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Metaphysical naturalism, or ontological naturalism, is a belief system that holds that there is nothing but natural things, forces, and causes of the kind studied by the natural sciences, i.e. those required to understand our physical environment and having mechanical properties amenable to mathematical modeling. Metaphysical naturalism holds that all concepts related to consciousness or to the mind refer to entities which are reducible to or supervene on natural things, forces and causes. More specifically, it rejects the objective existence of any supernatural thing, force or cause, such as occur in humanity's various religions, as well as any form of teleology. It sees all "supernatural" things as explainable in purely natural terms. It is not merely a view about what science currently studies, but also about what science might discover in the future. Metaphysical naturalism is a monistic and not a dualistic view of reality.

In practice, metaphysical naturalism reduces to the more specific ontological view of “scientific” naturalism, according to which reality consists only of what the concepts of the natural sciences (and especially physics) investigate. "Scientific" naturalism is closely related to physicalism. It is often simply referred to as naturalism, religious naturalism or spiritual naturalism and occasionally as philosophical naturalism or ontological naturalism, though all those terms also have other meanings, in which naturalism often refers to methodological naturalism.

Metaphysical naturalism is an ontology providing one possible philosophical foundation for methodological naturalism, which is a related but distinct system of thought concerned with our a cognitive approach to reality and hence is a philosophy of knowledge or epistemology.


The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.

Carl Sagan.[1]

Metaphysical naturalism is an approach to metaphysics or ontology, which deals existence per se. It should not be confused with methodological naturalism, which sees empiricism as the basis for the scientific method. While metaphysical naturalism is sometimes contrasted to supernaturalism, immaterial entities can occur in a rational worldview (such as that of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Newton or Darwin) in which God is deduced from empirical data and seen as integral to a complete understanding of natural operations.

Metaphysical naturalism regards nature as all that exists or can exist, and assumes that observable events in nature are explainable only by resort to empirically observable causes. Consequently, supernatural agency is discounted, as are some abstractions thought to be independent of the physical universe (e.g., numbers).

One controversial example is metaphysical naturalists' a priori denial of traditional conceptions of free will, arguing instead for a deterministic universe.[2] In this view, human cognition, behavior, decision-making, and actions are the sole result of antecedent causes, but may become causal factors in their own right. This position has been criticized as resting on a faulty understanding of causality.[3]

Metaphysical naturalism is sometimes confused with methodological naturalism. However, whereas the former is an ontology, the latter is an epistemology. Thus naturalism has ontological and methodological expressions. The ontological expression distinguishes fact vs. fiction, whereas the methodological component is concerned with how reality can be understood.[4]


Metaphysical naturalism is quite concerned with the physical evidence required to provide support its theses. It claims to be epistemically grounded in empiricism as it is expressed in methodological naturalism (i.e., the scientific method).[5] Dennis Polis argues that this claimed empiricism is in tension with the a priori presupposition that only natural causes exist, because empiricism requires issues to be settled by experience, and not by a priori stipulation.[6]

Some have charged that this focus on science is really a form of scientism.[7] However, as other fields that are epistemically similar but distinct from science (e.g., history) sometimes find acceptance with metaphysical naturalists,[5] empiricism is claimed to be more essential. The claim is often made that methodological naturalism is the primary source of evidence in support of the conclusions of metaphysical naturalism.[8]

Physicalism & pluralism

There are many varieties of metaphysical naturalism. A number can be separated into two general categories, physicalism and pluralism. Physicalism entails the claim that everything everyone has observed or claimed to observe is actually the product of fundamentally random arrangements or interactions of matter-energy, arrangements or interactions that follow natural laws of physics, in space-time, and therefore it is unreasonable to believe anything like a creator deity exists. Pluralism (which includes dualism) adds to this the existence of fundamentally random things besides matter-energy in space-time (such as reified abstract objects). Other forms of metaphysical naturalism agree with the science of scientific naturalism, but its metaphysical conclusions differ over abstract objects like "mind," "soul," "free will," or anything having to do with self-made men.

The mind is caused by natural phenomena

What all metaphysical naturalists agree on, however, is that the fundamental constituents of reality, from which everything derives and upon which everything depends, are fundamentally mindless. So if any variety of metaphysical naturalism is true, any mental properties that exist (hence any mental powers or beings) are causally derived from, and ontologically dependent on, systems of nonmental properties, powers, or things. This means metaphysical naturalism would be false if any distinctly mental property, power, or entity exists that is not ontologically dependent on some arrangement of nonmental things, or that is not causally derived from some arrangement of nonmental things, or that has causal effects without the involvement of any arrangement of nonmental things that is already causally sufficient to produce that effect.[9]

If metaphysical naturalism is true, then all minds, and all the contents and powers and effects of minds, are constructed from or caused by natural phenomena. If metaphysical naturalism is false, then some minds, or some of the contents or powers or effects of minds, are causally independent of nature (either they partly or wholly cause themselves, or they exist or operate fundamentally on their own).

Belief in the latter may include God, spiritual souls or mindless things with distinctly mental properties, like magical objects (see magic and incantation) or causally efficacious Platonic forms.

Absolute vs. Contingent methodological naturalism

The relationship between metaphysical and methodological naturalism varies among thinkers. To understand, two varieties of methodological naturalism should be distinguished. Absolute methodological naturalism is the view that it is in some sense impossible for any empirical method to discover supernatural facts, even if there are some. [This is compatible with (but does not entail) the view that something other than empirical methods might be able to discover supernatural facts.] Contingent methodological naturalism entails the belief that, judging from past experience, empirical methods are far more likely to uncover natural facts than supernatural ones. It is generally counter productive, but not impossible, to pursue supernatural hypotheses empirically. Thus not all methodological naturalists are metaphysical naturalists. It is also possible to be a methodological naturalist in natural science, but hold that other rational methods can demonstrate spiritual realities such as God or souls.

Science and metaphysical naturalism

It has been asserted that "Since philosophy is at least implicitly at the core of every decision we make or position we take, it is obvious that correct philosophy is a necessity for scientific inquiry to take place."[10] There are basic philosophical assumptions implicit at the base of the scientific method - namely, that reality is objective and consistent, that humans have the capacity to perceive reality accurately, and that rational explanations exist for elements of the real world. These assumptions are the basis of naturalism, Aristotelianism, Thomism, Cartesianism, and many other pre-Kantian philosophies.

Common beliefs

Contemporary naturalists possess a wide diversity of beliefs and engage each other in healthy debate and disagreement on many issues. However, besides the basic beliefs already described above, most if not all contemporary naturalists believe the following as the logical consequences of the core beliefs of naturalism. These are form the basis for the naturalistic interpretation of science.

Undesigned universe

The universe has either always existed or had a purely natural origin, being neither created nor designed. Either way, naturalists hold nature (rather than, say, God or Tao) to be the ground of all being. It has been asserted {who?} that the Big Bang cosmology was developed within this assumption, proposing that the observable universe had a beginning, unfolding from a process of natural laws. In fact, it was championed by a Belgian Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître and criticized by naturalists for being "too Biblical." However, the Big Bang does not resolve the question of whether all that exists began to exist at once or whether a being of some sort has always existed. Some naturalists propose a multiverse theory, where it is thought that the observable universe is only part of a much larger whole. Citing the first law of thermodynamics, other naturalists propose that matter has always existed; matter, not the universe in its current state, exists eternally.[9]

Deep Time

The concept of time as associated with the existence of a universe or universes is known as Deep Time. Its measurement is conceived in billions of earth years. As an indispensable part of the Cosmos, deep time is an accepted fact, not an hypothesis. "By recognizing the vastness of Earth history compared to human history, we internalize what John McPhee has termed Deep Time"[11]


There are several current hypotheses about how abiogenesis (life arising from inorganic compounds under the guidance of laws of nature) happened, but thus far a conclusive explanation remains elusive.[9] Both naturalists and theistic evolutionists agree on abiogenesis, but differ on the origin of its guiding laws. The concepts of Panspermia and Exogenesis move the origin of life to elsewhere in the universe rather than starting on earth.

As the preconditions of abiogenesis currently appear to be statistically rare in the universe. Naturalists argue that humanity's existence is therefore seen as lucky rather than planned or intended;.[9]


Since there were once only simple lifeforms and now there is a rich diversity of life on Earth (the existence of creative gods is precluded) evolution by natural selection or other means is almost universally accepted by both naturalistic and theistic scientists.

Naturalists often maintain that humanity's existence as conscious and intelligent animals, is explained not as the outcome of intelligent design nor as a mere accidental combination of chemicals (such as originated life), but as the product of a dynamic, random system that generates highly complex order on its own, without any guidance. However, physicists are agreed that natural processes are guided by the laws of nature. Further, Polis argues that randomness is not an intrinsic property of nature, but a measure of the our human inability to make predictions.[12] Arguing that the properties of living organisms have been derived from random generation of diversity, genetic drift and natural selection, naturalists interpret individual organisms and species as having no teleological purpose. However, they do not all see this as excluding the possibility of true moral propositions derived from evolved facts (see Value of society and Primacy of happiness below).[9]

Mind as brain

Metaphysical naturalists believe human beings have no independent soul or spirit, but only a material brain, which operates to produce a conscious mind. Polis argues that this claim rests on the so-called principle of casual closure, which has been falsified experimentally.[13] If one's mind, and hence one's identity and existence as a person, is entirely the product of a physical process, three conclusions follow. First, all mental contents (such as ideas, theories, emotions, moral and personal values, or beauty and ugliness) exist solely as computational constructions of the brain, and not as things that exist independently of conscious thought. Second, damage to the brain (from disease, drugs, malnutrition, or injury) frequently entails damage to the self and therefore should be of great concern. Third, the death or destruction of one's brain cannot be survived, and therefore all humans are mortal. Stace, however, holds that work on ecstatic mysticism calls into question the underlying assumption of this argument, that awareness is not possible without data processing.[14]

Utility of reason

Metaphysical naturalists hold that reason is the refinement and improvement of naturally evolved faculties, through discovering, then learning, and then employing methods and procedures that are found to increase the frequency with which one arrives at true conclusions and correct information about oneself and the universe. The certitude of deductive logic remains unexplained by this essentially probabilistic view (see Evolutionary argument against naturalism), leading many mathematicians to espouse some from of Platonism. Nevertheless, naturalists believe that reason is superior to all the other tools available in ascertaining the truth, so anyone who wishes to have more beliefs that are true than are false should seek to perfect and consistently employ their reason in testing and forming beliefs. One outcome of this principle has been the discovery that empirical methods (especially those of proven use in the sciences) are unsurpassed for discovering the facts of reality, while methods of pure reason alone can securely discover only truths inherent in concepts and systems of ideas.[9]

Value of society

Humans evolved as social animals, which is the only reason humanity has developed culture and civilization, and now in fact depends on them. This means that even in the neutral terms of differential reproductive success, humanity's future as a species depends on developing and maintaining a healthy and productive culture and civilization. Any behavior contrary to that end threatens humanity's survival and the survival of one's neighbors, kin, and descendants. Naturalists believe this means humans have been "designed" by blind natural forces to require a healthy society in order to flourish and feel happy and content. Therefore, the pursuit of human happiness requires the pursuit of a healthy society so people can live in it, interact with it, and benefit from it.


Ancient period

Metaphysical naturalism appears to have originated in early Greek philosophy. The earliest presocratic philosophers, such as Thales, Anaxagoras or most especially Democritus, were labeled by their peers and successors "the physikoi" (from the Greek φυσικός or physikos, meaning "natural philosopher," borrowing on the word φύσις or physis, meaning "nature") because they investigated natural causes, often excluding any role for gods in the creation or operation of the world. This eventually led to fully developed systems such as Epicureanism, which sought to explain everything that exists as the product of atoms moving in a void, or the Anti- Aristotelianism of Strato of Lampsacus, which sought to explain all existence as the inevitable outcome of uncreated natural forces or tendencies.

In their definition of nature, the ancient Greeks distinguished "nature" from "artifice." Anything that resulted from the innate properties of a thing was regarded as having a natural cause, regardless of whether those properties themselves were intelligently arranged or not, while anything that resulted from human action was regarded as having an artificial cause. Thus, natural causes were distinguished from human intelligent causes. It was often assumed that some intelligent causes were primary causes and not solely the product of natural properties, but not everyone agreed. Following the physikoi and their successors, some ancients denied the existence of any intelligent causes that were not entirely the product of natural causes (thus reducing all intelligent causes to natural causes), and they are the earliest metaphysical naturalists. However, only a few Greek and Romans embraced such a view. Of these Epicurus and Strato of Lampsacus were the most famous.

Metaphysical naturalism is most notably a Western phenomenon, but an equivalent idea has long existed in the East. Though unnamed and never articulated into a coherent system, one tradition within Confucian philosophy embraced a view that can be called metaphysical naturalism, dating back at least to Wang Chong in the 1st century, if not earlier. But this tradition arose independently and had little influence on the development of modern naturalist philosophy or on Eastern or Western culture.

Middle ages to modernity

With the rise and dominance of Christianity in the West and the later spread of Islam, metaphysical naturalism was generally abandoned By intellectuals. Thus, there is little evidence for it in the Middle Ages. The reintroduced numerous lost treatises by Greek and Roman natural philosophers in the Renaissance contributed to Scientific Revolution which was begun by the medieval Scholastics without resulting in any noticeable increase in Naturalism. It was not until the Age of Enlightenment that metaphysical naturalism, like that of Baron d'Holbach in the 18th century, started to emerge again.

In this period, metaphysical naturalism finally acquired a distinct name, materialism, which became the only category of metaphysical naturalism widely defended until the 20th century, when advances in physics resulted in the falsification of materialism. 17th century physics has chown the importanc of immaterial laws of nature. 19th century physics added electromagnetic force fields, and in the 20th century matter was found to be a form of energy and therefore not fundamental as materialists had assumed. (See History of physics.) In philosophy, renewed attention to the problem of universals and other undeniable immaterial realities further called materialism into question. These developments caused materialists to revise their belief system into its current forms, physicalism and naturalist pluralism.

Currently, metaphysical naturalism is more widely embraced than ever before, especially but not exclusively in the scientific community. Still, metaphysical naturalism is a minority worldview. The vast majority of the population of the world remains firmly committed to more spiritual worldviews. While naturalists assert that nothing non-physical has ever been discovered, the means they allow for discovery exclude, a priori, spiritual discoveries such as the transcultural experiences of ecstatic mysticism. Thus, their claims my be seen as due to selective use of evidence. Today, prominent defenders of metaphysical naturalism as a complete worldview include Mario Bunge, Richard Carrier, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and David Mills.

Marxism, Objectivism, and secular humanism

A number of politicized versions of naturalism have arisen in the West, most notably Marxism in the 19th century and Objectivism in the 20th century. Marxism is an expression of communist or socialist ideals in a naturalist framework, while Objectivism extols the virtues of selfish individualism, an expression of capitalist ideals in a naturalist framework. However, most advocates of metaphysical naturalism in first world countries are neither Marxist nor Objectivist, and instead embrace the more moderate political ideals of secular humanism.

Arguments for metaphysical naturalism

There are many arguments for belief in metaphysical naturalism. Only a few will be surveyed here, and only in brief. There are many others, but most involve refinements, variants or sub-arguments to the following.

Argument from precedent

For over three hundred years empirical methods have consistently discovered only natural things and causes, even underlying many things once thought to be supernatural. Meanwhile, no other methods have produced any consistent conclusions about the substance or causes of anything, much less anything supernatural. The logical inference is that since countless past gaps in knowledge have been filled by naturalism, and by nothing else, probably all remaining gaps in knowledge will be filled by naturalism as well. This simply extends a principle fundamental to science as a whole, that we should presume any new phenomenon obeys known laws of physics until we have empirically proven otherwise. Hence we should presume that any unexplained fact has a natural explanation until we have empirically proven otherwise. Therefore, since we have not found empirical proof of anything supernatural, and since we have abundant reason from past precedent to expect that natural explanations underlie everything, metaphysical naturalism is most probably true.

There are two unanswered objections to this argument. The first is that empirical methods restrict human experience to what is external and measurable without showing that that only what is external and measurable exists. The argument is thus founded on an anti-empirical, a priori rejection of entire areas of human experience. The second is that in past applications of physics, what was to be explained was empirically measurable, whereas what naturalists claim can be explained by physics (intentions, awareness as opposed or data processing, God) are not empirically measurable and physics has never claimed that it is applicable to them. It must be recalled that physics uses abstractions, and that abstractions necessarily abstract from some data in order to focus on other data. Methods are not automatically applicable until empirically proven otherwise, but have conditions of applicability which must be met in advance of applying them. For example, no amount of empirical data will every show that 2 + 2 = 4 always and everywhere.

Argument to naturalism as best explanation

Some naturalists argue that sound naturalist hypotheses about facts still scientifically unexplained outperform all other hypotheses in explanatory scope and power, relative to explanatory simplicity. If that's true, then metaphysical naturalism is the best explanation of everything we observe and experience, and is therefore probably true. This amounts to arguing that everything makes more sense if naturalism is true, many details about ourselves and the world are more probable if naturalism is true, and to explain even the most mysterious of facts naturalism has to resort to fewer ad hoc assumptions than any known alternative. For example, resorting to the supernatural as explanation typically requires an array of completely ad hoc assumptions about the abilities, nature, limitations, and desires of supernatural forces. Even so, much of what remains unexplained is then elucidated as simply the "mystery" of the enigmatic will of the supernatural or as beyond human ken. Naturalism, on the other hand, relies much more heavily on assumptions already scientifically established as precedents and principles, and makes more specific predictions about what the observed results would be if naturalism were true, which align very well with actual observations.

This argument assumes that the hypothetico-deductive method is the only way to truth. Empiricists place experience above theory, but naturalists reject whole classes of data based on an a priori ontological theory. Theistic philosophers, from Aristotle on, have claimed that that the data of experience are adequate to deduce the existence of God, so that God is not a hypothesis, but a fact entailed by the data of experience. (See Existence of God.) Further, one God is a far more parsimonious explanation than the infinity of unobservable Multiverse) naturalists propose as an ad hoc counter hypothesis. And, counter to the notion that the properties of God are additional assumptions, theologians which as Aquinas have argued for them deductively. One may choose to show that arguments of this type are unsound, but to ignore their existence is demonstrates a lack of intellectual integrity.

Argument from absence

One major way in which naturalism explains things better than alternatives is that if the supernatural exists (whether as gods, powers, or spirits), it is so silent and inert that its effects are almost never observed, despite vast and extensive searching. Even the relatively few alleged observations take place only under dubious conditions lacking in sound empirical controls or tests, and on those occasions when they are subsequently subjected to sound controls or tests, they turn out to be false. Our inability to uncover clear evidence of anything supernatural is somewhat improbable if anything supernatural exists, but very probable if nothing supernatural exists, and therefore metaphysical naturalism is probably true.

Again, this argument ignores the case built by theists such as Aristotle, Ibn Sina, and Aquinas that the entire natural world is an effect of and evidence for the Existence of God. If this argument is to be made, it must include a detailed refutation of arguments purporting to show that all of nature is evidence.

Argument from physical minds

Scientists have accumulated vast evidence that the human mind is a product of a functioning brain, which is entirely constructed from different interacting physical systems that evolved over time through the animal kingdom, and that our brain is now the most complex machine found anywhere in nature, and that our minds appear limited to our brain's physical needs and capabilities. We have discovered no clear evidence of any other kind of mind, nor any clear evidence that our minds can exceed the limitations of our physical brain, nor any clear evidence that our brains did not slowly evolve through billions of years of natural selection. This is the only way we would observe the facts to be if naturalism were true (since there is no other way to have a mind on naturalism except as the product of a slowly evolved, highly complex physical system like our brain), but if supernaturalism were true (and therefore some minds or mental content exist independently of a physical machine like our brain), what we observe is not the only way things could be (since by now we could have and likely would have observed some supernatural elements of our or other minds or observed mental powers in other things). Since this observation is less probable if supernaturalism is true, metaphysical naturalism is more likely to be true.

This argument assumes that the mind's consists of data processing only, which is what has been investigated and shown to be possible in physical systems such as computers. However, we know that most data processing in the brain occurs absent awareness, so it is fallacious to assume that awareness is a side effect of data processing. Since the primary function of the mind is to know, and knowing requires awareness of the known contents, naturalism has not provided an explanation of mind, but only of its data processing subsystem. If that subsystem is traumatized, what we are aware of may be defective, but that does not show that the existence of subjective awareness is a consequent of data processing.

Cosmological argument for naturalism

If naturalism is true, then the formation of intelligent life via natural processes in any one given small corner of a young universe is unlikely. Therefore, the only way we would be observing life to exist if naturalism were true, is if the universe were so immensely old and big that events of such an improbability will be very rare but still likely to occur. We observe the universe to be that immensely old and big and life to be that rare. In addition, the universe is almost entirely lethal to life. By far most of what exists is a deadly radiation-filled vacuum, and by far most matter in the cosmos composes lethal environments like stars and black holes. Insofar as supernaturalism allows other possible arrangements for us to observe, such as universes more universally hospitable to life, universes far too young or small to produce life by mechanical accident, or universes in which life is far more common, what we observe to be the case is less probable given supernaturalism than given naturalism, and therefore metaphysical naturalism is more probably true.

It is difficult to see how this argument supports naturalism. Naturalism does not, in itself, predict that the universe is old, nor does theism predict that it is young. If the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe were such that intelligent life evolved quickly, naturalists would still explain that by laws of nature and assume that those laws are independent of God. Similarly, theists can argue that the plan of God is such that our existence be a consequent of the actual laws and initial conditions. Finally, it is not theists, but naturalists whose case requires a virtually unlimited number of alternate, unobservable universes with variant laws .

Arguments against metaphysical naturalism

In much the same way that theology consists largely of working out which theories of divinity are plausible and coherent (and which are not), so naturalist philosophy consists largely of working out which naturalist worldviews are plausible and coherent (and which are not). Consequently, attacking inept constructions of naturalism or caricatures of naturalism is akin to attacking inept theologies or caricatures of theology. Just as critics of the existence of God need to address the most carefully constructed and best defended theologies, critics of naturalism need to address the most carefully constructed and best defended naturalist worldviews.

That said, metaphysical naturalism has no lack of critics. It has been deconstructed by countless defenders of more inclusive worldviews. Some arguments present significant challenges to naturalist philosophy. Those arguments will be briefly surveyed here.

Evolutionary argument against metaphysical naturalism

Alvin Plantinga, a contemporary philosopher of epistemology at Notre Dame has argued that anyone who holds to the truth of both metaphysical naturalism and evolution is irrational in doing so. His argument relies on establishing that the probability that unguided evolution would have produced reliable cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable. For example, imagine a hunter who very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief. If this argument holds, one who holds both naturalism and evolution acquires a “defeater” for every belief he holds, including the beliefs associated with naturalism and evolution.[15]

Argument from design

Recently popular is the legally unscientific[16][17] claim that certain structures in evolved organisms are too complex to have evolved by natural selection and can only be explained as the result of intelligent design. This argument suggests that certain biological instances (the favorite example being the eye) could not have occurred gradually, but must have come to be instantaneously. This is referred to as the argument from irreducible complexity.

A cosmologically-based argument, fine-tuning, states that the fundamental constants of physics and laws of nature appear so finely-tuned to permit life that only the existence of a supernatural designer could explain them.

Both of these arguments have been repeatedly addressed by naturalists. In particular, exaptation largely treats the first case, and the anthropic principle addresses the latter. However, the existences of multiverses with variant physical constants and natural laws, which is required to support the antropic principle counterargument the is completely unsupported by any scientific data, and violates the empirical principles on which naturalism is supposed to be based.

A related approach which is consistent with existing science is that of physicist-philosopher Dennis Polis. He grants all of the science advanced by naturalists to support their case and shows it entails both the existence of God and a teleological view of nature.[12] Naturalist simply project data into a solely mechanistic conceptual space, when the same data can be more adequately represented by a conceptual space in which mechanism and teleology are seen as complimentary.

Argument from consciousness

Since science has yet to explain the qualitative nature of conscious experience, known as qualia, some argue that naturalism is therefore refuted or should not be believed. Proponents of this argument suggest that naturalism's lack of a definite explanation on this matter is not a result of a simple lack of research (which would indicate that science may one day explain qualia), but that naturalism cannot explain qualia because no valid physical explanation exists. One response by naturalists is to deny that, while conscious experience exists, qualia does not.

A more decisive argument is that naturalist accounts of mind involves deal with instrumental signs which are different in nature from the formals signs used in the mind, and further, that instrumental signs require formal signs to operate as signs.[18]

Moral argument

There are two kinds of moral arguments: the claim that naturalism eliminates morality and the claim that moral facts exist that naturalism cannot explain. The first claim, that there can be no moral truth if naturalism is true, is a variety of the argument from despair already noted above, and naturalists respond in the same way here as there. In addition, naturalists argue that people can derive moral propositions from actual facts about human needs and desires and the social and physical environment they inhabit. As to the second claim, naturalists respond that no one has ever demonstrated the actual existence of any moral facts that naturalism cannot explain.

See also

Further reading

Historical overview

  • Edward B. Davis and Robin Collins, "Scientific Naturalism." In Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Gary B. Ferngren, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, pp. 322-34.


  • David Malet Armstrong, A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. [ISBN 0-521-58064-1]
  • Mario Bunge, 2006, Chasing Reality: Strife over Realism, University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-9075-3 and 2001, Scientific Realism: Selected Essays of Mario Bunge, Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-892-5
  • Richard Carrier, 2005, Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism, AuthorHouse. ISBN 1-4208-0293-3
  • Mario De Caro & David Macarthur (eds), 2004. Naturalism in Question. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01295-X
  • Daniel Dennett, 2003, Freedom Evolves, Penguin. ISBN 0-14-200384-0 and 2006
  • Andrew Melnyk, 2003, A Physicalist Manifesto: Thoroughly Modern Materialism, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82711-6
  • David Mills, 2004, Atheist Universe: Why God Didn't Have A Thing To Do With It, Xlibris. ISBN 1-4134-3481-9
  • Jeffrey Poland, 1994, Physicalism: The Philosophical Foundations, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-824980-2


  • James Beilby, ed., 2002, Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8763-3
  • William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, eds., 2000, Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23524-3
  • Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro, 2008, Naturalism, Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-0768-7
  • Phillip E. Johnson, 1998, Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education, InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-1929-0 and 2002, The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-2395-6
  • C.S. Lewis, ed., 1996, "Miracles", Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-065301-9
  • Michael Rea, 2004, World without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924761-7
  • Victor Reppert, 2003, C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason, InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-2732-3
  • Mark Steiner, 2002, The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem, Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00970-3


  1. Sagan, Carl (2002). Cosmos. Random House. ISBN 978-0375508325. 
  2. Converse, Steven L. Free Enough: Doing What Comes Naturally. Retrieved 2009-11-26
  3. Polis, Dennis F., Mind or Randomness in Evolution, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (forthcoming, 2010), starting with the paragraph before the section "THE PRINCIPLE OF CAUSAL OPENNESS."
  4. Naturalism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Retrieved 2009-11-30
  5. 5.0 5.1 Clark, Tom W. Epistemology, "Reality and its Rivals", Retrieved 2009-11-26
  6. Polis, Dennis F., "Naturalism and the Scientific Method"
  7. Rea, Michael (2002). World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199247609. 
  8. Forrest, Barbara "Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism: Clarifying the Connection", Originally published in Philo, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Fall-Winter 2000), pp. 7-29; Retrieved 2009-11-27
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 p. 135-136 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Carrier" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Carrier" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Carrier" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Carrier" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Carrier" defined multiple times with different content
  10. A., Kate; Sergei, Vitaly (2000). "Evolution and Philosophy: Science and Philosophy". Think Quest. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  11. Palmer, A. R.; E-an Zen. "The Context of Humanity: Understanding Deep Time". Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Polis, Dennis F., Mind or Randomness in Evolution, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (forthcoming, 2010)
  13. Polis, Dennis F., "Testing Causal Closure"
  14. Stace, W.T, Mysticism and Philosophy. N.Y.: Macmillan Pr., 1960; reprinted, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1987.
  16. Ruling, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, page 64
  17. Ruling, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, page 79
  18. Polis, Dennis F., "Semiotics"

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Metaphysical naturalism. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.