How Successful Is Naturalism?

Michael C. Rea


According to Rea naturalism suffers from a substantial malady: It commits its advocates to views which are in direct tension with the attitudes, doctrines, and goals which characterize naturalism. According to Rea, naturalists are confronted with a dilemma: If naturalism is characterized as a thesis, then it falls into dissonance because adherence to a thesis is inconsistent with the naturalistic commitment to follow science where it leads. Science might overthrow the thesis which is characteristic for naturalism. This rebuke often can be found among non-naturalists. The second horn of the dilemma is more original and complex: Naturalism is committed to scientific realism and to an ontology including only things accessible to scientific investigation. But the commitment to realism forces naturalists to accept arguments that proceed by way of inference to the best explanation. In doing so, according to Rea, naturalists are forced into an ontology which cannot be investigated by science, namely substance dualism. Then, naturalism is dissonant, if the demand for explanation is rejected, and dissonant if it is accepted.


20th century philosophy; metaphysics; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; dissonance; dogmatic; naturalism; philosophical program; scientific realism

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