Friday, 26 January 2007

Naturalism and Supernaturalism

1 comments
Today I just want to lay out the framework I am going to develop in future posts on naturalism. (I did say that I would next discuss atheism but that will have to wait).

Naturalism
Naturalism is the view that all phenomena are the result of natural processes. Methodological Naturalism is the epistemological assumption that phenomena are naturally explicable, that is we can describe the phenomena as being the result of natural processes. Metaphysical Naturalism is the ontological and empirically falsifiable assumption that that is all there is. Methodological Naturalism could refute Metaphysical Naturalism by showing there is a phenomenon that is not, even in principle, naturally explicable.

Supernaturalism
Lets us contrast this with supernaturalism. Supernaturalism is the view that at least some phenomena are the result of supernatural processes. Methodological Supernaturalism is the epistemological assumption that some phenomena are supernaturally explicable, that is we can describe the phenomena as being the result of supernatural processes. Metaphysical Supernaturalism is the ontological and empirically verifiable assumption that at least some processes are supernatural. Methodological Naturalism could confirm Metaphysical Supernaturalism by showing there is at least one phenomenon that is not naturally explicable. Methodological Supernaturalism cannot do this, as, in this sense, it is assuming what it is trying to prove and just showing that a phenomena is supernaturally explicable does not prove that it is not naturally inexplicable. That is Metaphysical Supernaturalism requires Methodological Naturalism, for it to empirically demonstrate supernaturalism.

Contrast between naturalism and supernaturalism
One can use Methodological Naturalism whilst being either a Metaphysical Naturalist or Supernaturalist. One cannot use Methodological Supernaturalism whilst being a Metaphysical Naturalist. Methodological Naturalism is the only way to empirically demonstrate supernaturalism. Supernaturalism has not been demonstrated to date and as an a posteriori Metaphysical Naturalist I think it very unlikely it ever will (I say this only to indicate my bias in these matters and in so doing to neutralise it). Should there be a reliable, independently repeatable demonstration of a naturally inexplicable phenomenon, I could or should cease to be a Metaphysical Naturalist but would still assume Methodological Naturalism except when working with such phenomena. The intent of this framework is show that regardless of your metaphysics, you are still better off using Methodological Naturalism as your working assumption.

Conclusion
This is the skeleton of the framework to be elaborated and dissected in future posts and adds more details to my declaration of intent posted yesterday.

1 comments:

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