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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 4 – The Limits of Causation


Chapter 4 The Limits of Causation

This chapter will engage in an inquiry that explores what happens when arguments on the nature of causation are stretched to their limits. The inquiry will deal specifically with a very special causal relation, the causal relation for which the effect is not just one object among others but the entire universe. This philosophical challenge is not new. Its long history has produced various debates, some of which have coined specialized words, often loaded with philosophical nuances characteristic of the age in which they were introduced. What follows is not a summary of what has been achieved through this long history. It is rather a study of an old problem from a new angle, the novelty consisting in the special attention given to how the concepts of causation and nature can be stretched to their limits. Since it deals with the ultimate cause, this chapter will produce resonances with various debates of natural theology; and, since it deals with the universe as a whole, it will touch on issues discussed and quantified in empirical cosmology. Special care, however, will be taken to adopt a method that is definitely philosophical, a method that is essentially related to conceptual analysis. The first section will deal with the very idea of the totality of nature, the universe. The second section will then present the main argument concerning the cause of the universe. The strength of this argument will then be reinforced by showing how three...

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