'Naturalism in Question'


Please excuse my plagiarizing the title of an alleged to be forthcoming publication of the Harvard University Press.  HUP does not publicly acknowledge that this book is in gestation, so I'll take the word of Huw Price and keep my 30+ bucks in my pocket.  [And now it is almost here.] 

It is my fervent hope that naturalism will be questioned.  According to Quentin Smith, in his 'Metaphilosophy of Naturalism', it was Alvin Plantinga's God and Other Minds (1967) which laid the groundwork for the resurgence of of an intellectually respectable theism.  Quentin claims that as of the new millennium fully one-quarter to one third of the philosophy professors are avowed theists, and that philosophy of religion is the largest category among the philosophy titles of the Oxford Press. 

Gosh, maybe I missed something.  Perhaps the Millennium has already arrived.  I'm not quite convinced.  The last time I checked, religion and science were still keeping each other at arms length, and Quentin acknowledges that:

"... the great majority of naturalist philosophers react by publicly ignoring the increasing desecularizing of philosophy (while privately disparaging theism, without really knowing anything about contemporary analytic philosophy of religion) and proceeding to work in their own area of specialization as if theism, the view of approximately one-quarter or one-third of their field, did not exist."

As it stands, the return of theism to the academy is, so far, just another symptom of our postmodern pluralism.  Yes, naturalism has been and is being questioned by some of the best minds available, but evidently not in a manner that has forced a direct response from the naturalists in question. 

From my, perhaps limited, vantage on the web, what I see is, for example, 'Deconstructing the Mind' by Stephen Stich (c.1995).  In a section called 'Deconstructing a Deconstruction' he forthrightly confesses to the error of his former eliminativist position regarding the mind.  Naturally it is only a very subtle error to which he is willing to admit, but sufficient for this significant turnaround, and Stephen was a senior statesman among the eliminativists.  I have not been able to assess the impact of his defection on the rank and file, no one is keeping score in public.  I am not even aware of a single other instance at this point. 

Nonetheless, the hand is writing is on the wall: 'Naturalism is under the gun.'  But which gun is it? 


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