Thomas Nagel caused quite a stir with his book attacking differrent types of naturalism and highlighted the significant problems that materialism in particular face.
Nagel is an atheist. He is also, albeit a hazy one, a naturalist (though he is skeptcial of materialism) he is not the first prominent naturalist to highlight the unreflective acceptance many have of materialism. Here are other examples;
Tyler Burge opines that “materialism is not established, or even clearly supported, by science” and that its hold over his peers is analogous to that of a “political or religious ideology” (“Mind-Body Causation and Explanatory Practice,” in John Heil and Alfred Mele, eds., Mental Causation, p. 117)
John Searle tells us that “materialism is the religion of our time,” that “like more traditional religions, it is accepted without question and… provides the framework within which other questions can be posed, addressed, and answered,” and that “materialists are convinced, with a quasi-religious faith, that their view must be right” (Mind: A Brief Introduction, p. 48)
William Lycan admits, in what he himself calls “an uncharacteristic exercise in intellectual honesty,” that the arguments for materialism are no better than the arguments against it, that his “own faith in materialism is based on science-worship,” and that “we also always hold our opponents to higher standards of argumentation than we obey ourselves.” (“Giving Dualism its Due,” a paper presented at the 2007 Australasian Association of Philosophy conference at the University of New England)
The atheist philosopher of religion Quentin Smith maintains that “the great majority of naturalist philosophers have an unjustified belief that naturalism is true and an unjustified belief that theism (or supernaturalism) is false.” For their naturalism typically rests on nothing more than an ill-informed “hand waving dismissal of theism” which ignores “the erudite brilliance of theistic philosophizing today.” Smith continues:
If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith,” although I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.
Due to the typical attitude of the contemporary naturalist… the vast majority of naturalist philosophers have come to hold (since the late 1960s) an unjustified belief in naturalism. Their justifications have been defeated by arguments developed by theistic philosophers, and now naturalist philosophers, for the most part, live in darkness about the justification for naturalism. They may have a true belief in naturalism, but they have no knowledge that naturalism is true since they do not have an undefeated justification for their belief. If naturalism is true, then their belief in naturalism is accidentally true. [“The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo: A Journal of Philosophy (Fall-Winter 2001)]
Again, Nagel, Waldron, Burge, Searle, Lycan, and Smith are not apologists for religion. Apart from Smith, they aren’t even philosophers of religion. All of them are prominent, and all of them are “mainstream.” They have no motive for saying the things they do other than that that is the way things honestly strike them based on their knowledge of the field.
This is not supposed to be a thread on whether naturalism is false - but whether people who believe it is true have good reasons for doing so or, as a growing portion of their own number are saying, they do so dogmatically and unrelfectively
Unreflective and unjustified naturalist philosphers? Watch
- Thread Starter
- 11-07-2016 01:24