What Is Naturalism?

Naturalism is a comprehensive worldview based in a scientific, empirical understanding of reality. It offers a positive, rational and fulfilling alternative to faith-based religions and non-empirical worldviews.

The term “naturalism” has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed “naturalists” from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing “supernatural”, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the “human spirit” (Krikorian 1944; Kim 2003).

The Arts

  • Naturalism (arts), realism in the arts
  • Naturalism (literature), a style in fictional writing
  • Naturalism (theater), a movement in theater and drama

Philosophy and Science

  • Naturalism in Philosophy is any of several philosophical stances wherein all phenomena or hypotheses commonly labeled as supernatural are either false or not inherently different from natural phenomena or hypotheses.

    1. Critical naturalism

    2. Methodological naturalism, naturalism that holds that science is to be done without reference to supernatural causes; also refers to a methodological assumption in the philosophy of religion that observable events are fully explainable by natural causes without reference to the supernatural

    3. Metaphysical naturalism, a form of naturalism that holds that the cosmos consists only of objects studied by the natural sciences, and does not include any immaterial or intentional realities

  • Liberal naturalism, a heterodox form of naturalism in the conceptual space between scientific naturalism and supernaturalism
  • Ethical naturalism, the theory that ethical terms can be defined in non-ethical terms, namely, descriptive terms mainly from the natural sciences
  • Spiritual naturalism, an approach to spirituality that is devoid of supernaturalism
  • Religious naturalism, religious institutions, rituals, doctrines and communities which do not include supernatural beliefs
  • Humanistic naturalism emphasises scientific reasoning as a basis for humane behavior
  • Sociological naturalism is the view that the natural world and the social world are roughly identical and governed by similar principles
  • Political naturalism is a politic and legal system based on the belief in the existence of a fair natural law
  • Naturalistic observation is an empirical method of study by which the researcher introduces no outside stimulus, instead witnessing behavior as it naturally occurs in the environment
  • Poetic naturalism, an approach to naturalism which allows for there to be many useful ways of talking about the natural world, dependent upon the subject’s frame of reference.
  • Naturalness 
  • Natural history, a domain of inquiry involving organisms
  • Naturalistic fallacy, appealing to a definition of the term “good” in terms of one or more natural properties
  • Naturism, the practice of social nudity, often confused with the term “naturalism”

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