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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 2 – Explaining Nature


Chapter 2 Explaining Nature

The concept of nature and the concept of explanation are linked. This is evident in various ways. For instance, we assume that an explanation, in general, needs to be distinct from the way we wish the world to be: it should be founded on how things are in themselves, when left alone without human interference. To the extent that we arrive at such explanations, we assume that we have arrived at some view regarding the nature of the thing or event under consideration. To explore such links between the concept of nature and the concept of explanation is the main aim of this chapter. There is currently a vast amount of literature on explanation, and this chapter is not the place to present an overview of all of it. What is being proposed here is a particular line of inquiry that manifests the link between explanation and the nature of things. Aristotle was probably the first to distinguish clearly between investigating causes in nature and investigating the nature of explanation itself. His views on the logic of explanation have been the focus of considerable philosophical attention since then. One section of this chapter will in fact be dedicated to the basic logical patterns of explanation that are predominant in the process of uncovering the nature of things, especially within empirical inquiry. This treatment of explanation, however, does not constitute all there is to say about this topic. An alternative to Aristotle’s approach emerged with...

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