Men and Movements in American Philosophy

By Arthur E. Murphy | Go to book overview

9
THE EMERGENCE OF NATURALISM

I. THE NATURALISTIC TEMPER

Philosophy since the time of Descartes, so-called "modern" philosophy, has characteristically been concerned especially with problems of knowledge. Most of these have arisen because a separation or division of some sort has been conceived to exist between the knower and the known. The antitheses that can lead to a problem of knowledge are many. "Man" can be opposed to "nature"; the " supernatural" to the "natural"; "spirit" to "matter"; "mind" to "body"; "self" to " not-self. " All of these dualisms, however they are expressed, have one feature in common. They all place the knowing mind into one compartment — perhaps with its states of mind for company — and the world to be known into another compartment. Then they explain that the mind can know only that which is in the same compartment; the mind is shut off from the world it would like to know, and sometimes has the presumption to declare that it does know. If the mind and its contents, man's "experience," are conceived as spiritual and therefore of a different order of being from the natural world of matter, the problem of knowledge becomes both important and basically insoluble. In the light of an impassable gap between spirit and matter, it is difficult to explain how man's mind (a spiritual being), can know the world of nature (a material being). If the "self," as a knowing mind, is placed in one compartment, and the " not-self, " including the material world and other minds as well, if there are any, is placed in a separate compartment, how can the self know anything beyond its own ideas, its own states? Furthermore, if the principle of explanation of the changes in natural events is conceived as lying outside of nature, in some non‐ natural or supernatural realm, the problem is still more complicated.

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Men and Movements in American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Men and Movements in American Philosophy *
  • Foreword v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Prelude 1
  • 1: Colonial Materialism and Immaterialism 9
  • 2: The American Enlightenment 36
  • 3: Philosophical Orthodoxy 73
  • 4: New England's Wild Oats 110
  • 5: The Biologizing of Philosophy 151
  • 6: Varieties of Idealism 187
  • 7: Pragmatic Perspectives 228
  • 8: Cross Currents of Realism 274
  • 9: The Emergence of Naturalism 313
  • Footnotes and Suggested Reading 357
  • Index 385
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