NDPR review of How Successful is Naturalism?

Posted on February 7, 2008


Last year I contributed a paper to a volume on naturalism edited by Georg Gasser. The review of this book has just come out in the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. NDPR tend to have a very high standard of reviews that are both informative and insightful. Jo Rouse’s review is no different in this respect, pointing out clearly the shortcomings of the volume, in particular its failure to get to grips with naturalism as it exists within the philosophy of science. I was, therefore, pleased to see that Rouse seemed to appreciate what I tried to achieve with my contribution:

I found Konrad Talmont-Kaminski’s effort to reframe what is at stake in debates over naturalism perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the most distinctively European contribution to the volume.  Talmont-Kaminski calls attention to the widespread disenchantment with Enlightenment values and the pretensions of human reason successively evoked throughout the 20th Century by trench warfare, aerial bombardment of cities, the Holocaust and other genocidal projects, and the spectre of nuclear annihilation.  In this context, he suggests, a tolerant naturalism about human cognition encourages a modest, fallibilist endorsement of “the sometimes inventive and sometimes methodical application of our limited abilities, context-dependent methods and imperfect knowledge” (p. 196), as a viable alternative to the many forms of nihilism or fanaticism that often accompanied or followed the events of the past century.