Temporal naturalism

reconciling the "4ms' and points of view within a robust liberal naturalism

Jack Reynolds

pp. 1-21

In the past generation, various philosophers have been concerned with the so-called "placement problem" for naturalism. The problem has taken on the shorthand alliteration of the 4Ms, since Mind/Mentality, Meaning, Morality, and Modality/Mathematics are four important phenomena that are difficult to place within orthodox construals of naturalism, typified by physicalism and a methodological preference for ways of knowing associated with the natural sciences. In this paper I highlight the importance of temporality to this ostensibly forced choice between naturalism and the 4Ms, and then reframe the problem by advocating a temporal naturalism rather than the atemporal versions that remain the orthodoxy. In short, I argue in Section 1 that scientific naturalism is standardly atemporal in outlook and in philosophical presuppositions, in Section 2 that temporality is a fundamental condition for each of the 4Ms (drawing on insights from classical phenomenology), and hence the intransigence of the dilemma. Instead of accepting this construal, in Section 3 I outline a temporal naturalism that owes more to biology than to physics (and hence more to Peter Godfrey-Smith than Huw Price), where we also see temporally dependent "points of view" in incipient biological forms, and where the norms surrounding explanation are less nomological and reductive in orientation.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-019-09613-w

Full citation:

Reynolds, J. (2020). Temporal naturalism: reconciling the "4ms' and points of view within a robust liberal naturalism. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (1), pp. 1-21.

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