Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

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Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#1  Postby lpetrich » Apr 11, 2013 12:55 pm

Is there a real difference?

It seems that the two agree on an important feature: that reality is fundamentally impersonal and nonmental.

But beyond that, it's rather difficult for me to follow, and some of the issues seem to me to be side issues. Like traditional atomism vs. field theories, including quantum ones. I say that because both are equally impersonal and nonmental.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#2  Postby DrWho » Apr 15, 2013 9:33 pm

lpetrich wrote:Is there a real difference?

It seems that the two agree on an important feature: that reality is fundamentally impersonal and nonmental.

But beyond that, it's rather difficult for me to follow, and some of the issues seem to me to be side issues. Like traditional atomism vs. field theories, including quantum ones. I say that because both are equally impersonal and nonmental.



Materialism, Naturalism and Physicalism are roughly similar terms. Physicalism is generally considered a more sophisticated notion that materialism:

In contemporary philosophy, physicalism is most frequently associated with the mind-body problem in philosophy of mind, regarding which physicalism holds that all that has been ascribed to "mind" is more correctly ascribed to "brain" or the activity of the brain. Physicalism is also called "materialism", but the term "physicalism" is preferable because it has evolved with the physical sciences to incorporate far more sophisticated notions of physiccality than matter, for example wave/particle relationships and non-material forces produced by particles.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism


Naturalism does not seem to have a commonly accepted precise definition:

The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed ‘naturalists’ from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit’ (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003).

So understood, ‘naturalism’ is not a particularly informative term as applied to contemporary philosophers


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/#NatPhy
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#3  Postby Teuton » Apr 16, 2013 1:50 am

lpetrich wrote:Is there a real difference?
It seems that the two agree on an important feature: that reality is fundamentally impersonal and nonmental.


Actually, that's the point where a conceptual distinction can be drawn between materialism/physicalism and (metaphysical) naturalism. It is clear that materialism/physicalism is naturalistic, but there are nonmaterialistic/nonphysicalistic sorts of (metaphysical) naturalism, namely naturalistic property dualism (à la David Chalmers) [NPD] and naturalistic panpsychism [NPP]. Both share two central materialistic assumptions:

1. that substance dualism and spiritualistic substance monism/substance spiritualism are false, i.e., that there are no spiritual/mental substances (immaterial/nonphysical/incorporeal/disembodied minds/souls/spirits/ghosts).
2. that, as David Armstrong puts it, "reality, the whole of being, is constituted by the spacetime world."
(Note that 2 implies the view that there are no nonspatiotemporal abstract objects. So metaphysical naturalism entails antiplatonism.)

NPD and NPP are different from full-blown materialism because the beliefs that there are hyperphysical, physically irreducible mental properties ("qualia"), and that all physical objects, including all fundamental ones, have mental properties are arguably incompatible with (full-blown) materialism.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#4  Postby Teuton » Apr 16, 2013 2:00 am

DrWho wrote:...Physicalism is also called "materialism", but the term "physicalism" is preferable because it has evolved with the physical sciences to incorporate far more sophisticated notions of physiccality than matter, for example wave/particle relationships and non-material forces produced by particles."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism


I don't think that "physicalism" is preferrable to "materialism".

"I say 'materialistic' where some would rather say 'physicalistic': an adequate theory must be consistent with the truth and completeness of some theory in much the style of present-day physics. ('Completeness' is to be explained in terms of supervenience.)
Some fear that 'materialism' conveys a commitment that this ultimate physics must be a physics of matter alone: no fields, no radiation, no causally active spacetime. Not so! Let us proclaim our solidarity with forebears who, like us, wanted their philosophy to agree with ultimate physics. Let us not chide and disown them for their less advanced ideas about what ultimate physics might say."


(Lewis, David. "Naming the Colours." In Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology, 332-358. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. p. 332, fn. 2)

"[Materialism] was so named when the best physics of the day was the physics of matter alone. Now our best physics acknowledges other bearers of fundamental properties: parts of pervasive fields, parts of causally active spacetime. But it would be pedantry to change the name on that account, and disown our intellectual ancestors. Or worse, it would be a tacky marketing ploy, akin to British Rail's decree that second class passengers shall now be called 'standard class customers'."

(Lewis, David. "Reduction of Mind." In A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, edited by Samuel D. Guttenplan, 412-431. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. p. 413)
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#5  Postby Teuton » Apr 16, 2013 2:06 am

DrWho wrote:Naturalism does not seem to have a commonly accepted precise definition: ..


In the academic literature we find distinctions between metaphysical/ontological n., epistemological n., and methodological n..
It's metaphysical/ontological naturalism that is relevant to the question of the relationship between materialism and naturalism.

By the way, what I really don't like is that quite a few philosophers use "naturalism" as a euphemism for "scientism".
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#6  Postby Teuton » Apr 16, 2013 2:43 am

Teuton wrote:NPD and NPP are different from full-blown materialism because the beliefs ...and that all physical objects, including all fundamental ones, have mental properties are arguably incompatible with (full-blown) materialism.


On the other hand, there's...

"…the very possibility of what I shall call Panpsychistic Materialism.
It is often noted that psychophysical identity is a two-way street: if all mental properties are physical, then some physical properties are mental. But perhaps not just some but all physical properties might be mental as well; and indeed every property of anything might be at once physical and mental."


(Lewis, David. "New Work for a Theory of Universals." In Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology, 8-55. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. p. 35)

One could then say that the difference between panpsychistic materialism and panpsychistic naturalism is that only according to the former all mental properties are (identical with) physical properties.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#7  Postby SpeedOfSound » Apr 16, 2013 4:37 am

lpetrich wrote:Is there a real difference?

It seems that the two agree on an important feature: that reality is fundamentally impersonal and nonmental.

But beyond that, it's rather difficult for me to follow, and some of the issues seem to me to be side issues. Like traditional atomism vs. field theories, including quantum ones. I say that because both are equally impersonal and nonmental.


How can they be impersonal when one of the real things is persons?
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#8  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Apr 16, 2013 5:32 am

SpeedOfSound wrote:
lpetrich wrote:Is there a real difference?

It seems that the two agree on an important feature: that reality is fundamentally impersonal and nonmental.

But beyond that, it's rather difficult for me to follow, and some of the issues seem to me to be side issues. Like traditional atomism vs. field theories, including quantum ones. I say that because both are equally impersonal and nonmental.


How can they be impersonal when one of the real things is persons?


Personal bias [alone] cannot make a person dissappear. You have to kill them, grind them up, put them in a wheelie bin etc. HTH.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#9  Postby DrWho » Apr 16, 2013 4:19 pm

Teuton wrote:
DrWho wrote:Naturalism does not seem to have a commonly accepted precise definition: ..


In the academic literature we find distinctions between metaphysical/ontological n., epistemological n., and methodological n..
It's metaphysical/ontological naturalism that is relevant to the question of the relationship between materialism and naturalism.

By the way, what I really don't like is that quite a few philosophers use "naturalism" as a euphemism for "scientism".


My point is that there is no universally accepted definition of naturalism.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#10  Postby Teuton » Apr 16, 2013 5:08 pm

"Naturalism. In general the view that everything is natural, i.e. that everything there is belongs to the world of nature, and so can be studied by the methods appropriate for studying that world, and the apparent exceptions can be somehow explained away. ...The more general application is to philosophy as a whole, and again involves both the objects studied and the methods used in studying them, i.e. both metaphysics and epistemology. In metaphysics naturalism is perhaps most obviously akin to materialism, but it does not have to be materialistic. What it insists on is that the world of nature should form a single sphere without incursions from outside by souls or spirits, divine or human, and without having to accommodate strange entities like non-natural values or substantive abstract universals. But it need not reject the phenomena of consciousness, nor even identify them somehow with material phenomena, as the materialist must, provided they can be studied via the science of psychology, which can itself be integrated into the other sciences. One naturalist in fact, Hume, was rather ambivalent about whether there was really a material world at all, except in so far as it was constructed out of our experiences, or impressions and ideas, as he called them. The important thing for the naturalist in the metaphysical sphere is that the world should be a unity in the sense of being amenable to a unified study which can be called the study of nature, though it may not always be easy to say what counts as a sufficient degree of unification. Obviously there are different sciences, which to some extent employ different methods as well as studying different subject-matters. What seems to be needed is that they should form a continuous chain, and all be subject to certain general requirements regarded as necessary for a science as such, like producing results which are amenable to empirical testing. Whatever entities such sciences come up with must then be allowed into the naturalistic framework, and these will include ‘theoretical’ entities which cannot be directly observed, but whose existence is postulated to explain various phenomena, such as the electrons of physics, whether this existence is taken to be real or only ‘logically constructed’ in the way in which the average man is logically constructed out of ordinary men."

("Naturalism." In The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 2nd ed., edited by Ted Honderich, 640-642. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. pp. 640-1)
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#11  Postby SpeedOfSound » Apr 16, 2013 6:21 pm

That naturalism stuff sounds like a really nice idea. I love a little closure.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#12  Postby Chrisw » Apr 16, 2013 8:03 pm

"In metaphysics naturalism is perhaps most obviously akin to materialism, but it does not have to be materialistic. What it insists on is that the world of nature should form a single sphere without incursions from outside by souls or spirits, divine or human, and without having to accommodate strange entities like non-natural values or substantive abstract universals. But it need not reject the phenomena of consciousness, nor even identify them somehow with material phenomena, as the materialist must, provided they can be studied via the science of psychology, which can itself be integrated into the other sciences. One naturalist in fact, Hume, was rather ambivalent about whether there was really a material world at all, except in so far as it was constructed out of our experiences, or impressions and ideas, as he called them. The important thing for the naturalist in the metaphysical sphere is that the world should be a unity in the sense of being amenable to a unified study which can be called the study of nature..."

But we can only integrate psychology into the other sciences because we assume (if we are metaphysical naturalists) that psychology depends on the physical reality of brains and people. And science depends on physical people doing experiments in physical laboratories with physical measuring equipment. If the unifying principle of naturalism was non-physical wouldn't we have to start calling all these stereotypical physical objects non-physical too? Wouldn't that just be an empty exercise in relabelling?

Physical laws are the unifying principle that constitutes naturalism. Or, to turn it round, whatever unifying principle there was we would call it physical because that what we mean by physical. Even Hume might agree with that.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#13  Postby Teuton » Apr 16, 2013 9:00 pm

Chrisw wrote:Physical laws are the unifying principle that constitutes naturalism.


According to Chalmers' naturalistic (property) dualism, there are additional psychophysical laws which are not implied by and thus not deducible from the purely physical laws.

"This position qualifies as a variety of dualism, as it postulates basic properties over and above the properties invoked by physics. But it is an innocent version of dualism, entirely compatible with the scientific view of the world. Nothing in this approach contradicts anything in physical theory; we simply need to add further bridging principles to explain how experience arises from physical processes. There is nothing particularly spiritual or mystical about this theory—its overall shape is like that of a physical theory, with a few fundamental entities connected by fundamental laws. It expands the ontology slightly, to be sure, but Maxwell did the same thing. Indeed, the overall structure of this position is entirely naturalistic, allowing that ultimately the Universe comes down to a network of basic entities obeying simple laws, and allowing that there may ultimately be a theory of consciousness cast in terms of such laws. If the position is to have a name, a good choice might be naturalistic dualism."

(Chalmers, David. "Naturalistic Dualism." In The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness, edited by Max Velmans and Susan Schneider, 359-368. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007. p. 360)

"The arguments do not lead us to a dualism such as that of Descartes, with a separate realm of mental substance that exerts its own influence on physical processes. The best evidence of contemporary science tells us that the physical world is more or less physically closed: for every physical event, there is a physical sufficient cause. If so, there is no room for a mental 'ghost in the machine' to do any extra causal work. ...
The dualism implied here is instead a kind of property dualism: conscious experience involves properties of an individual that are not entailed by the physical properties of that individual, although they may depend lawfully on those properties. Consciousness is a feature of the world over and above the physical features of the world. This is not to say it is a separate 'substance'; the issue of what it would take to constitute a dualism of substances seems quite unclear to me. All we know is that there are properties of individuals in this world—the phenomenal properties—that are ontologically independent of physical properties. ...
Where we have new fundamental properties, we also have new fundamental laws. Here the fundamental laws will be psychophysical laws, specifying how phenomenal (or protophenomenal) properties depend on physical properties. These laws will not interfere with physical laws; physical laws already form a closed system. Instead, they will be supervenience laws, telling us how experience arises from physical processes. We have seen that the dependence of experience on the physical cannot be derived from physical laws, so any final theory must include laws of this variety.
Of course, at this stage we have very little idea what the relevant fundamental theory will look like, or what the fundamental psychophysical laws will be. But we have reason to believe that such a theory exists. There is good reason to believe that there is a lawful relationship between physical properties and conscious experience, and any lawful relationship must be supported by fundamental laws. The case of physics tells us that fundamental laws are typically simple and elegant; we should expect the same of the fundamental laws in a theory of consciousness. Once we have a fundamental theory of consciousness to accompany a fundamental theory in physics, we may truly have a theory of everything. Given the basic physical and psychophysical laws, and given the distribution of the fundamental properties, we can expect that all facts about the world will follow. Developing such a theory will not be straightforward, but it ought to be possible in principle. …
This view is entirely compatible with a contemporary scientific worldview, and is entirely naturalistic. On this view, the world still consists in a network of fundamental properties related by basic laws, and everything is to be ultimately explained in these terms. All that has happened is that the inventory of properties and laws has been expanded, as happened with Maxwell. Further, nothing about this view contradicts anything in physical theory; rather, it supplements this theory. A physical theory gives a theory of physical processes, and a psychophysical theory tells us how those processes give rise to experience.
To capture the spirit of the view I advocate, I call it naturalistic dualism. It is naturalistic because it posits that everything is a consequence of a network of basic properties and laws, and because it is compatible with all the results of contemporary science. And as with naturalistic theories in other domains, this view allows that we can explain consciousness in terms of basic natural laws. There need be nothing especially transcendental about consciousness; it is just another natural phenomenon. All that has happened is that our picture of nature has expanded. Sometimes 'naturalism' is taken to be synonymous with 'materialism', but it seems to me that a commitment to a naturalistic understanding of the world can survive the failure of materialism. …Some might find a certain irony in the name of the view, but what is most important is that it conveys the central message: to embrace dualism is not necessarily to embrace mystery."


(Chalmers, David J. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. pp. 124-25 + 127-28)
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#14  Postby Teuton » Apr 16, 2013 9:31 pm

Roy Wood Sellars: "Why Naturalism and Not Materialism" (1927)

"...Another weakness of materialism was its whole‑hearted identification of itself with the principles of an elementary mechanics. It was too naively scientific. We may call this species of materialism reductive materialism."

Contemporary materialism isn't naively mechanistic.

Roy Wood Sellars: "The New Materialism" (1950)
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#15  Postby Chrisw » Apr 22, 2013 6:15 pm

Teuton wrote:
Chrisw wrote:Physical laws are the unifying principle that constitutes naturalism.


According to Chalmers' naturalistic (property) dualism, there are additional psychophysical laws which are not implied by and thus not deducible from the purely physical laws.

Typical Chalmers trying to have it both ways. I'm very unimpressed - notice how short of actual argumentation the text you posted was. There is simply no need for additional psychophysical bridge laws, that's the whole point of supervenience physicalism.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#16  Postby Chrisw » Apr 22, 2013 6:23 pm

Teuton wrote:Roy Wood Sellars: "Why Naturalism and Not Materialism" (1927)

"...Another weakness of materialism was its whole‑hearted identification of itself with the principles of an elementary mechanics. It was too naively scientific. We may call this species of materialism reductive materialism."

Contemporary materialism isn't naively mechanistic.

Roy Wood Sellars: "The New Materialism" (1950)

You're just quoting another emergentist. Little better than woo as far as I'm concerned.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#17  Postby lpetrich » Apr 22, 2013 6:50 pm

So we are now getting into an emergentism vs. reductionism debate?

Back to our original subject, do we have something like:
Naturalism: can include emergentism, reductionism, and anything in between
Materialism: includes reductionism only
?

I think that if we are going to argue about emergentism vs. reductionism, that it's best to start off by discussing entities whose structures and features are well-understood as results of the structures and features of their parts. That's so that unknown details will not get in the way, as they are likely to do with mind. Entities like cars and houses and the like.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#18  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Apr 23, 2013 1:37 am

SpeedOfSound wrote:That naturalism stuff sounds like a really nice idea. I love a little closure.

Naturalism in small doses is good for you. Skinny-dipping can help make Vitamin D and give one a sense of freedom. But overdo it, and you can get skin cancer.
Materialism, or the "textile" world-view, is mostly religious. People are ashamed of their bodies, so they cover them with cloths. Most clerics for example, are called "Men Of The Cloth". Materialists! :evilgrin:

Metaphysics is the belief that you can be both a naturalist and a textile-ist at the same time, and to hell with logic. HTH. :thumbup:
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#19  Postby Chrisw » Apr 23, 2013 5:55 pm

lpetrich wrote:So we are now getting into an emergentism vs. reductionism debate?

Back to our original subject, do we have something like:
Naturalism: can include emergentism, reductionism, and anything in between
Materialism: includes reductionism only
?

I think that if we are going to argue about emergentism vs. reductionism, that it's best to start off by discussing entities whose structures and features are well-understood as results of the structures and features of their parts. That's so that unknown details will not get in the way, as they are likely to do with mind. Entities like cars and houses and the like.

Supervenience physicalism is usually regarded as non-reductive (at least by its supporters). The term "emergence" is usually reserved for something more than simple supervenience. Though some people call supervenience "weak emergence". In which case the argument would be between weak emergence (supervenience) and strong emergence. I'm not sure who the "reductionists" are these days.

I'd say that strong emergence is against the spirit of metaphysical naturalism, if not strictly non-naturalistic.
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Re: Metaphysical naturalism vs. materialism?

#20  Postby Teuton » Apr 23, 2013 6:03 pm

Chrisw wrote:Typical Chalmers trying to have it both ways. I'm very unimpressed - notice how short of actual argumentation the text you posted was. There is simply no need for additional psychophysical bridge laws, that's the whole point of supervenience physicalism.


Well, and the whole point of naturalistic dualism is that supervenience physicalism is false, i.e. that the mental doesn't ontologically supervene on the physical but only nomologically, i.e. by virtue of psychophysical laws which aren't entailed by the physical laws. As for Chalmers' argumentation, see his books The Conscious Mind and The Character of Consciousness!
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