Ontological Naturalism = Cognitive Suicide

There is very good piece here by Conor Cunningham. It might do for those invested in the conversation going on here to read Conor’s piece. The whole subjective/objective issue is one that only becomes an issue (of the sort noted in the conversation) if one is basically a philosophical naturalist and holds that the material is all there is. Instead of getting bogged down in the subjective/objective issue, why not speak to the root issue? This is, again, why delving into the narratives, the world-views, the philosophical presuppositions one has is the key to unlocking why any of us believe what we do and extrapolate from there.

The other issue noted here that is so important and one missed by most of those involved in the noted conversation is the difference between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism. They are wholly and entirely two different things.

The final issue noted by Cunningham or one that logically follows is the matter of ethical speaking where one uses words like “progress” “better” “good” “optimum” “ideal” “best” “worse” “bad” “evil” and such. The naturalist wants to use such words but robs them of any meaning. He wants everyone to assume he means the same thing everyone else means but he can’t because most people mean they really believe such descriptions as noting real difference/change/objectivity. The average person knows he is saying something different between when he says “I like Lady Gaga” and when he says “I think the Holocaust is evil.” But for the materialist they both mean “I emote differently here but they are on an equally meaningless plane of taste and preference.”

Hypocritically however, when it comes to those issues or things the materialist cares about, say Global warming or the fate of various forms of wildlife, he most certainly wants to invest all those words with meaning, of which we are meant to take to heart and change our sinful ways. Preach it brother.  Well, good luck with that.

As noted by Cunningham:

Consequently, the materialist must admit that his description is metaphysical; it tacitly invokes something that transcends what is basic at the level of immanence or the merely physical. The only other option is to deny all change, just as they must, it seems, deny objects themselves. As Peter van Inwagen writes:

“One of the tasks that confronts the materialist is this: they have to find a home for the referents of the terms of ordinary speech within a world that is entirely material – or else deny the existence of those referents altogether.”

And this includes persons – for as David Chalmers says, “you can’t have your materialist cake and eat your consciousness too.”

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2 Responses to Ontological Naturalism = Cognitive Suicide

  1. Burk Braun says:


    It is a funny kind of realism/scientism that insists that what you believe of morals is objectively true, and what you believe of god and other theistic topics is also true, most objectively.. where does this objective world of yours ever end? Is any thing subjective? Or only unimportant things?

    That seems to be the issue, that you think anything that is really important had better be super-real, even if it is nothing more substantial than our social agreement about meanings and feelings.

    But you know very well that the most important things are not objective at all- love, kindness, meaning, etc., So why make a objective fetish of them? I find it most odd.

    Let me ask- why does methodological naturalism makes sense?

    The reason is that everything we can rationally and objectively(!) study (that is, reality outside of our subjective minds) can only be studied by way of logical analysis based on evidence. It isn't even naturalistic- if the divine showed up in a burning bush tomorrow, the methodological naturalists would be all over it! But if it doesn't show up, the methodological naturalist isn't going to sit around making excuses for why it exists anyhow, why god jr. hasn't made a second coming, and other tenets of faith. Those things are not part of methodological naturalism because they are not part of nature at all. The ontological and the methodological are one and the same.

    There can be no valid ontology sprung from one's head without the evidence from method to back it up. All this doesn't impugn the ability of the arts (even religion) to illuminate the human condition and enrich our lives. But the topic we are on about is the analysis of reality .. ontology.

    Your writer makes straw men all over the place and bad arguments, and is unworthy of comment. Hitler even comes into it.


  2. Darrell says:


    I can't make heads or tails of this. Did you read a single word? What do you mean by “important” things? That alone tells me you don't even understand the issue Conor and these others are addressing. There is no “important” in a material world. And when you ask is anything “subjective” in my world the obvious answer is everything is to the extent that we are receptive and reactive beings but clearly your question means you still don't even understand that issue. You're in over your head. I don't think you even really know what is being discussed. Talk about straw men and bad arguments.


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