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Which naturalism?

Cottingham, J. ORCID: (2022) Which naturalism? New Blackfriars, 103 (107). pp. 581-596. ISSN 0028-4289

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/nbfr.12765


The ‘naturalizing’ agenda in contemporary secularist philosophy is often presented in opposition to traditional theism. But looking at the history of the terms ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ reveals a discontinuity between how these terms are currently understood and how they were understood in the past. The modern ‘naturalist’, in insisting that all phenomena should be brought within the domain of the natural, is advancing a thesis that many classical, medieval and early-modern philosophers and theologians would have regarded as fairly self-evident. What has changed is not that there is a new determination to include within the natural domain what was previous excluded from it, but rather that there is a radical shift in how the natural domain is to be understood. This paper argues that the philosophically interesting question is not whether or not we should be naturalists, but which of two naturalisms we should adopt: secular naturalism, with its neutralist conception of nature in general and of human nature in particular, or theistic naturalism, according to which the natural world and our own nature bear the stamp of the divine. It turns out the former (secularist) view is vulnerable to serious difficulties, on both the epistemic and the moral fronts.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:106405


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