Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Causal Connection Between Naturalism and Metaphysics

The more I learn about the secular philosophical science of Naturalism, the more astounded I am by the variations in its description, by the kinds of denunciations of it that come from theists, the misrepresentations of it by those theists in their criticisms--though the misrepresentations may be honestly made propositions--and by the lack of cohesiveness among the ranks of Naturalists to describe or even to defend their own scientific bearings.

All of this is leading to a breakdown of our civilization, because science in all its forms, including the value judgments of metaphysics as a science, and the epistemology by which we reach or deny such metaphysical judgements, is the underpinning of the way a civilization conducts itself--and metaphysical value judgments are definitely being denied, by some Naturalists and by some of the general population, regular people who rely on what science and philosophy tells them, for their assessment of their identity and their place in the world in which they live.

"Different contemporary philosophers interpret ‘naturalism’ differently. This disagreement about usage is no accident. For better or worse, ‘naturalism’ is widely viewed as a positive term in philosophical circles—few active philosophers nowadays are happy to announce themselves as ‘non-naturalists’.[1] This inevitably leads to a divergence in understanding the requirements of ‘naturalism’. Those philosophers with relatively weak naturalist commitments are inclined to understand ‘naturalism’ in a unrestrictive way, in order not to disqualify themselves as ‘naturalists’, while those who uphold stronger naturalist doctrines are happy to set the bar for ‘naturalism’ higher.[2]" [italics added]

Philosophers who "are happy to announce themselves as ‘non-naturalists’" are theists, which in and of itself is not problematic for the science of philosophy (nor for the philosophy of science,) nor for that matter for those Naturalists who know how and when to defend their science. Most of the important philosophers in Western history--with Augustine standing out predominately in the early lead--have been theologists. But vying to replace naturalism is the field of theistic philosophy called "theistic realism."

"Phillip Johnson, one of the founders of the intelligent design movement, has proposed an alternative form of reasoning to that used by modern scientists. He refers to his form of reasoning as "theistic realism", while the alternative could be called "empirical naturalism". Allen MacNeill

It is no wonder that "Different [ ] philosophers interpret ‘naturalism’ differently." The traditional philosophic science of Naturalism, which would seem to carry the connotation of "scientific" when compared to anything containing theism, cannot even be called "scientific naturalism" without careful consideration. That term has been usurped, it seems by "theistic realists", who prefer to call plain, old, traditional and objective Naturalism by the prefix of "scientific" so that they can berate Naturalism, when the mood strikes them, over the issue of the matter/spirit dualism.

"Just what is scientific naturalism (hereafter, naturalism)? Succinctly put, it is the view that the spatio-temporal universe established by scientific forms of investigation is all there is, was, or ever will be. Brains and buffaloes exist (for instance), but minds and moral values must not, because they are invisible to the five senses and therefore invisible to scientific enquiry." [italics added] J. P. Moreland

But this is where the theists want to put Naturalists: right smack in the position of appearing to deny that a soul can reside within the human infrastructure of mind and body. Some Naturalists do deny it. Not all do. It is as unfair to put all Naturalists into this stereotype as it is to call all believers in Christ by the stereotype of "right-wing born-again evangelicals." The defense of this senseless attack on the matter of dualism is plain to see when it can as easily be said that "the five senses" are "invisible and therefore invisible to scientific enquiry." But we go on investigating the senses all the same.

Just as the senses can be felt within the body, so can the conscience and the soul and all emotions be felt within the body; but they, too, are "invisible." I know of no Naturalist who would deny the appearance of a conscience or of emotions within the consciousness of the mind. It is, however, plain to see that some Naturalists appeal to the chemical/electrical actions of the body in determining the nature of thought and of emotion and mind.

This, however, appears to be reactionary, an attempt to distance themselves from any connection however tenuous to knowledge that emotions have rational attachments to metaphysical values. Naturalism that denies the mind is more than chemical/electrical reactions that can be predicted by causes also deny much, if any, importance to metaphysics. Such reactions of denial are not mainstream else this would not be the extremist position. We would be the extremists, we who do not deny the mind is more than simply biology acting naturally. Of course, that is precisely what the mind is, but not to the denial of free will in the determination of what goes on in the mind.

These who oppose anything but empirical causal relationships in human emotions, deny metaphysics any importance in human thoughts and ideals, where such metaphysical values are accepted by mainstream Naturalists and theists alike as the very cause of the emotions these reactionaries are trying to determine as merely empirically caused.

And yet, what is sometimes called "theistic realism" is also called "Creation Science," an oxymoron if ever there was one. Impartial, "empirical" naturalism is sometimes called "Representational Naturalism" by theists. (It would seem that any line of thought, any "label" they can come up with to split the field of Naturalism within its own ranks, is within their arsenal of tools with which to destroy Naturalism.)

"The representational naturalist holds that knowledge and intentionality are entirely natural phenomena, explicable in terms of causal relations between brain states and the represented conditions. [ ] Since knowledge is a form of success, this relation must involve a form of reliability, an objective tendency for beliefs formed in similar ways to represent the world accurately. [ ] Knowledge could then be identified with true beliefs formed by processes whose proper functions are fulfilled in normal circumstances." [italics added] Robert C. Koons (In fairness, it does not appear that Koons himself is a theist realist.)

But in Koon's own words, "at present, our best scientific picture of the world is an essentially materialistic one, with no reference to causal agencies other than those that can be located within space and time." In other words, the mind, its thoughts, our emotions and our conscience and our soul and even our consciousness are outside the purview of science because they are "invisible" empirical science.

Such "true beliefs" come in two varieties: justified and unjustified, or "informed" and "uninfomed," according to Quentin Smith.

Koons, however, does not appear to be a theist, nor does he appear to be "uninformed." He argues that Naturalism and Scientific Realism are incompatible. He makes a case that "even though we have no reason to think that the origin of our aesthetic attunement to the structure of the universe is mysteriously prior to experience, there remains the fact that experience has attuned us to something, and this something runs throughout the most fundamental laws of nature. Behind the blurrin' and buzzin' confusion of data, we have discovered a consistent aesthetic behind the various fundamental laws."

But the most comprehensive definition of "naturalism" to my way of thinking was written by B.A.G. Fuller and published in D.D.Rune's "Dictionary of Philosophy" in 1942. To my way of thinking, Fuller's assessment contains this aesthetic. I have never doubted that it was contained within, and it helped lead me to the aesthetic deduction that is the thesis of my book, "The Single Intelligible Object." Fuller describes the aesthetics of the "SIO" this way:

"Naturalism, challenging the cogency of the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments, holds that the universe requires no supernatural cause and government, but is self-existent, self-explanatory, self-operating, and self-directing, that the world-process is not teleological and anthropocentric, but purposeless, deterministic (except for possible tychistic events), and only incidentally productive of man; that human life, physical, mental, moral and spiritual, is an ordinary natural event attributable in all respects to the ordinary operations of nature; and that man's ethical values, compulsions, activities, and restraints can be justified on natural grounds, without recourse to supernatural sanctions, and his highest good pursued and attained under natural conditions, without expectation of a supernatural destiny."

To my way of thinking, there is no equivocation about the meaning of classical, Atomistic, secular, impartial and "empirical" science of Naturalism, neither epistemic equivocation nor metaphysical; nor as a basis for investigating all other sciences, because it acts with the awareness that proof of God might turn up and become part of the evidence discovered in the impartial search for truth. (It does not have a single solitary belief in the whole wide world that such proof of God would ever turn up, and it is not the Naturalist's job to go looking for it; but if found, it would not be denied.) "Theistic realism," or "Creation science" begins with the presumption that God exists, and goes looking for every piece of evidence that is left open to question, so that it can argue that since the evidence does not overwhelmingly disprove God's existence, it must be allowed to be argued that God's presence is a given "because everything in nature necessarily needs a creation."

It is one thing to have a justified belief that everything in existence must have had a creation, though Fuller's and Rand's explanations deny any such creation. It is entirely another matter to begin from the reference that God as creator is the given and then go looking for evidence of that position using "an alternative form of reasoning." A "scientific" epistemology that begins with the assumption of supernaturalism is flawed from its very basis, but that does not make a justified believe in God flawed. I understand perfectly how rational men can believe in God. I cannot find the justification for it in my own life; as a matter of fact, I find the opposite justification.

But a science that begins with the assumption of supernaturalism by using "an alternative form of reasoning" is introducing pure theology into a secular undertaking. Theology is theology and science is science.

Nor is there anything in Fuller's definition to exclude the acceptance of mind on the metaphysical plane, and there is everything in it to support it. "[H]uman life, physical, mental, moral and spiritual, is an ordinary natural event attributable in all respects to the ordinary operations of nature..." Fuller did not leave out the causative elements of Naturalism on the moral and spiritual aspects of Homo sapiens sapiens; he left open the door to the integration of "mind" as a metaphysical element "in the ordinary operations of nature."

But Koons makes an appeal to the reactionary position, when he says "our best scientific picture of the world is an essentially materialistic one, with no reference to causal agencies other than those that can be located within space and time." This leave completely out of the picture any notion of soul, spirit, conscience, or emotion except as "the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature." He might as well claim that because emotions and the soul are invisible to science that they cannot be determined to exist except as chemical/electrical events within the human empirical infrastructure.

If Naturalism is attacked by theists for its reliance on a scientific framework that is exclusive of the supernatural as part of the framework except where it may objectively be so discovered, then it will come as a shock to theists to learn that none other than the atheist philosopher Ayn Rand argued thoroughly and epistemically for the recognition of the existence of soul, conscience, and emotions.

"Emotions," she wrote in "The Virtue of Selfishness", "are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss."

She included that these value judgments are "the programming consist[ing] of the values his mind chooses. [M]an chooses his values by a conscious process of thought—or accepts them by default, by subconscious associations, on faith, on someone’s authority, by some form of social osmosis or blind imitation. Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly."

In "Philosophy: Who Needs It", Rand said, "If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance—and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted."

This is the explanation described by metaphysics, the very metaphysics that the reactionaries of Naturalism reject. These reactionaries cannot be called "extremists." Rand herself was an extremist, and to the best of my ability I consider myself an extremist. Giving to any act of discurse less than the act requires does not serve the argument or the science. Extremism is not a vice; extremism is covering all your bases. But these reactionaries may rightly be said to "diverge in understanding the requirements of ‘naturalism’." And the theists may rightly be said to be understanding them correctly, but incorrectly addressing them as though they were the mainstream of Naturalist thinking.

"Those philosophers with relatively weak naturalist commitments" [] are not going to deny the matter/spirit dualism. Nor will those who refuse to shut the door on all open , rational, and objective inquiry.

"There is no [ ] dichotomy between man’s reason and his emotions—provided he [ ] discover[s] the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come," Rand said in her 1964 interview with "Playboy." "[I]f his premises are wrong, he corrects them, [ ] he has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, [ ] emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. [ ] This relationship cannot be reversed [i.e., ] take[ing] his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect..." [italics added]

Theist science by any name or description cannot be allowed to destroy Naturalism on the false basis of stereotyping all Naturalists as reactionaries who deny that Man can place a metaphysical face on the chemical/electrical forces of nature that are the material--but not the cause--of his emotions. Just as Man can feel the effects of his five "invisible" senses, just as he can feel the "invisible" loves, jealousies, fears and other emotions that describe his mental states, so he can feel his soul as the emotional end result of his value choices in play within his conscience. Reversing the cause-and-effect is an epistemic error, but it may be one that is deliberately reactionary, against the theists who deliberately choose the epistemic error of accepting a creator as the given.

Metaphysics is no more "visible" to science than any other value judgment, yet value judgments are an integral part of the standards--indeed, they are the standards--by which every scientist of every ilk conducts his business. Value judgements are the standards by which every human makes any choice of one thing over another. Value judgements determine the direction in which he will turn his will, because it certainly one thing to be the Good Samaritan, and another to be the uninterested and immorally refrained witnesses to a beating, as we ourselves have been witness to on nightly, daily, and twenty-four-hour new broadcasts.

This reactionism on the part of some Naturalists (of whom some might better be identified as vehement anti-theists rather than Naturalists,) are afraid of making Rand's "causal connection in reverse," taking emotions as the cause and their minds as the passive effect. This attitude of reactionism is what such "bad Samaritans" are made of. They are being taught that emotions are merely chemical/electrical mechanisms of the body that say nothing about deeply human, metaphysical value judgements; and instead of rushing in to help the truly needy at their moment of desperation, they misunderstand that what they are witnessing is indeed going on right in front of them and that it will not go away if they close their eyes and let their emotions dissipate. (Or, they are aware of Rand's "rational egoism" and believe they are her adherents, but are among the many who confuse that "egoism"with such total selfishness that they believe it is against their interests to help other humans in their moment of need. At least call 9-1-1, for god's sake.)

It is the badly mistaken belief in consciousness as the cause of all that exists--which is the very act of getting Rand's causal connection reversed--that leads the reactionaries to their denial of metaphysics; and this belief in consciousness as the cause of all that exists is the denial we see in passive witnesses to acts of crime and of great human suffering.

This causal reversal and the acts of people staring blindly at acts of crime are inextricably connected, and as it is the dedicated task of this Academy to maintain the rationality of Naturalism, I will be looking for more evidence of this connection. It seems vitally important to understand how Naturalism in its reactionary mode, the denial of metaphysical values by the public because of this reactionism, and the disintegration of our civilization as witnessed by the horrible, violent, and insane acts of crime going on, are inextricably connected.

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This publication © 2008 by Curtis Edward Clark and Naturalist Academy Publishing ®
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