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7/24/2018 6:49 am  #1


The naturalist narrative

Hello everyone.

You all certainly heard about the naturalist meta-narrative of history:

Our ancestors were a bunch of superstitious people who put supernatural being and substance beyond every natural phenomen. But with the progress of science/philosophy/whatever fields, we now know that it's false.
So, by extending this idea, we can be sure that everything that can't be explained in natural ways now, will be in some future.


What about that?
Is there some truth in that, or is it more like a distorted view of history?

It would be interesting to know everyone's opinion, and if you have some book on that subject, either from a naturalist or non-naturalist point of view.

 

7/24/2018 7:07 am  #2


Re: The naturalist narrative

I do not understand what it means. Many of the Pre-Socratics, both theist and non-theist, would agree with that thesis, as would deists, pantheists and non-religious theists.

As an account it fails because of term ‘supernatural’ and ‘natural’, the former of which is just a gerrymandered ‘whatever we do not like’. More charitably one might read it along the lines of something Dennett once said about the teleological bias and people having a natural tendency to attribute agency even if there was none. This maybe true but it misses the point as natural theologians give reasons why the beings refered to in their arguments must posses agency (the naturalist can contest the arguments but they must do so on grounds other than they encircle agency on the risk of begging the question). It might have a little more bite as an objection to biological design arguments.

Other than that it’s an example of very weak induction a la ‘Numbers are necessary beings’ ‘God is a necessary being’ therefore God is a number.

 

7/24/2018 7:39 am  #3


Re: The naturalist narrative

Isn't this idea of teleological bias ultimately a petitio principii? Obviously, for every theists, every events comes from a personal source in the end.

I was also thinking about materialist accounts of mental life. Is there some clear account where even non-materialists, in general, agree that some parts of it is now explainable in a purely material way? (And where non-materialists were thinking that it wasn't possible.)

Last edited by Ouros (7/24/2018 7:41 am)

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7/24/2018 8:08 am  #4


Re: The naturalist narrative

Ouros wrote:

Isn't this idea of teleological bias ultimately a petitio principii? Obviously, for every theists, every events comes from a personal source in the end.

I was also thinking about materialist accounts of mental life. Is there some clear account where even non-materialists, in general, agree that some parts of it is now explainable in a purely material way? (And where non-materialists were thinking that it wasn't possible.)

I don't think biases related to evolved heuristics are that important. The fact that (say) humans have a bias towards thinking sweet fruits are edible provides no support to the claim that no sweet fruit is edible or even that sweet fruits are less likely to be edible. It might explain why people are prone to think a certain way but it says nothing about whether an instance of reasoning is right or wrong.

I see what you mean about materialist explanations but I don't think, amongst philosophers at least, that this was actually the case, at least in a strong way. The Arabian philosophers for instance thought that different minds of mental activity were linked to different brain regions though not identical with them (in more modern terms mental activity could be correlated with localized brain activity but was not reducible to it). Even with Descartes there is a cottage industry dedicated to highlighting how he stressed that some cognitive activities necessarily involved embodiment. 

 

8/01/2018 1:09 am  #5


Re: The naturalist narrative

Ouros wrote:

Hello everyone.

You all certainly heard about the naturalist meta-narrative of history:

Our ancestors were a bunch of superstitious people who put supernatural being and substance beyond every natural phenomen. But with the progress of science/philosophy/whatever fields, we now know that it's false.
So, by extending this idea, we can be sure that everything that can't be explained in natural ways now, will be in some future.


What about that?
Is there some truth in that, or is it more like a distorted view of history?

Our ancestors were indeed superstitious, but not in the sense of only assuming supernatural being and substance beyond natural phenomenon. What these days is called supernatural, was part of natural order back then. There was no such difference or distinction between natural and supernatural as there is now.

As to the second sentence, with all the progress of science and philosophy, we do not know at all that the supernatural is false or not there. We know that there are undesirable aspects to superstitious attitude, yes, but shouldn't it be obvious that people are like that because it actually works? And there are people who are above it because that works too? So, these days we make a distinction between natural and supernatural, we have reoriented our metaphysical perspective - and, by and large, that's all we know. Who has shown that the supernatural is false or not there?

Since the second sentence is dubious, no point to extend or extrapolate it into a universality.

 

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