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Evolutionary Naturalism (Classic Reprint)
– June 9, 2012
But, even so, this common naturalism is of a very vague and general sort, capable of covering an immense diversity of opinion. It is an admission of a direction more than a clearly formulated belief. It is less a philosophical system than a recognition of the impressive implications of the physical and the biological sciences. A nd, not to be outdone, psychology has swelled the chorus by pointing out the organic roots of behavior and of consciousness. But just because an adequate naturalism has never been formulated and defended, we find that many who are naturalistic in their general outlook are yet sharp in their criticism of naturalism as a philosophy Why is there this apparent contradiction? Why is there this conservative withholding of allegiance to naturalism on the part of the majority of philosophers? Why is naturalism insistently defined in so narrow a way that it becomes a thing of straw easily torn to pieces? This situation has awakened my interest and I wish to say a few words about it. To define naturalism in a narrow and indefensible way and then to tear it to pieces may be a pleasant enough dialectical exercise, but surely it is not consonant with the serious aim of philosophy to dis cover the truth about nature and ourselves as children of nature. There is something childish, rhetorical and merely verbal in this procedure, something which smacks of the lecture-room instead of the laboratory. Such lecturers are in the habit of making remarks such as the following: No philosopher to-day is a materialist, A the ism has been completely discredited, No one to-day knows what life is, etc. The vicious effect of such dicta is the encouragement of obscurantism. But among the more serious and competent thinkers there is the effort to work out exact definitions and to do justice to the actual content of both science and philosophy. Why, then, do so many
(Typographical errors above are due to OCR software and don't occur in the book.)