Talk:Philosophical naturalism

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The problem with the perspective of the last edit, is that it conflates "science" with "physical science".

How can we explain the phenomenon that some people refuse to accept the determinism this entails? There is no "scientific" explanation for this! :-) --Ed Poor 18:30, 30 May 2007 (CDT)

Example please...--PalMD-yada yada 18:38, 30 May 2007 (CDT)

LOL, I just gave one, ya knucklehead. ;-) --Ed Poor 18:39, 30 May 2007 (CDT)
Shouldn't that be "materialism"?

Hmm..materialism is a general term im more familiar with, certainly. Which example, doofus?--PalMD-yada yada 18:42, 30 May 2007 (CDT)

Hmm...throwing determinism into the mix. Honestly, im not sure here, but it sure as hell is interesting. Also, I'm not sure how determinism fits in here (due to my own ignorance, not your explanation). But, I would say that it generally serves us well to assume that future events are caused by past events. At least on a non-QM level. When I go to start my car, I predict that when I turn the key, it won't cause monkeys to fly out of the vents.--PalMD-yada yada 19:12, 30 May 2007 (CDT)

Hell, I want a car like that! --Kels 19:17, 30 May 2007 (CDT)


Shouldn't this be called "materialism"? (Not the bling bling kind, the philosophical kind) humanUser talk:Human 01:49, 18 February 2008 (EST)

Argument from reason[edit]

For a long time philosopher have noted that materialism is the philosophy of the subject who forgets to take account of himself. If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.

The argument is largely developed by C.S. Lewis, although many philosopher have expanded it:

One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears... unless Reason is an absolute[,] all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.


Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God

--Idiot number 58 (talk) 08:25, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

Good post! (((Zack Martin))) 11:31, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
You might think that seems profound, but it's actually not much. It's simply special pleading a way out of philosophical naturalism with a bizarre notion that "maybe reason is wrong" - well, that doesn't actually say that there is something more out there, it's hardly even a sensible objection. As for the second quote, that's actually worse. What, your mind is no better than a milk jug because it lacks a designer? Well, that's remarkably silly (not least because the milk jug probably would have a designer) and misunderstands everything. Our brains are, in fact, designed - at least in so far that their structure and ability has been refined to adapt to a specification, we colloquially call it "evolution". Our minds are actually more than matter, they're independent of the matter, in fact, being composed of emergent patterns of matter. So we can indeed trust our own thoughts happily, precisely because we experience them and can tell that this higher level of organization we observe in the human brain represents the complexity required for conciousness - though even if this wasn't the case, I can't see how Gordon's or Lewis' arguments are meaningful. When you don't have God or whatever as a crutch, you actually see that sort of argument for what it is: terrible. Scarlet A.pngpostate 08:35, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
"You might think that seems profound, but it's actually not much. It's simply special pleading a way out of philosophical naturalism with a bizarre notion that 'maybe reason is wrong'..." That sums up Maratrean in two sentences. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 08:41, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, the whole "maybe reason is wrong" thing is a condition; if reason is wrong, then naturalism is undesirable because we might not be able to trust it, but that doesn't say anything about its correctness. And certainly, if the argument hinges specifically on reason being wrong, then that should still apply in a non-naturalistic worldview. Either way, it's a pathetic piece of special pleading to hold onto this God-crutch without positive evidence in favour of it - and as all arguments for the supernatural having any relevance to us, it shoots itself in the foot to boot. Scarlet A.pngtheist 08:44, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
I think we can place worldviews on a continuum, in terms of how self-defeating or self-supporting they are. We could express it as P(we believe X|X is true). A totally self-defeating worldview would have P=0 (if it is true, we certainly will not believe it). A totally self-supporting one would have P=1 (if it is true, we will certainly believe it). Other worldviews may have 0<P(x)<1. Now, I'd suggest that considering two worldviews u and v, that if P(u) > P(v), that is a good reason (but maybe not a totally decisive reason) to prefer u to v. And I'd argue that both a theistic worldview, and also non-materialist atheism (e.g. John McTaggart, or some versions of Buddhism or Jainism), would have a higher P(x) than atheistic materialism. Hence, we should prefer one of those views to atheistic magterialism (aka philosophical naturalism). (((Zack Martin))) 10:35, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
You do know that making shit up and spaffing some probability theory notation onto it doesn't make it right? Scarlet A.pngnarchist 14:28, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Good post!
I also notice that Maratrean didn't even address ADK's (valid) arguments... Tetronian you're clueless 15:03, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

Response to Armondikov[edit]

I should make clear I agree with the gist of the above quotes, but I agree the way they have been formulated is poor. I think I can formulate them better.
Theories have predictions. Now, one thing that theories can predict, is whether or not we will believe in them. This is a sort of self-referential prediction a theory may potentially have.
One possible prediction a theory may have, is that if the theory is true, we will certainly not believe it. If a theory predicts we will certainly not believe it, then it is self-defeating - we can never be rationally justified in believing it. For if we believe it is true, then we must believe its predictions are true (assuming we know them); but then, if we believe it is true, we must also believe we don't believe it is true. So, we have justified the following rule: "If X implies we will not believe X, then X is false". (x -> Bx) -> ~x. (To make up some notation, somewhat)
But, we can consider a weaker version of this requirement. What if the theory did not predict we certainly would not believe it, but merely predicted that our belief in it is extremely unlikely. Suppose theory x includes the claim "if x is true, then the probability we believe x is 10^-1000". Such a theory we are always justified in disbelieving also: if we believe it, then we have to believe that something enormously unlikely (our belief in it) has nonetheless happened, or else that it is mistaken. (If it is mistaken, then the probability of us believing in it may be a lot higher.) So, rationally, it would always make more sense to believe it is false.
This I believe justifies a principle - P(we believe X|X is true) is a relevant factor in deciding P(x is true). If P(Bx|x) is 0, that is conclusive evidence x is false. If P(Bx|x) is small, that is evidence against the truth of x — how strong evidence depends on how close P(Bx|x) is to zero.
Applying this principle to atheistic materialism vs. theistic non-materialism, I think we will find P(Bx|x) is higher for theistic non-materialism than for atheistic materialism. Given the above principle, I think that is evidence in favour of atheistic materialism vs. theistic non-materialism. (((Zack Martin))) 09:49, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
To be honest, the Ontological Argument makes more sense. Scarlet A.pngnarchist 14:15, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Haha so because theistic non-materialism believes a lot more stuff that makes anything it believes somehow more likely? Why, because you said so? (ʞlɐʇ) ɹǝɯɯɐHʍoƆ 21:35, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Critique of Philosophical Naturalism?[edit]

I think it may be worth adding some level of critique here of philosophical naturalism. In particular, it is worth highlighting current constraints of the empirical method (acknowledgement of which might help people gain trust in naturalistic approaches). A physical system (empirically observed) does not necessitate the existence of mental properties under non-reductive physicalism (nor the shared identity of neurological properties under reductive physicalism). Biological evolution is a physical process and therefore occurs irrespective of emergent mental phenomena (which is believed to be mapped to arrangements, interactions, or the functioning of localised subsets of the physical system, ie CNS). Of course philosophical naturalism is at present perfectly compatible with eliminativism, but this philosophy of mind is rarely held. People take their evolved (or socially conditioned) belief in the reality of their existence far too seriously. Although our brains may have little capacity to deny the reality of the self as a sentient being, the fact our conviction in our existence is represented in brain processes does not make any claim on the reality of this existence. Hence we accept our inherited belief in ourselves as an observer, but this claim remains unverifiable.

Philosophical naturalism must therefore seek to provide an explanation for that which is not necessitated by the physical laws of the universe as presently understood. The alternative is to clearly explicate eliminativism.

Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 04:13, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

To be honest your discussion here looks a bit like word salad to me. I'm not even sure you understand the position you are trying to critique. Brianpansky (talk) 20:15, 7 September 2014 (UTC)

The Trinity: Carnap, Quine, Sellars.[edit]

The deepest and most important philosophers of the twentieth century: Rudolf Carnap, W.V. Quine and Wilfrid Sellars; to truly understand 'naturalism,' to truly make progress in philosophy and in the world, it is necessary to understand their work. I hope, someday, to create an essay on this "trinity", in order to demonstrate that 'naturalism' boasts the best virtues when it comes to: intelligence, rationality, truth etc. Leucippus (talk) 22:13, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

Ok. Good luck, @Leucippus. We'll be happy to have a well-thought out, intelligent, non-rant-y essay. Twodots (talk) 22:22, 2 December 2020 (UTC)

Objection to removal of quotes[edit]

@Hastur - I understand the removal of the double quotation for it perhaps being ugly or heavy handed, but calling the quotes obtuse hardly clarifies why they are problematic. In my opinion both quotes highlighted key aspects of the naturalist position. I can understand the removal of the Putnam quote, but personally, I think the Quine quote could stay...I hardly see how the content of the quote or the placement of the quote is detrimental to the article. Leucippus (talk) 17:23, 16 December 2020 (UTC)

@Hastur Pinging you because the wiki doesn't use the @user shortcut. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 17:30, 16 December 2020 (UTC)
The Quine quote is relevant. Ariel31459 (talk) 17:34, 16 December 2020 (UTC)
@Ariel31459 - Based on your comments in the Saloon Bar, and your support here, you seem like a likeminded person. In retrospect I applaud your scorn of my post on scientism, for it is indeed part of the irrationalists' vocabulary, it can only serve to hinder progress. If you don't mind me asking, are you familiar with Quine? Leucippus (talk) 18:00, 16 December 2020 (UTC)
Muh progress. Hunter-gatherers have more exhaustive knowledge on their local flora than even trained botanists do. Oxyaena Harass 18:49, 16 December 2020 (UTC)
@Leucippus What little I know of Quine I read in the Stanford Encyclopedia. I am sympathetic to what I can understand of his naturalist epistemology. Ariel31459 (talk) 20:43, 16 December 2020 (UTC)

@Ariel31459 Good. The Stanford Encyclopedia offers a detailed survey of Quine's philosophy and it provides useful pages for contrast e.g. Carnap, the analytic-synthetic distinction, logical empiricism etc. I believe strongly in the project of naturalized epistemology, as the best account of what real naturalism is. Based on your user page you seem to have a strong interest in palaeontology, a key part of the spectrum of natural science, so it doesn't surprise me that you are sympathetic to naturalized epistemology. Leucippus (talk) 23:19, 16 December 2020 (UTC)