The pursuit of the natural

Philosophical Studies 148 (1):79 - 87 (2010)
In recent years, it has become common to defend science against charges of bias against the supernatural by explaining that science must remain methodologically natural but does not assume metaphysical naturalism. While such a response is correct, some details about the distinction between methodological naturalism and ontological or metaphysical naturalism have been lacking, as has a clear understanding of the distinction between the methodological restriction of science to natural explanations and naturalistic claims about the scope of those methods. We still require an account of the natural that explains well why science is restricted to giving naturalistic methods, and why the pursuit of natural explanations is not tantamount to the assumption that only natural causes exist. I suggest that the distinguishing characteristics of the natural are not metaphysical at all but broadly epistemological, concerning goals of intersubjectivity and predictability. I argue that by focusing on naturalistic goals we can better explain why the pursuit of natural explanations need not presume any purely natural metaphysics. But I also suggest that the adoption of natural methods is not entirely metaphysically neutral, as it is associated with values that may be more closely associated with some metaphysical views than others.
Keywords Naturalism  Methodological naturalism  Supernatural  Design  Intersubjectivity  Science
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Thomas Nagel (2008). Public Education and Intelligent Design. Philosophy and Public Affairs 36 (2):187-205.

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