History and Philosophy Of Science | Naturalism and Its Critics
X755 | 9488 | W.Dickson/C. Martin


'Naturalism' is the philosophical doctrine that there are only
natural things. Further discussions are, broadly, of three types:
direct articulation of and defense of this view; analysis of the
consequences of this view (for example, some claim that it entails
or is equivalent to materialism or to physicalism while others do
not); and attempts to apply this view to specific philosophical
areas (epistemology, ethics, and so on).  We will begin this class
by examining some attempts -- both 'classic' and contemporary -- to
articulate a doctrine of naturalism, and to defend it.  Having
gotten some grasp of the doctrine, we shall turn to consider some
applications of the doctrine, focusing our attention on topics
related to epistemology ("naturalized epistemology" ties
epistemological theorizing closely to theorizing in the sciences so
that epistemology becomes a branch of natural science) and
philosophy of science.  (If, as some would hold, natural science is
our best guide to what is natural, what are the consequences for
philosophy of (natural) science? A naturalized philosophy of
science?).  We shall also consider contemporary critics of
naturalism.  Some, for example, have suggested that naturalism
cannot make good sense of mathematics, and the role it plays in
science. Others have argued that the naturalistic account of
knowledge is inherently flawed, or at least in need of revision:
e.g., how can a naturalized epistemology capture the normative
dimension of epistemological inquiry? Still others have suggested
that, perhaps ironically, naturalism cannot make sense of scientific
practice.  While reading proponents of naturalism, we shall consider
such critics as well.  The specific topics and authors that we
consider will be driven in part by the interests of the class. There
are no prerequisites for the course.  Students will be expected to
give at least one presentation, and write a paper for their final
grade.