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Naturalism (Interventions) Paperback – April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Goetz and Taliaferro make the most rigorous popularly accessible reply yet to the new atheists, as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and their lesser-known confreres have been dubbed. They critique philosophical naturalism, the bedrock of the new atheism, which holds that all phenomena can be accounted for by material physical processes, and also naturalist rejections of mind and the soul. They discriminate between strict and broad naturalisms. Strict naturalism rejects consciousness and so flies in the face of everyday notions of human decision making, motivation, and conceptualization, hence of behavioral ethics. Broad naturalism accepts consciousness, primarily out of lack of present understanding of it, assured that someday what consciousness is will be discovered. Neither naturalism admits teleological or purposive explanations, and strict naturalism tends to dispense with causality. Saving the naturalist response to theism and their counterresponse until the final chapter, Goetz and Taliaferro generally pursue rational analysis to show naturalism’s failure to constitute an adequate account of human action—indeed, of action in general. Though demanding very focused reading, this is a sterling work of popular philosophy. --Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Series: Interventions
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802807682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802807687
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By G. Kyle Essary on October 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating, yet concise book. At only 122 pages (including the appendix) one might assume that the book is too short to argue against a philosophical methodology such as naturalism, yet this is not the case. In fact, the brevity serves a greater purpose that I will mention below. Let me begin with a brief discussion of the title followed by some strengths and weaknesses.

A commenter above suggests that the title is misleading, and states, "Given the title, you would think this book would introduce and explain 'Naturalism.'" I'm assuming that the reviewer merely skimmed the book for one cannot deny that the book does introduce and explain both strict and broad naturalism. Outside of the final chapter (and a few very brief sections in the first four chapters) this book could very easily have been written by naturalists. The book actually excels in describing both strict and broad naturalistic worldviews, mainly relying on extensive quotes from some of naturalism's most well respected proponents. It then suggests gaps and logical problems within their methodologies. The book could have very well been written (with the few exceptions mentioned above) by a naturalist, and then simply replaced the final chapter with a naturalistic attempt to answer the critiques of the previous four chapters. Books like this are typical in every field, and thus I must contend that "Naturalism" is the correct title for the work, that the previous reviewer was unjustified, and that naturalism is the topic of discussion throughout. Now for some strengths and weaknesses:


1. The language is easily understandable for the average reader. The book avoids philosophical language when possible, which is to its benefit.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Mullins on June 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is truly a gem. It is short and sweet, and offers a great look at the heart of Naturalism. The authors have done a great job of examining philosophical Naturalism without the language being too technical. The chapters on Morality and Consciousness are by far the best in my opinion. The appendix on the argument from reason is solid as well. I would recommend it to anyone who is doing work in philosophy of religion, worldviews, and apologetics. It is simply one of those must-reads in philosophy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Eldridge on November 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Naturalism (Interventions) is a critical look at the philosophical position of Naturalism.

It is dense and academic in parts, yet still a very brief book.

The authors are careful to remain fair minded by extensively quoting authors who espouse the naturalist viewpoint. They proceed to distinguish between two different types of naturalism, showing the problems with each variety.

The 1 star reviews on this site give a misguided picture of the book and are being unfair when they claim that the authors don't do enough to justify theism, and that the authors weigh up theism versus naturalism. They are mistaken because Goetz and Taliaferro make it clear that their objective is NOT to espouse theism in this book, instead it is to examine naturalism. Yes they are theists, of course, but when discussing theism, Goetz and Taliferro are mainly responding to naturalist objections against the coherency of theism that naturalism authors make in the process of justifying naturalism. They do make a couple of brief statements to the effect of "Since this worldview is coherent it's a more intellectually satisfying proposition than naturalism" but they also make clear that the aim of the book is mostly to refute naturalism, and that they do not intend to provide a full scale defense of theism. Rather their defense of theism is kept well and truly within the context of their responses to the naturalist claims of incoherence and other problems.

If you want a critical examination of naturalism, read this book, but if you're looking for a comprehensive case for theism you will need to look elsewhere.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. OLSON on December 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having never really studied naturalism specifically, I picked up this book and have not been disappointed. There are many quotes from atheists that do seem to make a person take extra care in reading.
Generally I have to read philosophical stuff over about three times to really understand all they are saying, and this is no exception. What I really like about "Naturalism" is how fairly the views are presented. Many times I have quoted from this book while debating with atheists and have found they will not argue with the views presented by Goetz and Taliaferro, since the authors accurately represent the positions and beliefs of the naturalists.
If you want to understand naturalism, and are willing to take the time to work through it, you will have a competent grasp of the subject after this book.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful By pmcandler on May 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
John F. Haught
-- Georgetown University
"This compact study makes a significant contribution to the question of whether, in an age of science, reasonable people need to resign themselves to a naturalistic understanding of the world. Is the intellectually respected assumption that `nature is all there is' intellectually coherent? In this `intervention' Goetz and Taliaferro provide a readable, critical response to this important question."

John Milbank
-- University of Nottingham
"Demonstrates with succinctness, brilliance, and precision that modern Anglo-Saxon naturalists are not rationalists but . . . are, in fact, the enemies of reason, which can only have any reality if the physical world has a spiritual, rational source."

Robert P. George
-- Princeton University
"More than a few people seem to regard it as a mark of sophistication to hold that nothing exists that transcends the natural order. But, as Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro show in their splendid new book, `naturalism' is anything but a sophisticated view of reality. Under rigorous philosophical scrutiny, it isn't even a plausible one. . . . Patiently, gently, but in the end decisively, Goetz and Taliaferro demolish the dogmas of naturalism."

J. P. Moreland
-- Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
"The clearest and most penetrating exposition and critique of naturalism anywhere. In accessible, nontechnical language and brevity of style, the authors have managed to identify important versions of naturalism and expose the Achilles' heel of each. In a day when theologians and Christian leaders feel bullied by scientific naturalism, this book is a must-read.
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