Naturalism

1998-11-13

There is a quote that I like a lot from Chinese philosopher Fung Yu-lan:

"It is not necessary that man should be religious, but it is necessary that he should be philosophical. When he is philosophical, he has the very best of the blessings of religion."

To me this describes things perfectly and is an indication of the wisdom of Chinese philosophy. Those who are religious would certainly disagree with this and would argue that religion provides "something more" than philosophy, but to me this "something more" is unsubstantiated belief -- that is, faith. Religion all boils down to faith, and I have no faith or belief in this sense -- I try to base all my thinking on reality, not something that is outside of nature and experience. You could call this "materialism" but in the west materialism sometimes means something more specific (usually a view in the philosophy of science, not materialism in the Marxist sense). I would use the term "naturalism" for the kind of view I espouse (since naturalism seems most directly oppositive supernaturalism or theism). Once you grant the existence of the supernatural (what is beyond nature and human experience), then it is just a matter of choosing between different religions.

Here is another quote from Fung Yu-lan that I like:

"Those who know both western and Chinese music prefer the former, but those who know both western and Chinese philosophy prefer the latter."

It seems to me that some sort of combination of the best of all naturalistic philosophical traditions is the way to go, but I'm still learning so it's too early for me to say exactly what that would look like. I like the phrase "a philosophy for living on earth" to describe this, but that comes from Ayn Rand, who was not very friendly to eastern thought. She didn't know what she was missing, if you ask me!


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