Toward a Critical Naturalism: Reflections on Contemporary American Philosophy

By Patrick Romanell | Go to book overview

VI
THE NATURALISTIC VIEW OF ETHICS

No matter how satisfactory naturalism may be as a working philosophy to the scientist in his pursuit of knowledge, we can never expect its tenets to be convincing to mankind as a whole unless they can provide a general guide to the difficult art of living. Thus a crucial test for any type of naturalistic philosophy is its implications for morals. What guiding principle of ethics is compatible with a naturalistic conception of the world, and, at the same time, is consistent with a naturalistic method of approach? It is plain that to determine the ethics of naturalism we must first state at least summarily what is intended by philosophic naturalism itself. However, in view of the great variety of naturalistic systems of thought, the most telling way of arriving at what naturalism is for is to see what it is against.

The most characteristic thing about philosophic naturalism is its relentless opposition to all sorts of "bifurcation" which are rampant in the field of philosophy. In the first place, naturalism is opposed by definition to all metaphysical doctrines (for example, Cartesian dualism) that separate man from the rest of nature. And in the second place, it is opposed by conviction to all methodological doctrines (for example, Bergsonian intuitionism) that separate the study of the humanities from the study of the sciences. Positively stated, all forms of naturalistic philosophy substitute the postulate of "continuity" for the postulate of "discontinuity." In

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Toward a Critical Naturalism: Reflections on Contemporary American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Contents xv
  • I - THE NEW NATURALISM IN AMERICA 1
  • II - A NATURALISTIC DEFENSE OF METAPHYSICS 15
  • III - THE LOGIC OF A CRITICAL NATURALISM 25
  • IV - JOHN DEWEY AND THE NATURALISTIC APPROACH TO ETHICS 39
  • V - DOES BIOLOGY AFFORD A SUFFICIENT BASIS FORETHICS? 48
  • VI - THE NATURALISTIC VIEW OF ETHICS 69
  • REFERENCES AND NOTES 83
  • Index 86
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