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Naturalism and Philosophy February 16, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy, Science.

There is an interesting and important discussion going on at Brian Leiter’s blog regarding the proper characterization of naturalism and its relation to philosophy.

Naturalism is the view that reality consists only of the natural world. The issue is whether the language and methods of science are sufficient to understand reality; or are there aspects of nature that must be understood philosophically.



1. Paul Moloney - March 4, 2008

It would seem that the language and methods of science are not sufficient to understand reality or the facts discovered by the scientist. Philosophical speculation has a basis in scientific fact. Anyone who reasons against what is scientifically known is not reasoning at all. Nonetheless, those that reason philosophically go beyond what is scientifically known and that seems to necessitate a different language other than scientific language.

A case in point seems to be that of B.F. Skinner. It would seem impossible to criticize Skinner as a scientist. In my opinion he was a scientist par excellence. This is more amazing considering he was studying psychology. I do not think his scientific findings in regards to behavior have been disputed, at least to any significant degree.

As great a scientist as Skinner was, his scientific language could not be translated into philosophical language. Skinner denied philosophical thinking and then turned his behaviorism into a philosophy. He turned his scientific facts into a philosophy while considering philosophy to be a meaningless subject. Because of this simple contradiction, it seems no one considers him a philosopher, which would suit him.

2. Huan - March 4, 2008

Don’t scientists engage in a type of metaphysical/epistemologically philosophy? I mean it seems that a lot of these revolutionary scientific ideas are just philosophical ideas put into numbers. The numbers themselves can not do all that much without some kind of abstract ideas.

It seems to me that observations of the natural world requires philosophical ideas to advance into actual theories. After all, a hypothesis is placed quite early in the scientific method isn’t it?

3. cato on the greens - March 4, 2008

Is not science the child of Philosophy?

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