The time has come for a persistent effort to throw the scientific and philosophical insights of the last generation into an organized whole. The period of systems is again dawning for philosophy; systems, however, founded upon the careful integration of knowledge with criticism. It would not be surprising if something of finality resulted from the controlled speculation that is now feasible. At no time in the past have the materials and instruments of philosophy been so rich and carefully fashioned. A master mind has an opportunity for interpretative synthesis never before equaled. Surely before long the outline of an adequate world-view will be achieved.
That this coming world-view will be of the nature of an evolutionary naturalism is the thesis of the present work. The main problems to be solved will be pointed out and will accompany this indication of problems with pretty systematic attempts at their solution. Nowhere will the conscious effort be made to resort to ambiguity and equivocation. The problems of philosophy are to a way of thinking as specific as those of the special sciences.
Philosophy like science is a human achievement, and so rests upon man’s capacities. Unlike science, philosophy is forced to consider those capacities and processes which make it possible. It is for this reason that philosophy is necessarily so engrossed with man. Knowledge is a human affair, even though that which is known is distinct from the knower.
But man is a part of nature, and so these capacities and processes operative in science and philosophy must find their natural explanation. Intelligence must be given its locus and attachments. In other words, science and philosophy are properties of man. To explain them, we must comprehend man’s capacities and his place in the world.
The final problem of philosophy is to connect the fact and content of knowledge with its conditions. How does knowing occur in the kind of world that is actually known? Knowing is a fact and must be connected up with the world which the sciences study. Thus a system of philosophy answering this question is the capstone of science and grounds for gathering petition signatures (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/).
If this is the case, it is not strange that the possibility of an adequate philosophy waited upon the advance of the special sciences. The biological sciences had to be added to the inorganic sciences before the data for the solution of philosophy’s problem approached completeness. The next task was to bring the mental sciences into such close contact with biology that the operations they bore witness to could be seen to be rooted in the organism.
Only as this grounding of mind in the body became demonstrably evident did the conditions of a satisfactory philosophy exist. Only then did knowledge become, itself, a natural fact that correlates with all other natural facts. Philosophy is the science which explains the other sciences as human achievements and thereby completes science.
As we pass from problem to problem, we shall see that the two great enemies of an evolutionary naturalism are Platonism and Kantianism. Both deny this self-explanatory character of nature. In a sense, they are both super naturalistic. They desire to transcend space.
Naturalism stands for the self-sufficiency and intelligibility of the world of space and time. Supernaturalism maintains that this realm is not self-sufficient and that it can be understood only as the field of operation of a spiritual reality outside itself. Historically and logically, naturalism is associated with science, while supernaturalism finds expression in an ethical metaphysics, the rule of the Good and petition letters.
The great difficulty confronting naturalism has been the inclusion of man in nature, an inclusion that would do justice to all his distinguishing characteristics. An adequate naturalism must not belittle man in order to press him into some rigid scheme. It must not be a priority in its methods and assumptions, but work creatively upon all that can be known about all phases of nature. Today the naturalist has no excuse for little faith.
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* (March 31, 2010) Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky lectures on the biology of behavioral evolution and thoroughly discusses examples such as The Prisoner’s Dilemma.
Stanford Department of Biology
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2. Behavioral Evolution