Paul Thagard uses new accounts of brain mechanisms and social interactions to forge theories of mind, knowledge, reality, morality, justice, meaning, and the arts. Natural Philosophy brings new methods for analyzing concepts, understanding values, and achieving coherence. It shows how to unify the humanities with the cognitive and social sciences.
How can people know what is real and strive to make the world better? Philosophy is the attempt to answer general questions about the nature of knowledge, reality, and values. Natural Philosophy pursues these questions by drawing heavily on the sciences and finds no room for supernatural entities such as souls, gods, and possible worlds. It provides original accounts of the traditional branches of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics.
Rather than reducing the humanities to the sciences, this book displays fertile interconnections that show that philosophical questions and artistic practices can be much better understood by considering how human brains operate and interact in social contexts. The sciences and the humanities are interdependent, because both the natural and social sciences cannot avoid questions about methods and values that are primarily the province of philosophy.
This book belongs to a trio that includes Brain-Mind: From Neurons to Consciousness and Creativity and Mind-Society: From Brains to Social Sciences and Professions. They can be read independently, but together they make up a Treatise on Mind and Society that provides a unified and comprehensive treatment of the cognitive sciences, social sciences, professions, and humanities.
About the author
Paul Thagard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. He is the author of The Cognitive Science of Science (MIT Press, 2012) and many other books.
"Thagard embraces what he calls the "three analysis" method-i.e., providing exemplars, typical features, and explanations. He applies this methodology extensively throughout the text to philosophical questions related to such topics as mind, knowledge, reality, morality, meaning, and beauty. Though this strategy 'does not yield answers that reign with unchallengeable certainty,' as Thagard writes in chapter 1, it does provide answers-or, better, hypotheses that are consistent with a metaphysics based in scientific realism and an epistemology based in reliable coherentism."
--H. Storl, Augustana College, Choice
"Rather than focusing on providing the necessary and sufficient conditions for a concept or an event or on conscious experience and introspection, Thagard embraces what he calls the 'three analysis' method--i.e., providing exemplars, typical features, and explanations. He applies this methodology extensively throughout the text to philosophical questions related to such topics as mind, knowledge, reality, morality, meaning, and beauty. Though this strategy 'does not yield answers that reign with unchallengeable certainty,' as Thagard writes in chapter 1, it does provide answers--or, better, hypotheses that are consistent with a metaphysics based in scientific realism and an epistemology based in reliable coherentism."
"With the characteristic clarity, economy, and insight that have distinguished all of his work for more than four decades, Thagard demonstrates the strengths of a naturalistic philosophical program that attends to the relevant sciences, compared to its classical and contemporary competitors."
--Robert N. McCauley, William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor of Philosophy at the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture, Emory University and author of Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not (OUP)
"Drawing on the many original positions he has developed throughout his distinguished career in philosophy and cognitive science, Paul Thagard provides a synoptic overview of natural philosophy in his flowing, easy to read style. He makes use of the now widely accepted view, that he helped to develop, of interactions between mechanisms at multiple levels - the molecular, neuronal, mental, and social. The work admirably shows that philosophy can be, as he puts it 'extraverted, directing its attention to real world problems.'"
--Lindley Darden, Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland, College Park
"With the appearance of Natural Philosophy, Paul Thagard, one of the foremost proponents of philosophical naturalism in our time, establishes how the social, cognitive, and brain sciences, and Chris Eliasmith's Semantic Pointer Architecture, in particular, provide resources for a rigorous, scientifically-informed, and systematic approach to the entire range of classical philosophical problems. Thagard's Natural Philosophy is not a program of reduction but rather one of integration, which examines what are, in a scientific age, the inevitable interconnections and interdependence of these sciences and the perennial projects of philosophy - including metaphysics and mind, epistemology and ethics, and political philosophy and the philosophy of art."
Other titles by Paul Thagard
Bots and Beasts
What Makes Machines, Animals, and People Smart?
From Brains to Social Sciences and Professions (Treatise on Mind and Society)
From Social Brains to Knowledge, Reality, Morality, and Beauty (Treatise on Mind and Society)
From Neurons to Consciousness and Creativity (Treatise on Mind and Society)
The Cognitive Science of Science
Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change
Mind, second edition
Introduction to Cognitive Science
Coherence in Thought and Action
Introductory Selections on Cognitive Science
Analogy in Creative Thought