The Metaphysics of Naturalism

[This is a guest article posted for purposes of constructive discussion between a “naturalist” philosopher and Catholic philosophers. For myself, there isn’t much in its content that I can object to, even as an opponent of metaphysical naturalism. Perhaps that means I’ve misunderstood David. If so, that question would be a good way to start the combox. —ML]

by David Hirst

Metaphysical naturalism and scientific realism

Methodological naturalism – that is, the assumption, for the ends of scientific investigation, that explanations of physical phenomena are only acceptable when they postulate ‘natural’ causes – is a generally accepted element of the scientific method. There is, of course, no particular requirement that a scientific theory should not have recourse to ‘supernatural’ evidence; even so, the criteria of observation, prediction, and experimentation leading to reproducible results are not congenial to the introduction of such evidence. Indeed, the very success of the scientific method, and the concomitant paucity of evidence for any supernatural phenomena, is seen by some as providing strong evidence for metaphysical naturalism – the thesis that the arrangement of matter and energy in spacetime exhausts ‘what there is’. Nonetheless, metaphysical naturalism is not as easily defended as some of its more vocal contemporary supporters might wish to believe.

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Or should I say meme?

Proposition: “A meme is just a fancy-schmancy, neo-Darwinian word for ‘idea’. Get over it. The concept of a ‘meme’ adds nothing, save for scientistic obscurantism, to the idea of culture, ideology, psychology, sociology, religion, belief, and cognition, as traditionally understood.”