Saturday, October 30, 2010

Two Contraries of Naturalism

Naturalists are analytical philosophers who take the natural sciences to be giving us the best foundation for our thoughts. As philosophers, they don’t usually trust scientists to interpret their own discoveries, however, so I wonder what Naturalists contribute to the scientific enterprise. Is it logical rigour and coherence, or just the opposite?
......Naturalists emphasise the very careful observations that scientists make. And indeed, it is important that we be sure of our facts. But when it comes to the most certain thing in the world—that we are conscious entities—they favour materialistic theories that reduce such things away. They may justify their preference on the grounds of ontological parsimony, or overall theoretical elegance, or the fact that natural scientists don’t usually include subjective stuff in their scientific observations. But Naturalists rightly regard as unscientific those who would explain away such less obvious facts as the fossil record on similar grounds (e.g. not needing all those aeons of inhumanity, and there being no mention of such things in a favoured account of reality).
......Naturalists criticise religion for giving too-easy answers. And it is indeed important to get the right answers to the questions the world raises, not just the most convenient ones. But Naturalists like theories that are based on standard logic, which is simple and popular. And standard logic takes a timeless view from nowhere, which is a bit unrealistic. E.g. consider how the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, by having an observer-shaped hole in its description of reality, is less tidy but clearly more realistic than those no-collapse interpretations that would have us doing everything it was physically possible for us to do by splitting into lots of different people all the time.

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