Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Fales, Evan M

First Committee Member

Cunning, David R

Second Committee Member

Figdor, Carrie

Third Committee Member

Fumerton, Richard A

Fourth Committee Member

Landini, Gregory T


While naturalism is said to be the oldest and most popular view among contemporary philosophers and scientists, serious and pervasive questions linger concerning its nature, norms, goals, and status. I critically assess these issues in defending a metaphilosophy of naturalism. I begin in arguing that naturalism is neither a trivial nor empty worldview suffering from a lack of cohesion or content. In support of this, I develop a typology of naturalism from which I extract three “core” commitments exemplified by nearly all forms of the doctrine. I thus provide some preliminary, non-arbitrary grounds for the naturalist to defend the thesis from many objections. In the second chapter, I address the fundamental ontological commitments of metaphysical naturalism. Problems with defining naturalism are connected to the many ways these notions are understood, and I defend account of what it is for an entity, process, phenomenon, etc. to be natural or occur naturally. In furtherance of this, I defend in Chapters 3 and 4 an analysis of nature according to its two primary senses: The first is the particular sense, as picked out in claims referring to the nature of some entity, and the second is the universal sense, as is picked out in reference to nature itself. For both primary senses, I assess various arguments for acosmism, the thesis that nature does not exist (in either sense). In response to these challenges, I argue that the concept of nature in both senses is theoretically and ontologically fundamental, and thus indispensable to philosophy and science. The penultimate chapter constitutes an analysis of the relationship between naturalism and physicalism. I argue that even if the basic principles upon which physicalism rests are true, they nevertheless highly questionable and problematic. I connect and resolve these issues with an assessment of the relations between them and the Principle of Sufficient Reason. I conclude the chapter with an account of naturalization. In the final chapter, I criticize various interpretations of the claim that metaphysics and science, are and/or ought to be “continuous.” I argue that there are deep commonalities between metaphysics and science which frustrate attempts to show that there is a fundamental distinction between them. In conclusion, I show that metaphysical naturalism is not only more rich and complex than what most of its sympathizers and detractors believe, but also that it is consistent with many theses, norms, and posits of traditional, non-naturalistic approaches in philosophy generally.


Metaphilosophy, Metaphysics, Naturalism, Nature, Ontology, Science


vii, 382 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 335-382).


Copyright © 2018 Matthew Raymond Childers

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