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Nature: Its Conceptual Architecture


Louis Caruana

Many philosophers adopt methods that emulate those of the natural sciences. They call such an overall approach naturalism, and consider it indispensable for fruitful philosophical debate in various areas. In spite of this consensus however, little is ever said about how naturalism depends on the underlying idea of nature, which we often endorse unconsciously. If we can determine how naturalism reflects an underlying account of nature, we would be in a better position to distinguish between different kinds of naturalism and to assess the merits of each. This book undertakes a sustained study of the concept of nature to answer this need. It examines in detail how conceptual, historical, and scientific constraints affect the concept of nature in various domains of philosophy, and how, in the opposite sense, these constraints are themselves affected by the concept of nature. In so doing, this book relates the conceptual framework of scientific inquiry back to the lived experience that is proper to everyday self-understanding.
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Chapter 10 – Nature and Concepts


Chapter 10 Nature and Concepts

This concluding chapter deals with two arguments that threaten to undermine the method adopted in all the previous chapters. These objections have surfaced here and there, in one form or another, all along; it is now time to address them directly. The first one builds on the idea that the empirical method, as used in the practice of the natural sciences, has been developed and sharpened through the centuries precisely to deliver the correct picture of the nature of things. If this is correct, any claim about nature that derives from conceptual analysis is at best useless, at worst erroneous. The first section of this chapter will explore this objection by focusing primarily on the claim that the hidden microstructure of things delivers the final answer as to what things are. The second objection is related to the first but is mainly epistemological in character: conceptual analysts claim that they can deliver truths without recourse to empirical observation while, as some epistemologists think, there are apparently various convincing arguments against the possibility of any form of a priori knowledge. Hence, again, if this is correct, any claim about nature that derives from conceptual analysis will be discredited. This debate will be dealt with in section two. The background question guiding the inquiry in both sections will be the following: Is conceptual analysis as vulnerable as some current champions of reductive naturalism, for whom these two objections are decisive, say it is? The inquiry...

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