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4 Naturalistic theories

4.1 Scientific naturalism

Scientific naturalism is a view according to which all objects and events are part of nature, i.e. they belong to the world of space and time. Therefore everything, including the mental realm of human beings, is subject to scientific enquiry. According to Steven J. Wagner and Richard Warner (1993: 10), it is essential to any form of naturalism that only statements that are objective are to merit full scientific status. Furthermore, these statements should be grounded on observed data. Thus--from a naturalistic point of view--the mission of science is to explain the observable world.

Many naturalistic philosophers accept also the theory of physicalism. It is not a necessary condition of naturalism, however, but usually accompanied by it. Physicalism suggests that all phenomena are fundamentally physical. Essential to physicalism is the concept of 'supervenience'. With supervenience a physicalist means that if two systems differ from each other--chemically, biologically, psychologically, or in any other respect--they differ also physically. This is to say that all differences that occur between different systems are basically physical (Papineau 1993: 9-10). Thus, according to the physicalist view, all other realms of world are in a supervenience relation to the physical one.

According to physicalism the science of physics is complete: all physical events are determined by prior physical events. In that case mental events could not have any causal effects on the physical ones. On the contrary, they are determined by physical events. This makes it difficult to understand how there could be a free will of mind (see e.g. Papineau 1993: 16-18). This conclusion, however, is intuitively inacceptable to most people.

Hence naturalism--even in its physicalist interpretation--does not deny the possibility of psychology. It just says that psychological phenomena are basically physical. The widespread use of quantitative methodology in the field of psychology shows that this stance is at least implicitly accepted by psychologists, too. This is why I treat the theories that are based in psychological research in the naturalistic section of the study.

The advantage of the naturalistic outside view is its detachedness. It is an efficient method of attaining a rough overview of the site. At its best--when combined with an inside view--the outsider approach gives the external structure onto which to attach the values that make places meaningful.

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