This inaugural Interventions volume introduces readers to the dominant scientifically oriented worldview called naturalism. Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro examine naturalism philosophically, evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. Whereas most other books on naturalism are written for professional philosophers alone, this one is aimed primarily at a college-educated audience interested in learning about this pervasive worldview.

Read a related blog post by the authors on EerdWord.


In this book we introduce and assess some of the leading forms of naturalism that are at the very center of contemporary philosophy. As will become apparent, the definition of “naturalism” is not a settled matter. in an important essay defending “a mature naturalism,” Ernest Nagel observes: “The number of distinguishable doctrines for which the word ‘naturalism’ has been a counter in the history of thought is notorious” (Nagel 1958, 483). Despite the range of distinct versions of naturalism, those receiving the most recent philosophical and cultural attention provide a radical critique of our ordinary or commonplace understanding of ourselves and the world. Thus, Paul Churchland begins his book on naturalism with the following warning:

You came to this book assuming that the basic units of human cognition
are states such as thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, desires, and prefer
ences. That assumption is natural enough: it is built into the vocabulary
of every natural language…. These assumptions are central elements in
our standard conception of human cognitive activity, a conception of
ten called “folk psychology” to acknowledge it as the common property
of folks generally. Their universality notwithstanding, these bedrock as
sumptions are probably mistaken. (Churchland 1995, 322)

Because so many powerful naturalist projects today do confront our standard understanding of ourselves, we thought it fitting to begin with a brief prelude on the standard or “folk” concept of human nature. After a mod-

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