Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review of Naturalism: A Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Part 2)

This is part two in a series of essays exploring the 2000 book Naturalism: A Critical Analsysis by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland.  You can find part 1 here.  This essay will explore the second chapter of the book.

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.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review of Naturalism: A Critical Analysis edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Part 1)

William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland edited a volume in 2000 entitled Naturalism: A Critical Analysis.  The work is a collection of ten essays by different philosophers who each, in turn, criticizes different dimensions of the naturalist worldview.  I aim to do a short series of reviews of select essays from the book because, first of all, the book is extremely interesting.  Second, naturalism has maintained its popularity in the decade since this book's publication, but the criticisms leveled in this work remain, as best as I can tell, unresolved; I wish to discuss the arguments against naturalism that I find most compelling.  I will begin with chapter one.

Chapter 1: Farewell to Philosophical Naturalism
by Paul K. Moser and David Yandell

In their essay, Moser and Yandell argue that although the methods and resources of the empirical sciences reliably track the truth in certain domains, there is insufficient justification for extending those methods and resources to such a degree that the empirical sciences have a monopoly over all domains of inquiry.  Put another way, since some knowledge comes to us by way of physical sense experience of an externally existing material world, it does not follow that all knowledge comes to us by way of physical sense experience and that all existing entities are material.  Moser and Yandell write:
"A basic question is whether there is a legitimate form of philosophical procedure, often called 'first philosophy,' that has ontological authority but employs methods 'prior to' or at least not based on sense experience or the empirical sciences. In particular, can a philosopher operating without reliance on sensation or the empirical sciences legitimately engage in inquiry that posits real objects or at least yields genuine truths? Naturalists say no; antinaturalists, yes" (p.3-4).