Species of Philosophical Naturalism, Science and Scientism: Comments on the On-going Philosophical Debate Concerning the Relation between Science and the Rest of Human Practices

By Zacharoula Renia Gasparatou.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Today every analytic philosopher calls himself a naturalist; all agree that all is natural and that science is the best way to discover how the empirical world works. Yet they disagree on what natural means; on what the empirical world includes; on what counts as science. Eliminative hard naturalists think of philosophy as a branch of science. Science then is taken in as the only explanatory method people have; different branches of it work in uncovering the ways the empirical world functions. And by empirical world they mean all there is. Soft naturalism, on the other hand sees philosophy as a qualitatively different discipline than science; philosophy aims at clarifying our concepts and understanding, while science provides us with knowledge about the empirical world. Concepts and understanding, then, are not part of the empirical world; thus they cannot be reduced into the empirical or studied by science. In this paper I will briefly present those two views and discuss how each of them deals with science. Since there is a consensus regarding the privileged role of science, it seems important to see whether naturalism can give an account of how one becomes a scientist and consequently how science evolves. I will argue that although hard naturalists’ strongly rely on science, their scientism is exactly what disables them from explaining how science is communicated and evolves. The soft naturalists, however, restrict science within our ordinary conceptual framework and yet can give a more successful approach of scientific evolution.

Keywords: Philosophical Naturalism, L. Wittgenstein, P.M. Churchland, Philosophy, Science, Science Education and Evolution

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.27-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 544.034KB).

Dr. Zacharoula Renia Gasparatou

Lecturer, Philosophy Department, University of Patras, Patras, Greece

Dr. Zacharoula (Renia) Gasparatou is a lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Patras, Greece. She received her BS in Philosophy from the University of Athens, Greece (1992-1996) and her PhD in contemporary Epistemology from the University of Crete, Greece (1999-2005). Part of her PhD research was undertaken in the Department of Philosophy and History of Science of the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), where she was a visiting scholar (2002-2003). Since 2005, she teaches Epistemology in the Department of Philosophy and in the Department of Educational Science of the University of Patras. Her research interests include the use of intuitions and thought experiments in science, philosophy and education, the relation of science and philosophy, the nature of emotions in explanation and understanding.


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