The Myth of Metaphysical Naturalism
The foundation of all science and philosophy, indeed of all human knowledge, is the fundamental idea that all thing are utterly, completely, and inextricably, interconnected. The function of metaphysics is to provide a cognitive map – a worldview if you prefer, for understanding how phenomena relate.
Yesterday at Tech Central Station James Harrington wrote a piece entitled “The Flawed Philosophy of Intelligent Design”. The article is well written and insightful but there is much that I take issue with in it. However, Because this is a blog and not a philosophical tome I will only address one issue.
That one issue is what I will call the philosophical myth of metaphysical naturalism.
First, let us consider metaphysical naturalism. Roughly, a metaphysical naturalist claims that the world per se is roughly the way that the world is portrayed in the natural sciences. The first, but not principle advantage, of naturalism is its profoundly elegant simplicity; at its heart rests the intuition that the world simply is the way that it seems to be. However, to really understand the power of this intuition pursued to a philosophical conclusion we must be willing to embrace its power to drive David Hume's war against superstition and moral privilege. The power of the tools that naturalism puts at our disposal for understanding who we are and why we are the way we are; for understanding the real place of human beings in the cosmos; and for elevating the dignity of the ordinary, both ordinary human beings and the ordinary world, cannot be overestimated. If you don't feel the pull of naturalism, then even if you ultimately find it inadequate, as I do, you just don't get it.
In this paragraph Dr. Harrington reveals his real philosophy which is merely scientism. Describing naturalism as basically how science says the universe is is dumb. The point of metaphysics is to provide a framework of the basic structure of reality. Science is always only partially right at best (sometimes its completely wrong). This is because science is always only approaching a correct view of the universe. And this is why science is so powerful – because it is constantly questioning its own state and improving on that state by questioning assumptions and constructing experiments to test and validate those assumptions.
Next Dr. Harrington speaks about the elegant simplicity of naturalism. Well if naturalism just means that only what's 'real' is 'real' then this tautology is indeed strikingly simple. In fact it is so simple that its meaning is vacuous.
However, to really understand the power of this intuition pursued to a philosophical conclusion we must be willing to embrace its power to drive David Hume's war against superstition and moral privilege.
Hmmm? An intuition pursued to a philosophical conclusion that leads to a social agenda. Sounds kind of like French relativism to me. Oh yeah, I forgot that Hume's philosophy led to abject skepticism and solipsism and finally the rejection of the possibility of any kind of metaphysics or science, including naturalism. I guess that is a lot like French relativism.
Now Dr. Harrington has things set up nicely. If you aren't a naturalist then you obviously don't believe in science or social progress, and what's worse “you just don't get it”.
Well, I guess I just don't get it.
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Did you miss the last sentence where he explicitly says he finds naturalism inadequate?