What is naturalism?
        Problems for naturalism
                     A solution




Naturalism is (Literally) Self-Exp...
What is naturalism?
                    Problems for naturalism
                                 A solution


Outline

   ...
What is naturalism?
                                            The stakes
                  Problems for naturalism
     ...
What is naturalism?
                                           The stakes
                 Problems for naturalism
       ...
What is naturalism?
                                            The stakes
                  Problems for naturalism
     ...
What is naturalism?
                                              The stakes
                    Problems for naturalism
 ...
What is naturalism?
                                            Demarcation
                  Problems for naturalism
    ...
What is naturalism?
                                            Demarcation
                  Problems for naturalism
    ...
What is naturalism?
                                              Demarcation
                    Problems for naturalism
...
What is naturalism?
                                             Demarcation
                   Problems for naturalism
  ...
What is naturalism?
                                              Demarcation
                    Problems for naturalism
...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                    Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
         ...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                   Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
          ...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                   Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
          ...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                   Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
          ...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                   Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
          ...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                  Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
           ...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                   Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
          ...
What is naturalism?    Science as explanation
                  Problems for naturalism   The solution applied
           ...
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Naturalism is literally self-explanatory

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My presentation for the Center for Inquiry on the nature and normative status of naturalism.

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Naturalism is literally self-explanatory

  1. 1. What is naturalism? Problems for naturalism A solution Naturalism is (Literally) Self-Explanatory Stephen Petersen steve@stevepetersen.net Department of Philosophy Niagara University The Center for Inquiry 2 March 2007 Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  2. 2. What is naturalism? Problems for naturalism A solution Outline What is naturalism? 1 The stakes Naturalism as scientism Problems for naturalism 2 Demarcation Naturalism as self-undermining A solution 3 Science as explanation The solution applied Conclusion Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  3. 3. What is naturalism? The stakes Problems for naturalism Naturalism as scientism A solution Natural-ism The CFI, the Brights, and other political groups publicly advocate naturalism in the public sphere. Many philosophers advocate it in the philosophical sphere. Both often use “not naturalistic” rhetorically as an accusation. It’s an ideology—an ism—a normative move. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  4. 4. What is naturalism? The stakes Problems for naturalism Naturalism as scientism A solution Why worry? Suppose someone dared to ask “what is naturalism anyway?” And, “why is naturalism good, and anti-naturalism bad?” There’d better be a good answer for the position to have any normative force! Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  5. 5. What is naturalism? The stakes Problems for naturalism Naturalism as scientism A solution Sample answers Quentin Smith: what’s not supernatural. David Papineau: begs off the question entirely. W. V. Quine: philosophy as continuous with science. From the CFI statement of philosophy: “. . . antinaturalists maintain that we must go beyond the concepts and methods of science . . . ” So it seems according to naturalism, we don’t need to go beyond the concepts and methods of science. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  6. 6. What is naturalism? The stakes Problems for naturalism Naturalism as scientism A solution Naturalism as scientism Naturalism: a first pass Science is the only route to knowledge. This characterization is simple and straightforward. Consistent with the Quine characterization of “philosophy as continuous with science.” This is the position I’ll defend. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  7. 7. What is naturalism? Demarcation Problems for naturalism Naturalism as self-undermining A solution Demarcation What is science? To the new Kansas board, science is “a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations.” Postmodernists and the explicitly faith-based dismiss science. It’s more pernicious to masquerade as science. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  8. 8. What is naturalism? Demarcation Problems for naturalism Naturalism as self-undermining A solution Pseudoscience Demarcation problems: Creationism / intelligent design ESP, Astrology David Chalmers’ “naturalistic dualism” Math, history, economics, AI, ethics, etc. These are problems for setting boundaries to science. These are also problems for naturalism. (“Naturalism = scientism” explains this coincidence.) Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  9. 9. What is naturalism? Demarcation Problems for naturalism Naturalism as self-undermining A solution Falsificationism falsified Maybe it’s scientific if and only if it’s “falsifiable”? The Quine-Duhem Thesis (Radical Version) The theoretical core of any consistent theory is consistent with any body of observations. Simply modify the “auxiliary hypotheses” This is doom for simple falsificationism. Demarcation is not easy! Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  10. 10. What is naturalism? Demarcation Problems for naturalism Naturalism as self-undermining A solution Those who cannot remember the past . . . Remember this old chestnut? Verificationism The meaning of a proposition is fully determined by the observable tests for the truth or falsity of that proposition. “Oh? And what’s the meaning of that claim?” Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  11. 11. What is naturalism? Demarcation Problems for naturalism Naturalism as self-undermining A solution . . . are condemned to repeat it. Compare this: Naturalism Science is the only route to knowledge. “Oh? And what scientific procedure led to that claim?” Looks like naturalism is a non-naturalistic view. This problem is not unique to my version of naturalism. The “only” part is the culprit. It’s also the interesting, ideological part. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  12. 12. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion Inference to the best explanation Hypothesis 1 To do science is just to do inference to the best explanation. “Fit” the observations by explaining them (or explaining them away) “Best” ≈ simplest Eliminate what’s not explanatory Plausibly covers all (non-deductive?) inference Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  13. 13. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion Unification Hypothesis 2 Explanation is unification (` la Kitcher and Friedman). a To explain observations is to subsume them into a wider pattern Compare “consilience” (Whewell, Wilson) Explanations reduce the number of brute facts Builds in simplicity and data-fit Contrast explanation as causation (Salmon, Lewis) Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  14. 14. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion A continuity Good philosophy plausibly attempts to systematize concepts. ≈ good philosophy seeks best explanations (of our conceptual intuitions) ≈ good philosophy is scientific (“continuous with science”) ≈ good philosophy is naturalistic. Note this needs explanation as unification. (Causal accounts won’t do.) Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  15. 15. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion Naturalistic naturalism Is it a naturalistic claim to endorse naturalism? ≈ Is it a scientific claim that “science is the only route to knowledge”? ≈ Is it an explanatory claim that “inference to the best explanation is the only route to knowledge”? Yes, plausibly: good inference is the domain of epistemology, which is a philosophical enterprise, which is (should be) naturalistic. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  16. 16. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion Naturalism is self-explanatory In this sense naturalism is literally “self-explanatory” IBE may not prove that “only IBE is legitimate” to the satisfaction of all other “inference” forms. But at least it’s self-endorsing, not self-undermining. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  17. 17. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion A demarcation The key problem for demarcation: the Quine-Duhem Thesis. Inference to the best explanation gives a principled way to pick one of the underdetermined theories, in a way that rules out ad hoc theory-saving through epicycles. To be scientific is to seek the best (most unifying) explanation. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  18. 18. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion The demarcation applied What’s scientific? ESP, Astrology, etc.? No! Math, history, economics, AI, ethics, etc.? To the extent they seek best explanations. (Ethics ⊆ philosophy.) Chalmers and naturalistic dualism Not ruled out a priori by naturalism. Presumption with physicalism as best explanation Kansas, “intelligent design”, and God Also not ruled out a priori! Again, presumption of simplicity with materialism. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory
  19. 19. What is naturalism? Science as explanation Problems for naturalism The solution applied A solution Conclusion Summary Slogan Naturalism is scientism is explanationism is unificationism. This can solve two major problems for naturalism: Demarcation of the natural and non-natural Internal coherence It also explains naturalism’s normative force. The force can (and should) be cashed out by appeals to explanatory power. Steve Petersen Naturalism is Self-Explanatory

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