Chapter 2: Knowledge and Naturalism
by Dallas Willard
Dallas Willard's project is to argue that certain varieties of naturalism cannot accommodate knowledge or knowing in the world. Given the limited physical resources of a naturalist world, too many ingredients of knowledge are missing from such a world to account for our coming to possess knowledge. Willard states his thesis thus in his fourth paragraph:
"I will try to explain why narrower Naturalism or unqualified Physicalism cannot find a place for knowledge, and specifically for three of its essential components: truth, logical relations and noetic unity" (p.24).Notice that he qualifies naturalism with "narrower." He does this because naturalism has not historically been a unified position. Willard distinguishes "narrower" naturalism from "generous" naturalism in the essay. The former only permits physical entities into existence whereas the latter is not necessarily limited to only physical entities. Narrower naturalism, therefore, is stronger (or bolder) than generous naturalism. While Willard argues in the above quotation that narrower naturalism cannot find a place for knowledge, Willard argues elsewhere in the essay that generous naturalism also fails to accommodate knowledge because the position is imprecisely defined and winds up being vacuous. We will look at this last claim first.