The Enlightenment and Modern philosophy posed a dramatic philosophical challenge to Christianity because, for the first time in philosophical history, atheism became a widely accepted, if not dominant, presupposition. Atheism seems to be almost the inevitable conclusion of Modern philosophy. The problem, however, is that this results in a complete logical absurdity.
Modern philosophy replaced the ancient concept of telos (the idea that all things are striving to fulfill a purpose) with naturalistic determinism: the regularity of the universe governed by fixed natural laws. Such determinism, barring the intervention of any super-natural or spiritual entities, must encompass everything, including the activities of our minds as physical/chemical entities. This implies that our thoughts, desires, beliefs, etc. are all determined by the natural laws of the physical universe.
This state of affairs, however, breaks down into a radical skepticism.
If our thoughts and beliefs are entirely the product of physical/chemical reactions that were inevitably set in motion the moment the universe came into existence then what reason do we have to trust that these beliefs are true?
This question serves as an epistemic defeater that cannot be overturned because even if we could come up with a reason to think our beliefs were true in this state of affairs, that reason would be the product of the same physical/chemical reactions in question. This eventually results in an absurdity because even our belief in naturalism would be subject to this defeater. Ultimately then, this defeater undermines our basis for knowing anything, resulting in a radical skepticism.
This is certainly not an argument for Christianity. What this does suggest, however, is that in order to maintain any claims of knowledge we cannot embrace a naturalistic worldview.
This conclusion then leads to another question: can the modern paradigm of science be maintained apart from a naturalistic worldview? And if not, what paradigm must we adopt?
It seems to me that the solution to this question forces us to revisit Aristotle’s ancient concept of telos.
2 thoughts on “The Irrationality of Naturalism”