Naturalism and Theism as Competing Traditions

Nancy Murphy


Murphy argues that a typical understanding of the relation between naturalism and theism is that they are two nearly identical worldviews, one with and one without God. Instead, naturalism should be seen as a tradition in its own right, beginning with David Hume and Baron d’Holbach. These intellectuals treat systematically the world as a whole, humanity’s place in it, immortality, religion, and the structure of society. Dawkins, Wilson, Dennett, to name a few, are current contributors to this tradition. How is one to compare large-scale traditions of this sort? Murphy draws mainly upon resources from Alasdair MacIntyre to consider what it would take to show this rather new tradition to be rationally superior to its theistic rival. She concludes that naturalism so far was unable to provide a satisfactory account of the moral ‘ought’ and the foundation of morality. This presents a severe crisis for the naturalist tradition which might be a small step in arguing for the theistic tradition.


20th century philosophy; metaphysics; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; Aristotelian Thomistic tradition; crisis in Christianity; epistemological crisis; large scale; Kuhn Thomas; Lakatos Imre; MacIntyre Alasdair; problem of evil; tradition

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