Against Naturalism

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info.gif Naturalism: "The philosophical theory that nature is all that exists. Naturalists typically deny the existence of God, angels and demons and are skeptical of the possibility of life after death."

Evans, C. (2002) Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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    Alexander, Denis R.

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    Can Science Explain Everything?: Scientific Naturalism and the Death of Science

    "Scientific naturalism is the view that only scientific knowledge is reliable and that science can, in principle, explain everything. This paper surveys the inherent weaknesses in this philosophy, illustrated by the naturalistic attempt to extract ethics from biology. Different Christian responses to naturalism are considered. It is argued that the Christian world-view provides a more coherent explanation than naturalism for the properties of the universe and for the richness of human experience. Ironically, naturalism itself puts at risk the future health of science."
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    Alston, William P.

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    What Is Naturalism, that We Should Be Mindful of It?

    "'Naturalism' is all the rage in the philosophical world and elsewhere in the culture. The woods are teeming with those who would provide 'naturalistic' construals of intentional psychological states, moral and other evaluative facts, epistemic statuses, and much else. Whatever we talk about must be given naturalistic credentials or be consigned to the flames, if, indeed, flames themselves are naturalistically respectable...This brief discussion is...an example of the problems we encounter when a methodological naturalist tries to show that some other putative source of knowledge does not measure up to what s/he takes to be a necessary condition of epistemic efficacy."
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    Anderson, James N.

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    The Theistic Preconditions of Knowledge: A Thumbnail Sketch

    "One of the distinctive claims of Van Tilian apologists is that human knowledge presupposes the existence of God; therefore, since we know at least some things, it follows that God must exist...I want to take the opportunity to offer one particular line of argument in support of the claim that theism is a precondition of knowledge. I will first argue that there is no place for knowledge within a naturalistic metaphysic, before considering some prominent non-naturalist alternatives. I conclude that only a theistic metaphysic seems to have the features needed to underwrite the preconditions of human knowledge."
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    Baker, Lynne Rudder

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    The First-Person Perspective: A Test for Naturalism

    "In this paper, I shall describe the first-person perspective, and then argue that philosophers and cognitive scientists have neglected the first-person perspective at their peril. At the end, I shall offer a challenge to naturalism: Either show how the first-person perspective can be understood naturalistically, or show that it is dispensable. My exploration of the first-person perspective here is 'conceptual,' or at least pre-scientific. Although the term ‘self-consciousness’ has been used to mean many things, all forms of self-consciousness presuppose the first-person perspective. I shall argue propadeutically that there is no way that adequate accounts of various forms of self-consciousness can avoid the first-person perspective. My aim is not to convince you that the first-person perspective will forever elude science, but rather that no science that aspires to be a complete science of everything can afford to ignore it. Thus, the first-person perspective is a good test case for naturalism."
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    Baker, Lynne Rudder

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    Naturalism and the First Person Perspective

    "The first-person perspective is a challenge to naturalism. Naturalistic theories are relentlessly third-personal. The first-person perspective is, well, first-personal; it is the perspective from which one thinks of oneself as oneself without the aid of any thirdperson name, description, demonstrative or other referential device. The exercise of the capacity to think of oneself in this first-personal way is the necessary condition of all our self-knowledge, indeed of all our selfconsciousness. As important as the firstperson perspective is, many philosophers have not appreciated the force of the data from the firstperson perspective, and suppose that the firstperson perspective presents no particular problems for the naturalizing philosopher...In contrast to those with such casual attitudes toward self-consciousness stands Thomas Metzinger, a naturalistic philosopher who sees the complexity of self-consciousness and treats it in detail...I want to use Metzinger’s view of the first-person perspective as a case study for naturalism."
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    Byl, John

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    Naturalism, Theism, and Objective Knowledge

    "We explain our varied experiences in terms of our worldview. The rational defense of any worldview requires the prior acceptance of the existence of other rational minds, mental causation and free will, an objective language, and objective logical and rational standards. A worldview is self-refuting if its defense necessarily presumes entities that are explicitly denied by the worldview. This essay maintains that, on these grounds, various forms of relativism and naturalism are self-refuting. Theism, on the other hand, provides the epistemic and metaphysical basis to fully account for our diverse knowledge."
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    Carter, Ben M.

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    The Problem of Epistemology and Cosmic Models

    "Here is the dilemma: If a mind grasps its world by means of mental categories that have evolved solely to ensure the survival of that mind, there is no reason to assume that the world the mind grasps is the world as it is...For the positivist, this dilemma is fatal. Yet from a Darwinian perspective there is no reason to assume it is not true. Ironically Darwinism leads to a logical cul-de-sac. If the Darwinist is right, there is no reason to assume that the Darwinist can accurately model the world. If the Darwinist is wrong, there is no reason to assume that the Darwinist can accurately model the world."
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    DePoe, John M.

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    Naturalism and the Mind-body Problem

    "The mind-body problem is a particularly difficult problem for naturalism. A strict naturalist is committed to believing that all reality is material/physical or reducible to the material/physical realm. Our immediate, introspective awareness of the realm of consciousness, thoughts, and other qualitative mental experiences seems to lie outside the purview of a naturalistic worldview. In this essay, I will show the main attempts to "naturalize" the mind, and show how they fail. Since the mind seems to include fundamentally immaterial and non-physical elements, we have good reasons to reject naturalism."
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    Gasser, Georg

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    Naturalism and the Evidentialist Objection to a Religious Worldview

    "Naturalists present naturalism as a scientific philosophy or in a more comprehensive interpretation as a scientifically justified worldview. By doing so they confer upon themselves a heavy burden: Either naturalists have to show how they can steer between reductive physicalism on the one hand and trivialization of naturalism on the other hand if they are looking for a non-reductive version of naturalism. Or naturalists have to show how thoroughgoing reduction- or even eliminativistic versions- are possible. As far as I can tell naturalists have not shown us yet how this is going to be. As long as naturalism is not telling us how this is going to be, we have sparsely reasons to believe that the naturalistic program has been carried out in a convincing way. So far evidence seems not to speak in favour of naturalism."
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    Gilson, Thomas A.

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    Barbara Forrest and Naturalism

    "I reviewed Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, co-authored by Barbara Forrest (with Paul Gross), about a year ago..., not knowing then the prominent part she would play in the Dover Intelligent Design trial. I was perplexed by the book's offhand dismissal of philosophical issues respecting Intelligent Design, especially given that Forrest is herself a philosopher. As it turns out, she has indeed written about methodological and philosophical naturalism...Her fundamental contention is that naturalism is the most rational view of the world, both methodologically (i.e., science is most fruitful when it assumes that all events have potentially discoverable natural causes) and philosophically (i.e., this is an accurate view of reality; there is no supernatural). Today I begin to review and respond to what she has written."
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    Goetz, Stewart

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    Naturalism and Libertarian Agency

    "In Section I, I set forth a non-causal account of libertarian agency in which a choice is an essentially uncaused mental action explained by a telos or purpose of its agent, and I make clear why such an account is an intuitively plausible conception of free mental action. Surprisingly, but for no good reason, a non-causal account of human freedom is normally rejected by libertarians themselves. Therefore, in Section II I defend my non-causal agency theory against the criticisms of other libertarians as a way of highlighting the centrality of teleological explanation for libertarianism. Section III consists of an explanation of why naturalists believe that teleological explanation of choice implies the truth of dualism and a discussion of the alleged problem of causal interaction which they assert is a decisive reason for rejecting dualism. I claim that dualism is no worse off than any soft naturalist’s view of the mind when it comes to explaining the relationship between the psychological and the physical. Thus, if naturalism implies the falsity of dualism and libertarianism entails dualism, if we have libertarian freedom, which one prominent soft naturalist concedes we certainly seem to have, naturalism is false. Finally, in Section IV I briefly examine an emergentist alternative to the view that libertarianism implies dualism, and explain why it is inadequate."
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    Gordon, Bruce L.

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    Why Quantum Theory Does Not Support Materialism

    "Materialism (or physicalism or naturalism) is the view that the sum and substance of everything that exists is exhausted by physical objects and processes and whatever supervenes causally upon them. The resources available to the materialist for providing an explanation of how the universe works are therefore restricted to material objects, causes, events and processes. Because quantum theory is thought to provide the bedrock for our scientific understanding of physical reality, it is to this theory that the materialist inevitably appeals in support of his worldview. But having fled to science in search of a safe haven for his doctrines, the materialist instead finds that quantum theory in fact dissolves and defeats his materialist understanding of the world."
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    Guthrie, Shandon L.

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    Empiricism, Naturalism, and Theism

    "Epistemology is a field of philosophy that concerns itself with the nature and process of how knowledge is acquired. Ever since philosophy was practiced by the pre-Socratics in ancient Greece, there has been an intellectual enterprise to discover how human beings come to know certain things whether they be material objects (such as the world), abstract objects (such as universals), or interactions (such as causal relationships). In this essay I shall begin by surveying the epistemological practice of empiricism and prominent representatives who have helped shape it. Because empiricism has been widely acknowledged in various disciplines (e.g. science), I shall explain how empiricism has been superficially and haphazardly characterized by metaphysical naturalism. In this essay we will also look at how belief in theism has been retained in empiricism thereby decrying the uncritically accepted metaphysical naturalism in contemporary empirical epistemology."
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    Hick, John

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    Science/Religion

    "...[T]here is a philosophy which a large majority of those working in the physical sciences today take for granted...The accepted terms today are 'naturalism' and 'physicalism', meaning the belief that the physical universe constitutes the totality of reality. On this view there is nothing beyond the physical, no trans- or meta- or supraphysical or suprasensory reality such as the religions affirm. And so the entirety of reality is, at least in principle, fully describable and understandable by the empirical sciences. This is so widely taken for granted today that it is often equated with Science or with the scientific point of view. But I am going to argue that on the contrary naturalism is not 'scientific truth' but a philosophy which most but by no means all scientists hold; and that it is, when ardently believed, or unquestioningly taken for granted, a faith position - as much so as religious faith."
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    Howell, Russell W.

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    Does Mathematical Beauty Pose Problems for Naturalism?

    "This paper will focus on features of truth and beauty contained in mathematics. More precisely, it asks whether aspects of mathematical theorizing, based mostly on notions of beauty and symmetry, and the subsequent success of mathematics in the natural sciences, cause difficulties for a naturalistic worldview. Several thinkers have raised these issues, at least indirectly, though not so much from the standpoint of mathematical beauty."
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    Koons, Robert C.

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    The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism

    "To the extent that the success of natural science provides support for scientific realism (in both its semantic and epistemic versions), to that extent it provides grounds for rejecting philosophical naturalism. Thus, conventional wisdom has the relationship between natural science and naturalism exactly backwards. In fact, the more successes natural science accumulates, the less plausible philosophical naturalism becomes."
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    Kvanvig, Jonathan L.

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    Scientific Naturalism and the Value of Knowledge

    "Naturalism is...in serious jeopardy of being unable to account for or explain the value of knowledge. Non-cognitivism about epistemic norms undermines every attempt to defend any position, and cognitivist theories have very few good answers to the swamping problem. To the extent that they are successful in avoiding this problem, they do not maintain naturalistic purity, and thus fail to present an acceptable naturalistic account of the value of knowledge. The conclusion to draw, then, it is it is very hard to see how naturalism is compatible with the value of knowledge."
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    Lewis, C. S.

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    "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism", Chapter 3 of Miracles

    "To call the act of knowing--the act, not of remembering that something was so in the past, but of 'seeing' that it must be so always and in any possible world--to call this act 'supernatural', is some violence to our ordinary linguistic usage. But of course we do not mean by this that it is spooky, or sensational, or even (in any religious sense) 'spiritual'. We mean only that it 'won't fit in'; that such an act, to be what it claims to be--and if it is not, all our thinking is discredited--cannot be merely the exhibition at a particular place and time of that total, and largely mindless, system of events called 'Nature'. It must break sufficiently free from that universal chain in order to be determined by what it knows."
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    Linville, Mark

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    Ethical Naturalism Defeated

    "In this paper I argue that...the metaphysical naturalist who accepts a Darwinian account of the origins and nature of morality has a defeater for the belief in ethical naturalism, and, indeed, for any moral belief whatever. The Lewisian argument should be adjusted in light of these new developments in metaethics, but the adjusted version retains the conclusion that the metaphysical naturalist who embraces that Darwinian account ought not to be a moral realist."
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    Matteo, Anthony

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    Reasonable Doubt: Why naturalism might not be able to solve the problem of consciousness

    "There appear to be good grounds to doubt that evolutionary epistemology can deliver on its promise to provide a credible and convincing account of the fundamental reliability of the cognitive capacities that we inevitably employ in our ongoing search for truth. But the reigning Neo-Darwinian paradigm is firmly entrenched and adherence to such paradigms runs deep. Whether a paradigm shift, such as that suggested by Nagel and Kauffman, or even a return to a traditional theistic account recommended by Lewis and Plantinga, is in the offing, time can only tell. But it is only by raising the kinds of critical questions found in their arguments that the increasing need for such a shift can at all become evident to a wider and wider circle of inquirers."
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    Moreland, J. P.

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    The Ethical Inadequacy of Naturalism

    "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to recognize that our society is in a state of moral chaos. The simple fact that Jerry Springer and his talk show competitors are such popular theaters of moral expression is enough to send shivers down the spine of anyone with an ounce of moral sensibility. This moral chaos should come as no surprise to Christians who know well that there is a deep connection between the world view of a culture and its moral beliefs and behaviors. The shift from a Judeo-Christian worldview to a naturalistic one is what lies behind much of the moral chaos we now face."
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    Nunley, Troy M.

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    A Defense of Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

    "Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism it is irrational for a reflective person to hold to the doctrine of naturalism. If naturalism is true, some evolutionary doctrine must also be true and our evolutionary history must be accounted for in terms of only random mutation and natural selection. The probability of our being reliable cognitive agents given these origins is low or, at best, inscrutable. But it cannot reasonably be thought to be high. Consequently, the naturalist cannot reasonably hold to the belief that they are reliable cognitive agents. And since the reliability of their cognitive apparatus has been called into such grave question, naturalists are rationally bound to dismiss any belief accepted on the basis of trust in that apparatus. Specifically, to the extent that the naturalist is rational, they will give up their belief in naturalism. In this dissertation, I explicate and defend Plantinga’s attack on philosophical naturalism. My thesis is that it has survived all the current attacks available in the literature."
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    Plantinga, Alvin

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    Naturalism Defeated

    "In the last chapter of Warrant and Proper Function I proposed an 'evolutionary argument against naturalism'. Now oddly enough, not everyone who has heard this argument has leapt to embrace it; there have been a number of fascinating objections, some published and some unpublished. These objections for the most part revolve around the notion of a defeater--a notion crucial to contemporary epistemology, but so far largely unexplored. In this paper I want to examine and respond to those objections, in the process hoping to learn something about defeaters."
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    Plantinga, Alvin

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    An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

    "Naturalistic evolution gives its adherents a reason for doubting that our beliefs are mostly true; perhaps they are mostly mistaken; for the very reason for mistrusting our cognitive faculties generally, will be a reason for mistrusting the faculties that produce belief in the goodness of the argument...The traditional theist, on the other hand, has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs...The conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that the conjunction of naturalism with evolutionary theory is self-defeating: it provides for itself an undefeated defeater. It is therfore unacceptable and irrational."
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    Rea, Michael C.

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    Naturalism and Moral Realism

    "My goal in this paper is to show that naturalists cannot reasonably endorse moral realism. In defending this conclusion, I mean to contribute to a broader anti- naturalistic project. Elsewhere (Rea 1998, 2002), I have argued that naturalists must give up realism about material objects, materialism, and perhaps even realism about other minds. Materialism aside, I take realism about material objects and realism about other minds to be important parts of our commonsense metaphysics. Likewise, I take moral realism to be an important part of commonsense morality."
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    Rea, Michael C.

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    Naturalism and Ontology: A Reply to Dale Jacquette

    "In World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism, I argued that there is an important sense in which naturalism’s current status as methodological orthodoxy is without rational foundation, and I argued that naturalists must give up two views that many of them are inclined to hold dear—realism about material objects and materialism. In a review recently published in Faith and Philosophy, Dale Jacquette alleges (among other things) that my arguments in World Without Design are directed mainly against strawmen and that I have neglected to discuss at least one formulation of naturalism that straightforwardly addresses my main objections. In this reply, I show that these and other objections raised by Jacquette are unsound and, in fact, rest on egregious misrepresentations of the book."
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    Ruetz, Philip

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    A Metaphysics of Naturalized Epistemology

    "Despite the prevalence of metaphysical naturalism and all its variations, I really don’t believe that it’s a coherent worldview; the same goes for cognitive science. I really can’t imagine someone honestly trying to say, on the one hand, that ‘persons’ are just random bundles of molecules, and on the other, that some of these random bundles of molecules (say, the ones with PhDs) are in a better position to enlighten the rest of how we’re all just simply these random bundles of molecules. That really sounds to me like an empty endeavor."
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    Ruetz, Philip

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    Some Doubts about Naturalism

    "...[W]hat I have hoped to show is that it is not obviously clear that naturalism makes for a coherent worldview. If reality is just cosmic, expansionary forces, what about things like numbers, or ideals like justice? It is not clear how these could be a contingent, expansionary function of matter; but yet the naturalist must somehow maintain that they are. Wouldn’t it just be better to admit that some features of the world do not seem to be subject to change or the result of blind, accidental causes?"
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    Sennett, James F.

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    Mind, Cosmology, and Sufficient Reason as a Vindication of Rational Theism

    "This paper examines the differing attitudes of theists and naturalists toward what has been called the "Principle of Sufficient Reason" (PSR): the metaphysical assumption that every event must have a sufficient reason for its occurrence. I examine the role of PSR in naturalistic and theistic approaches to two problems in the philosophy of mind: the dualism/materialism debate and the analysis of free will. I then compare these approaches to naturalistic and theistic approaches to current debates over the Cosmological Argument. I show that the theistic commitment regarding PSR is consistent across these arenas of debate, while the naturalistic commitment to PSR fluctuates and even contradicts itself."
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    Sias, James M.

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    Naturalism and Moral Realism

    "My aim is to challenge recent attempts at reconciling moral realism and naturalism by pushing ethical naturalists into a dilemma. According to one horn of the dilemma, ethical naturalists must either (a) build unique facts and properties about divergent social structures (or varying moral belief systems) into their subvenient sets of natural facts and properties, and so jeopardize the objectivity of moral truths, or (b) insist, in the face of all possible worlds in which people have different moral beliefs than ours, that they are all mistaken— this despite the fact that the belief-forming mechanism responsible for their moral beliefs was never concerned with the truth of those beliefs in the first place. This will bring me to suggest that moral properties might only weakly supervene upon natural phenomena. But, according to the other horn of the dilemma, weak supervenience is a defeater for moral knowledge."
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    Sire, James

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    "The Silence of Finite Space: Naturalism", Chapter 4 of The Universe Next Door

    "Unlike deism, naturalism has had great staying power. Born in the eighteenth century, it came of age in the nineteenth and grew to maturity in the twentieth. While signs of age are now appearing, naturalism is still very much alive. It dominates the universities, colleges and high schools. It provides the framework for most scientific study. It poses the backdrop against which the humanities continue to struggle for human value, as writers, poets, painters and artists in general shudder under its implications. No rival world view has yet been able to topple it, though it is fair to say that the twentieth century has provided some powerful options and theism is experiencing somewhat of a rebirth at all levels of society."
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    Turner, Jason

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    The Incompatibility of Free Will and Naturalism

    "The Consequence Argument is a staple in the defense of libertarianism, the view that free will is incompatible with determinism and that humans have free will. It is often thought that libertarianism is consistent with a certain naturalistic view of the world — that is, that libertarian free will can be had without metaphysical commitments beyond those provided by our best (indeterministic) physics. In this paper, I argue that libertarians who endorse the Consequence Argument are forced to reject this naturalistic worldview, since the Consequence Argument has a sister argument — I call it the Supervenience Argument — which cannot be rejected without threatening either the Consequence Argument or the naturalistic worldview in question."
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    Weir, Alan

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    "Naturalism Reconsidered", Chapter 14 in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic

    "...[A] naturalistic attitude predominates among “analytic” philosophers. This is why philosophy of mathematics, quite apart from its intrinsic interest, is of such importance in contemporary philosophy. For, on the face of it, mathematics is an enormous Trojan Horse sitting firmly in the centre of the citadel of naturalism. Modern natural science is mathematical through and through: it is impossible to do physics, chemistry, molecular biology and so forth without a very thorough and quite extensive knowledge of modern mathematics (indeed this is true to an increasing extent of social sciences such as psychology and economics). Yet, prima facie, mathematics provides a counter-example both to methodological and to ontological naturalism."
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    Willard, Dallas

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    Knowledge and Naturalism

    "We have argued that there is no place for truth or logical relations in a world where the only properties are physical, and therefore that noetic unity is also impossible in such a world. Since it is possible--many things are known and there are people of great knowledge--Naturalism must be false. It cannot accommodate the ontological structure of knowing and knowledge."
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    Willard, Dallas

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    Naturalism's Incapacity to Capture the Good Will

    "One area that has been a problem for the Naturalistic outlook has been the ethical. Judgments about who is a good or bad person, what is the right or wrong act and what ought or ought not to be done have proven resistant, to say the least, to translation into or replacement by judgments about material or physical reality. Moral judgments frankly seem, on almost any reading, to be about something other than that reality. Conversely, one can say that Naturalism (in the modern sense of the term) has presented a problem for morality, and has seemed to many to undermine any prospect of a moral basis for individual or collective human life."
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    Williams, Peter S.

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    Why Naturalists Should Mind about Physicalism, and Vice Versa

    “Physicalism, and the naturalism in which it is embedded, both face severe philosophical problems when it comes to accounting for several aspects of the human mind, from the subjective qualia and certainty of first-person experience, through the intentionality and truth or falsity of beliefs, to the reliability of human cognition.”