On Characterizing Metaphysical Naturalism

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind 1:232-260 (2021)
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The disciplinary characterisation (DC) is the most popular approach to defining metaphysical naturalism and physicalism. It defines metaphysical naturalism with reference to scientific theories and defines physicalism with reference to physical theories, and suggests that every entity that exists is a posited entity of these theories. DC has been criticised for its inability to solve Hempel’s dilemma and a list of problems alike. In this paper, I propose and defend a novel version of DC that can be called a historical paths approach. The idea is (roughly) that metaphysical naturalism can be defined with reference to the historical ideas that current scientific ideas descend from. I argue that it is not rendered implausible by the above problems, and hence that DC is more defensible and attractive than it may first appear. I then argue that the approach also provides a useful framework for the naturalisation of the philosophy of mind and phenomenology.

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Lok-Chi Chan
National Taiwan University


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