Fundamental Principles Of Naturalism

The fundamental convictions of naturalism, its general tendencies, and the

points of view which determine its outlook, are primarily related to that

order of facts which forms the subject of the natural sciences, to

"Nature." It is only secondarily that it attempts to penetrate with the

methods of the natural sciences into the region of the conscious, of the

mind, into the domain that underlies the mental sciences, including
br /> history and the aesthetic, political, and religious sciences, and to show

that, in this region as in the other, natural law and the same principles

of interpretation obtain, that here, too, the "materialistic conception of

history holds true, and that there is no autonomy of mind."

The interests of religion here go hand in hand with those of the mental

sciences, in so far as these claim to be distinct and independent. For the

question is altogether one of the reality, pre-eminence, and independence

of the spiritual as opposed to the "natural." Occasionally it has been

thought that the whole problem of the relations between religion and

naturalism was concentrated on this point, and the study of nature has

been left to naturalism as if it were indifferent or even hopeless, thus

leaving a free field for theories of all kinds, the materialistic

included. It is only in regard to the Darwinian theory of evolution and

the mechanical theory of the origin and nature of life, and particularly

in regard to the relatively unimportant question of "spontaneous

generation" that a livelier interest is usually awakened. But these

isolated theories are only a part of the "reduction," which is

characteristic of naturalism, and they can only be rightly estimated and

understood in connection with it. We shall turn our attention to them only

after we have carefully considered what is fundamental and essential. But

the idea that religion may calmly neglect the study of nature as long as

naturalism leaves breathing-room for the freedom and independence of mind

is quite erroneous. If religion is true, nature must be of God, and it

must bear tokens which allow us to interpret it as of God. And such signs

are to be found. What we shall have to say in regard to them may be summed

up in the following propositions:--

1. Even the world, which has been brought under the reign of scientific

laws, is a mystery; it has been formulated, but not explained.

2. The world governed by law is still dependent, conditioned, and


3. The conception of Nature as obedient to law is not excluded but rather

demanded by belief in God.

4, 5. We cannot comprehend the true nature and depth of things, and the

world which we do comprehend is not the true Reality of things; it is only

its appearance. In feeling and intuition this appearance points beyond

itself to the true nature of things.

6. Ideas and purposes, and with them Providence and the control of things,

can neither be established by the natural sciences nor disputed by them.

7. The causal interpretation demanded by natural science fits in with an

explanation according to purpose, and the latter presupposes the former.