Does Naturalism Rest on a Mistake?
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly 48.2 (2011): 161-173
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Naturalism has been challenged by philosophers of many persuasions—especially by those who doubt that intentionality or normativity can be understood in naturalistically-acceptable terms. Here I want to mount a different challenge: a challenge from first-personal phenomena. So, the answer to the question — Does naturalism rest on a mistake? — is, I shall argue, yes; and furthermore, it is a mistake that Wittgenstein1 would never have made.
  2. I am going to use the term ‘naturalism’ in what I take to be the orthodox way endorsed by Quine. For purposes here, naturalism is the thesis that the only correct conception of reality is provided by science. Or as Sellars’ put it, “[I]n the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, of what is not that it is not.”
  3. More precisely, I’ll take naturalism to be the ontological view that science can provide a supervenience2 base that accounts for all reality: that is, given the items in the scientific supervenience3 base — whatever they are — the existence of everything else that there is (objects, states of affairs, or whatever it takes for true beliefs to be true) is guaranteed. On the common assumption that science is expressible exclusively in third-personal terms, the supervenience4 base that science provides will likewise be expressed exclusively in third-personal terms. So, if naturalism is true, then first-personal phenomena will have to be reduced to third-personal phenomena or eliminated altogether. To the contrary, I shall suggest, a wholly third-personal account of reality either is incomplete or it covertly contains some first-personal phenomena.
  4. Here is my plan: After briefly sketching my own view of first-personal phenomena, I’ll give three very different examples to suggest he inadequacy of the third-personal point of view to capture all of reality — David Lewis on de se belief, Daniel Dennett on consciousness, and Thomas Metzinger on the self-model theory of subjectivity. Then, I’ll draw some conclusions about the mistake on which naturalism rests, and say why I think that Wittgenstein5 never would have made it.
  5. First, a caution: My concern is metaphysical — not semantic or conceptual. According to naturalism, reality can be exhaustively described in the third person. If so, then first-person phenomena are eliminable or reducible to phenomena described wholly in third-personal terms.


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