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
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.