The Case for Speculative Naturalism

In Arran Gare & Wayne Hudson (eds.), For a New Naturalism. Candor, New York, USA: Telos Press. pp. 9-32 (2017)
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C.D. Broad pointed out that philosophy in the Twentieth Century radically reduced its scope by contracting the methods it deployed. While traditionally philosophers had used analysis, synopsis and synthesis to reveal and overcome the inconsistencies of culture, critical philosophers reduced the role accorded to synopsis and eliminated any role for synthesis. This, it is argued, was a disastrous wrong turn that has led philosophers to embrace scientism, equated with naturalism, which has marginalized and reduced to irrelevance not only most of philosophy, but most of the humanities. Showing how such philosophy evolved from one branch of neo-Kantian philosophy, it is argued there was no reason to constrict philosophy in this way. An alternative, more fruitful but largely misrepresented and submerged tradition of philosophical naturalism deriving from Kant is identified, a tradition which can best be characterized as “speculative naturalism”. This tradition, unlike the tradition of analytic philosophy, has made major contributions to science, and is allying science and the humanities. As Michail Epstein pointed out, while the practical outcome of natural science is technology, the practical outcome of the humanities is the transformation of culture, and ourselves. It is central to the creation of the future. Philosophy associated with speculative naturalism promises to play a major role in the transformation of culture required to overcome the current global ecological crisis. It could provide the foundation for a new “ecological civilization”.

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Arran Gare
Swinburne University of Technology


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