Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What is Metaphysical Naturalism? Part Two

Yesterday, in Part One, I quoted a noted scientific naturalist as saying that, "in dropping the soul and free will we get rid of the fictional supernatural agency that blocks true explanations of phenomena." What is Metaphysical Naturalism? Part One

I also stated that I, as a metaphysical naturalist (MN), find myself in the position of having to explain what my Academy defines as MN. This is because the average person who knows nothing about the difference between one form of naturalism and another can do a web search, only to discover that not even the naturalists themselves all agree on a definition. We use different terminology for exactly similar philosophical positions; or use precisely similar terminology for differences that may be subtle, or may be extremely and fundamentally different.

Critics confuse the issue more by doing the same thing. One creationist may define a specific form of naturalism according to the definition given by the naturalist he most opposes; then, his congregants who know nothing or little about naturalism are apt to believe what he tells them. He may be as rigorous in his use of terms as he knows how, and as he is familiar with. But if he is to broad or general, or just wrong, his congregants will walk away anxious to "fight the righteous fight," only to fight wrong enemy. I pointed out one example of that yesterday.

Or the creationist may define it in terms that solidifies an idea for his readers/listeners/congregants while ignoring that not all forms of naturalism are as he describes them. Even some naturalists act as if their's is the only form.

The Academy's Strong Position on Naturalism Academy's Strong Definition of Naturalism, to be truthful, will not only not help the layman, but will probably make it more confusing to him or her without the explanation that follows. Since exactness is necessary in creating definitions, this is unavoidable. But since the Academy takes exception with so many of the philosophical positions of other schools of naturalism, including those which call themselves metaphysical naturalists, it becomes necessary at some point to break down the Academy's definition into more easily understandable descriptive parts.

Let's begin first by explaining why it is called a "strong" position. Wikipedia states: "Metaphysical naturalism, which is often called 'philosophical naturalism' or "ontological naturalism", takes an ontological approach to naturalism. Ontology is a branch of metaphysics that studies being, and so this is the view that the supernatural does not exist, thus entailing strong atheism."

(And therein lie even more discinctions, even more divisions, of naturalism. We won't go into them in this discussion. It is the remark about atheism that we must contend with here.)

Since metaphysical naturalism denies the supernatural realm of existence, atheism is the result when a person accepts MN as his/her epistemological base. I say it is the result, the consequence, of accepting the epistemology. It is not the starting point from an intellectual or academic standpoint, though a great many people may come to accept naturalism from an investigation of the roots of atheism.

But "strong" and "weak" are words that mean different things to different people. I have taken exception to the terms strong and weak, especially "strong atheism", in the agnosticism/atheist forum on About.com, written by "Austin Cline, Atheism Guide". http://atheism.about.com/

I have taken my exception in comments that I have posted to Cline's site, to the extent that Cline has publicly stated in his column, in unequivocal terms, that my logic stinks and my position is untennable! He now refuses to allow any comments I make underneath his column. He simply blocks them. "Strong" vs. "Weak" Atheism; The Debacle of Categorization For this I have dubbed him the "Deity of Atheism"--and you can even Google that. For the entire thread of our conversation see Threaded with Austin Cline--Pop Culture vs. Ontology; and Saturday Quotes

I have also taken exception to the terms "strong" and "weak" when used in naturalism. Tom Clark, director of the Center for Naturalism http://www.centerfornaturalism.org/index.htm , was much more civil and rational than Cline.

Clark wrote this to me in an email, after I explained to him my own positions on several aspects of strong, weak, altruism, and egoism:

See What is Metaphysical Naturalism Part 2 continued

In Part Three: The Mechanical and Moral Arguments

Note: I will be the featured speaker at the Center For Inquiry (CFI) meeting, October 16, 2008, in Portage, Michigan. The topic is "Atheism as a 'Religion' Protected by Courts According to the Establishment Clause" CEC



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