Moving Naturalism Forward

Click to enlarge. Credit: XKCD

If you are interested in the philosophy of science here’s something to look forward to. At the end of next week, October 25 – 29 a workshop – Moving Naturalism Forward – will occur in  Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

What’s more, for us so far away, the workshop will be videoed and videos will be on-line as soon as possible after the workshop finishes. They are bound to be fascinating as the questions covered will possibly include:

  • Free will. If people are collections of atoms obeying the laws of physics, is it sensible to say that they make choices?
  • Morality. What is the origin of right and wrong? Are there objective standards?
  • Meaning. Why live? Is there a rational justification for finding meaning in human existence?
  • Purpose. Do teleological concepts play a useful role in our description of natural phenomena?
  • Epistemology. Is science unique as a method for discovering true knowledge?
  • Emergence. Does reductionism provide the best path to understanding complex systems, or do different levels of description have autonomous existence?
  • Consciousness. How do the phenomena of consciousness arise from the collective behavior of inanimate matter?
  • Evolution. Can the ideas of natural selection be usefully extended to areas outside of biology, or can evolution be subsumed within a more general theory of complex systems?
  • Determinism. To what extent is the future determined given quantum uncertainty and chaos theory, and does it matter?

Here’s a list of the participants, together with field. Have a look art the list of participants for more information on affiliation, books and websites.

It’s an impressive list and  I know there are some differences – so look forward to lively debates.

It’s about time somebody sensible discussed what is meant by “naturalism” and how it relates to science.

(No. Alvin Plantinga hasn’t been invited).

Sean Carroll, Physics
Hilary Bok, Philosophy
Patricia Churchland, Neuroscience/Philosophy
Jerry Coyne, Biology
Richard Dawkins, Biology
Terrence Deacon, Anthropology
Simon DeDeo, Complex Systems
Daniel Dennett, Philosophy
Owen Flanagan, Philosophy
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Philosophy/Literature
Janna Levin, Physics/Literature
Massimo Pigliucci, Philosophy
David Poeppel, Neuroscience
Lisa Randall, Physics
Alex Rosenberg, Philosophy
Don Ross, Economics
Steven Weinberg, Physics

7 responses to “Moving Naturalism Forward

  1. I’m going to rely on you to tell us when the video is available on-line.


  2. The names I know I respect, the names I don’t I suspect I will soon.


  3. Joe 'Blondie' Manco

    I’m with GordonHide on this one. Next week when I’ve forgotten about this, please remind us!


  4. That’s my intention – I hope to feature some of the videos.

    Now it’s just a matter of me remembering.


  5. I really like the cartoon. It is ambiguous to me if the author’s intent was to make fun of the moral philosopher or the moral naturalist. The cartoonist probably intended to make fun of the moral naturalist by overstating his case.

    Here is my attempt at more pointedly poking fun at the moral philosopher.

    Moral philosopher (duplicates above): Yes, philosophy is an open discipline in which a good idea can come from anybody. Yes, very deeply entrenched theories are on occasion overturned by relevant data from the sciences. And yes, your science background equips you to bring relevant data to bear on philosophical theories and ideas.

    Moral philosopher (continued): But you did not just show Kantianism, an ethical theory you learned about an hour ago, is merely a flawed heuristic for a universal, mind-and-language-independent descriptive moral principle about altruistic cooperation strategies in groups! A universal descriptive moral principle? There is no such thing. Universal moral principles must be universally binding, not just instrumentally useful! You are showing your ignorance and making a fool of yourself.

    Moral naturalist: You just don’t like the implications of applying an empirical eye to your dogma. Hey, what’s the email for the President of Philosophy?


  6. Pingback: At last – Moving Naturalism Forward videos | Open Parachute

  7. Pingback: At last – Moving Naturalism Forward videos | Secular News Daily

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