p. 120)
  13. ^ Gould 1987, p. 119
  14. ^ "The assumption of spatial and temporal invariance of natural laws is by no means unique to geology since it amounts to a warrant for inductive inference which, as Bacon showed nearly four hundred years ago, is the basic mode of reasoning in empirical science. Without assuming this spatial and temporal invariance, we have no basis for extrapolating from the known to the unknown and, therefore, no way of reaching general conclusions from a finite number of observations. (Since the assumption is itself vindicated by induction, it can in no way “prove” the validity of induction - an endeavor virtually abandoned after Hume demonstrated its futility two centuries ago)." (Gould 1965, pp. 223–228)
  15. ^ Lyell's “uniformity of process” is an assumption: “As such, it is another a priori assumption shared by all scientists and not a statement about the empirical world.”(Gould 1984, p. 11)
  16. ^ "Uniformity is an unprovable postulate justified, or indeed required, on two grounds. First, nothing in our incomplete but extensive knowledge of history disagrees with it. Second, only with this postulate is a rational interpretation of history possible, and we are justified in seeking—as scientists we must seek—such a rational interpretation." Simpson 1963, pp. 24–48
  17. ^ "The principle of uniformity is not a law, not a rule established after comparison of facts, but a principle, preceding the observation of facts . . . It is the logical principle of parsimony of causes and of economy of scientific notions. By explaining past changes by analogy with present phenomena, a limit is set to conjecture, for there is only one way in which two things are equal, but there are an infinity of ways in which they could be supposed different." Hooykaas 1963, p. 38
  18. ^ Richard Carrier, On Defining Naturalism as a Worldview, Free Inquiry 30.3 (April/May 2010), pp. 50-51.
  19. ^ Carrier 2005, pp. 211–212
  20. ^ Carrier 2005, pp. 71–95
  21. ^ Palmer, A. R.; E-an Zen. "The Context of Humanity: Understanding Deep Time". Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  22. ^ Carrier 2005, pp. 166–68
  23. ^ Richard Carrier, [The Argument from Biogenesis: Probabilities Against a Natural Origin of Life], Biology and Philosophy 19.5 (November 2004), pp. 739-64.
  24. ^ Carrier 2005, pp. 168–176, 326–327
  25. ^ Stace, W.T, Mysticism and Philosophy. N.Y.: Macmillan Pr., 1960; reprinted, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1987.
  26. ^ Carrier 2005, pp. 53–54
  27. ^ Papineau 2007
  28. ^
  29. ^ Carrier 2005, pp. 181–188
  30. ^ Polis, Dennis F., Mind or Randomness in Evolution, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (forthcoming, 2010)
  31. ^ Polis, Dennis F., "Semiotics"


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