Monday, September 05, 2016

What is naturalism, that we should be mindful of it? W. P. Alston quotes O. K. Bouwsma


 Bouwsma has some fun at the expense of some of the contributors to a 1944 volume entitled Naturalism and the Human Spirit, many of whom characterized naturalism in the methodologically scientistic way I have been utilizing. For example, he quotes William Dennes as saying: "There is for naturalism no knowledge except of the type ordinarily called scientific", and responds as follows.

Notice first the form of Dennes's sentence. Mr. Ringling might say: "There is for Ringling Brothers no elephant except of the type ordinarily called big." Does Mr. Ringling intend to deny that there are any little elephants? Does he mean that besides Jumbo and Mumbo there is no little Nimblo? I think he means no more than that there is a difference between big elephants and little elephants, and that Mr. Ringling has no use for little elephants. If you tried to sell him one, he wouldn't buy. He can't use any. Or try this sentence: "For all the boys in our alley, there's no girl but pretty Sally." What, have the boys in our alley seen no girl but pretty Sally? Don't be silly. Of course, they know Helen and Ruth and Betty. It's just a way of saying that above all the girls they know, they prefer Sally. And this is now the way in which we are to understand Mr. Dennes?…In this case…Mr. Dennes might have admitted other types of knowledge too, but would in this instance merely have intended to say: "Well, so long as I have my choice, let mine be scientific"…If Mr. Dennes prefers blondes or gas-heat or lemonade or a hard mattress or scientific knowledge, well, that's all there is to it.

 Bouwsma then goes on to scrutinize a formulation of Krikorian.

 Before we settle these matters, let us inspect Krikorian's sentence. It is: "For naturalism as a philosophy, the universal applicability of the experimental method is a basic belief." Consider the parallel sentence of the vacuum cleaner salesman: "For vacuumism as a philosophy, the universal applicability of the suction nozzle is a basic belief." He may argue to himself: "If I ever give this up, I'll never sell another vacuum cleaner. It is basic." To the house-wife who asks: "And can you use it to dust books?" he replies: "Of course". And when he shows her and finds that it does not do so well, does he deny the universal applicability of the nozzle? No such thing. He may complain that he himself is not skillful, or that what seems like dust to the house-wife is not dust. The universal applicability of the nozzle is now the touchstone of dust. If the nozzle is applicable, it's dust. If it is not applicable, it is not dust. There is much more of this in the essay, but that is sufficient to give the general line.


Steve Lovell said...

Really, like these quotes, and haven't read enough Alston. I'll bookmark this for later!

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Reductionist is the naturalistic means of losing phenomena, of getting rid of issues that contradict the paradigm.

seemy post on Metacrock's blog: naturalism and reductionism