Sunday, May 17, 2009

and more on naturalism

I would just answer your comments with comments but I am afraid they will get lost if I do that.

"I do not take the position of ontological naturalism; instead I take the position of methodological naturalism. I define ontological naturalism as "nature is all there is, and all basic truths are truths of nature". I define methodological naturalism as "the best way to understand and seek knowledge is to reference natural causes and events." I differentiate between the two by stating that methodological naturalism says nothing about the supernatural other than that it is not the best way to seek knowledge."

But here's the thing. How can you presume to the second without assuming the first to be true? Otherwise you have committed yourself to saying that you don't know about how the world is, really, ontologically (what exists) BUT you are going to pretend that "the 'best' (are there other ways?) way to understand and seek knowledge (presumably of what you don't know exists) is to reference natural causes and events." And what does that mean, exactly? Is it the same thing as reason and evidence? But what if that reason and evidence points to something "supernatural"? You are still unclear about your fundamental commitments in terms of both ontology and epistemology. How can an epistemological program of methodological naturalism lead to anything "outside" of nature? And if you don't commit to ontological naturalism, then why a commitment to epistemological naturalism?

1 comment:

libtard said...

Sigh, I was afraid our discussion would come back to this, which is why I explicitly avoided directly definitions or usage of ontological and methodological naturalism in my prior comments, in which I tried to explain why I hold the position of accepting the latter while rejecting the former.

Methodological naturalism says: we wish to understand the truth, and the best way we have found to do that is to rely on what we observe.

This is so profoundly true that I don't understand why you are trying to reject it? We have made observations such that the Sun is at the center of the solar system. We have made observations such that a year is 365.25 days. We have observed that tides are caused directly by the moon.

Consider if we had two competing explanations for tides; one said that the moon correlated very closely with tidal motion and therefore was likely inter-related or directly responsible. Or a second theory that said that periodically a god-like Neptune creature materializes in the sea, displacing water.

If there is any kind of evidence of the Neptune-like creature, that theory has some credibility. Likewise, if there is any variance in the correlation of the moon to the tides, it casts doubt on that theory. Its really just simple competition; which explanation is the most plausible in light of what we can observe? Which is to say, the "best" explanation for something is that which fits all of the known observations of the time and does not make unreasonable implications (ie. some physics theories imply that the universe only had a very tiny chance of ever existing; these theories are given less weight).

All I'm saying is that when we, as rational human beings, want to explain how something works, we base it on the story that best fits the facts. If new facts emerge, we change the story to fit.

Can you give a counter-example?

In any case, I'd be happy to move on to discussing another point, unless you feel this particular issue requires more examination.