Present Philosophical Tendencies: A Critical Survey of Naturalism, Idealism, Pragmatism, and Realism Together with a Synopsis of the Philosophy of William James

By Ralph Perry Barton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE SCOPE AND METHOD OF SCIENCE

§ 1. BY naturalism is meant the philosophical generalization of science -- the application of the theories of science to the problems of philosophy. Both philosophy and science have, as we have seen, a permanent and institutional character. Each has its own traditions, its own classic authorities, and its own devotees. But naturalism proposes to make the institution of science serve also as the institution of philosophy. This attempted unification of knowledge is perennial. Each epoch of European thought has had its characteristic variety of naturalism; in which its favorite scientific theories have been used to satisfy its peculiar philosophical needs. Thus the atomic theory of the ancients, the mechanical theory of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the 'energetics' of more recent times, have each in turn been presented in the form of a Weltanschauung or general view of life.

Naturalism and Natural Science

The scientist proper, the man of special research, becomes a naturalistic philosopher only when he acts in a new capacity. As scientist, in the strict sense, he is non-committal with reference to philosophical problems. He adopts and employs a technique which is authorized by the consensus of experts within his own field. His problems are the unsolved problems of his forerunners and fellowworkers; his method, a variation or refinement of methods which have already proved fruitful. He is not troubled by the supposed paradoxes of space and time, or by such problems as the nature of causality, the unity of the world, and the meaning of truth. He moves, in short, within intellectual limits which he does not question, and

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