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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Natural Unity and Human Nature

  • Author(s): Jr., Manuel Cabrera
  • Advisor(s): Almog, Joseph
  • Herman, Barbara
  • et al.

Philosophical naturalism is grounded in a commitment to natural integration - to understanding the nature of anything in Nature against the background of natural unity: i.e., in terms of our overall picture of Nature and how it hangs together. But what's required for natural integration - specifically, of human mind and agency?

In Chapter 1, I consider one common kind of answer to this question - physicalism. Physicalists think the cost of natural integration is impoverishing the language of nature - the terms and concepts used for natural integration. This is the entry point for human exceptionalism: the worry that the repertoire of physical terms and concepts is simply too impoverished to account for human mind and/or agency. I argue physicalism is mistaken by sketching and defending a view I call Spinozism. For the Spinozist, any truth concerning natural beings (a) pertains to their nature, and (b) concerns Nature as such. Thus, the language of nature is ordinary language, and the expressive resources available for naturally integrating human life include any we need to express any truth about it. Nevertheless, Spinozism embraces natural unity and natural integration - albeit in different forms than those embraced by physicalists.

Chapter 2 is devoted to articulating what I take to be the most serious objection to Spinozism - the objection from explanation. According to this objection, the Spinozist neglects the role of explanation in natural integration. That is, we can only understand natural unity by formulating a systematic physics - i.e., a unified explanatory framework capable of accounting for anything in Nature. And since the repertoire of terms or concepts used to formulate a systematic physics is likely to be relatively impoverished, the language of nature is as well. I go on to sketch the fundamental metaphysical commitments of this view - what I call explanatorism.

In Chapter 3, I respond to the objection from explanation by arguing that it involves an illegitimate projection of epistemic features of explanation onto our metaphysics, and close by contrasting the Spinozist's view concerning the unity of Nature and explanation with the explanatorist's.

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