Belief in Naturalism: An Epistemologist’s Philosophy of Mind

Here’s a paper from Susan Haack to be delivered at the Helsinki Metaphysical Club.

In philosophy, George Santayana famously observed, “partisanship is treason.”  I agree. Like good-faith inquirers in any field, philosophers have an obligation to seek true and illuminating answers to the questions that concern them; and it would obviously be a serious breach of this obligation simply to adopt a party line on some question, and then defend it against all objections. So my title, “Belief in Naturalism,” should most emphatically not be taken as suggesting that I adopt naturalism as an article of faith. When I have taken a naturalistic stance (as I have in metaphysics, in philosophy of science, and in epistemology), I have done so, not because it is naturalistic, but because, on reflection, it seemed to be right—the best, the most reasonable, stance to take. What my title signals is, rather, that my purpose here is to shed some light on what belief is, on why the concept of belief is needed in epistemology—and how all this relates to debates over epistemological naturalism.

To this end, I will first clarify the many varieties of naturalism (section 1); next distinguish the various forms of epistemological naturalism specifically (section 2); then offer my theory of belief (section 3); and, by way of conclusion, apply this theory to resolve some contested questions (section 4).