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SAAP Annual Meeting

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The Forgotten Naturalism

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Lawrence Cahoone
College of the Holy Cross
United States

The American philosophical tradition is nearly the sole living philosophical legacy of an almost completely forgotten discussion we could call post-Darwinian naturalism. Spanning 1870-1930, its major thinkers, including Bergson, Whitehead, Alexander, Lloyd Morgan, Broad, Peirce, James, Mead, and Dewey, responded to the Darwinian revolution in biology and later the relativistic revolution in physics. Unlike the forms of naturalism dominant since 1930 they believed natural science was compatible with metaphysics, accepted the relevance of multiple sciences – not only physics – and saw nature as complex and evolving over time. Their work remains the strongest case for the compatibility of natural science and the study of the human prospect. The relevance of their approach is supported by the facts that science since 1930 has shown all nature is indeed evolving, and the recent study of complex physical and biological systems has made their notion of “emergence” scientifically respectable.


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