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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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Like most people, I owe to others more than I can say. This book originated in the philosophy of science and metaphysics modules I taught at Heythrop College, University of London, from 2007 to 2013. As such, it owes a debt to the students who followed these lectures and engaged with them, forcing me to rethink and clarify one issue after another. I owe the same kind of debt to members of the Philosophy Department who asked me questions and made suggestions when I presented parts of the book in research seminars. Special thanks are due to those who read and commented upon parts of the manuscript: Craig French, Peter Hacker, Christopher Humphries, Michael Lacewing, Sarah Pawlett, and an anonymous reader for the Philosophy Faculty of the Gregorian University, Rome. The inaccuracies and weaknesses that remain are, of course, entirely my responsibility. Although none of the chapters of this book has been published before in its present form, parts of some of them are extended and reworked versions of previously published or delivered papers. In chapter 6, I use material from “Is Science eliminating Ordinary Talk?” Forum Philosophicum 4 (1999), 25–39. Some parts of chapter 7 are derived from “Science interacting with Philosophy: the case of Ludwig Wittgenstein”, Gregorianum, 84/3 (2003), pp. 584–616. In chapter 9, I draw from my paper “A neglected difficulty with Social Darwinism,” Heythrop Journal 48 (2008): 1–9, and also from the paper I delivered in June 2008 at a conference...

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