Liberal Naturalism without Reenchantment


  • Thomas J. Spiegel University of Potsdam



Naturalism, Liberal Naturalism, Disenchantment, Secularism


There is a close conceptual relation between the notions of religious disenchantment and scientific naturalism. One way of resisting philosophical and cultural implications of the scientific image and the subsequent process of disenchantment can be found in attempts at sketching a reenchanted worldview. The main issue of accounts of reenchantment can be a rejection of scientific results in a way that flies in the face of good reason. Opposed to such reenchantment is scientific naturalism which implies an entirely disenchanted worldview. However, one of the main problems of scientific naturalism are placement problems. A reenchanted worldview does have the conceptual resources to avoid placement problems, yet seems to throw out the baby (a reasonable appeal to science as an authority) with the bathwater (placement problems). A dilemma results: the Scylla of an undesirable scientific naturalism and the Charybdis of a rampant, seemingly prescientific reenchanted worldview. In this article I argue that there is a safe middle passage between these two options, i.e. the recently proposed liberal naturalism which allows for a moderate normative reenchantment. Liberal naturalism lets us have it both ways: avoiding the placement problems while retaining a necessary and reasonable adherence to science, thereby avoiding both an all-too restrictive scientific naturalism.


Berman, Morris. 1981. The Reenchantman of the World. Cornell Univ. Press.

Bilgrami, Akeel. 2014. “The Political Possibilities of the Long Romantic Period”. In Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment, edited by Akeel Bilgrami, 175–216. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

Boas, Franz. 1940. Race, Language, and Culture. Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press.

Braddon-Mitchel, David, and Robert Nola, eds. 2008. Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

De Caro, Mario. 2009. “Varieties of Naturalism”. In The Waning of Materialism: New Essays on the Mind-body Problem, edited by Robert C. Koons and George Bealer, 365–74. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

—. 2011. “Beyond Scientism”. In New Perspectives on Pragmatism and Analytic Philosophy, edited by Rosa Calcaterra, 21–34. Amsterdam: Brill-Rodopi.

—. 2014. “Two Forms of Non-Reductive Naturalism”. Phenomenology and Mind, no. 7: 72–83.

De Caro, Mario, and David Macarthur, eds. 2004. Naturalism in Question. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

—, eds. 2010. Naturalism and Normativity. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

De Caro, Mario, and Alberto Voltolini. 2010. “Is Liberal Naturalism possible?”. In Naturalism and Normativity, edited by Mario De Caro and David Macarthur, 69–86. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Chalmers, David, and David Bourget. 2009. “The PhilPapers Surveys: Preliminary Survey results”. http: //

Choudhury, Suparna, Saskia Nagel, and Jan Slaby. 2009. “Critical Neuroscience: Linking Neuroscience and Society through Critical Practice”. BioSocieties, no. 4: 61–77.

Gardner, Sebastian. 2007. “The Limits of Naturalism and the Metaphysics of German Idealism”. In German Idealism: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Espen Hammer, 19–49. London: Routledge.

Habermas, Jürgen. 2004. “Freiheit und Determinismus”. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, no. 52, 6: 871–90.

—. 2011. Glauben und Wissen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Hähnel, Martin, ed. Aristotelian Naturalism. New York: Springer.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question concerning Technology”. In The Question concerning Technology and other Essay, edited by Martin Heidegger, 3–35. New York & London: Garland.

Hornsby, Jennifer. 1997. Simple-Mindedness: In Defense of Naiıve Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

Jackson, Frank. 1998. From Metaphysics to Ethics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Kim, Jaegwon. 2003. “The American Origins of Philosophical Naturalism”. Journal of Philosophical Research 28: 83–98. doi:10.5840/jpr200328supplement28.

Lavazza, Andrea, and Mario De Caro. 2010. “Not so Fast: On Some Bold Neuroscientific Claims Concerning Human Agency”. Neuroethics, no. 3: 23–41.

Levine, George. 2006. Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-enchantment of the World. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press.

Libet, Benjamin. 2004. “Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action”. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, no. 61: 29–51.

Macarthur, David. 2004. “Naturalizing the Human or Humanizing Nature: Science, Nature and the Supernatural”. Erkenntnis, no. 61: 29–51. doi.10.1023/B:ERKE.0000037533.27509.c0.

—. 2018. “Liberal Naturalism and the Scientific Image of the World”. Inquiry, no. 62 (5): 1–21. doi:10.1080/0020174X.2018.1484006.

McDowell, John. 1996. Mind and World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

McGrath, Alister. 2002. The Reenchantment of Nature: The Denial of Religion and the Ecological Crisis. Westminster: The Crown Publishing Group.

Neta, Ram. 2007. “Review of M. De Caro and D. Macarthur, eds., Naturalism in Question”. Philosophical Review, no. 116: 657–62.

Nicole Vincent, ed. 2013. Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1974. The Gay Science. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. Vintage Books.

Price, Huw. 2013. Expressivism, Pragmatism, and Representationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Putnam, Hilary. 2004. “The Content and Appeal of ‘Naturalism’”. In Naturalism in Question, edited by Mario De Caro and David Macarthur, 59–70. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

Ranalli, Chris. 2021. “What is Deep Disagreement?”. Topoi 40, no. 5: 983–98. doi:10.1007/s11245–018–9600–2.

Rorty, Richard. 2010. “Naturalism and Quietism”. In Naturalism and Normativity, edited by Mario De Caro and David Macarthur, 55–68. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Roth, Gerhard. 2013. The Long Evolution of Brains and Minds. New York: Springer.

—. 2016. “Verantwortung, Determinismus und Indeterminismus”. In Handbuch Verantwortung, edited by Ludger Heidbrink, 295–313. Berlin: Springer.

Spiegel, Thomas J. 2020. “Ist der Naturalismus eine Ideologie?”. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 68, no. 1: 51–71.

Strawson, Peter. 1985. Skepticism and Naturalism. Some Varieties. Metuen and New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Stroud, Barry. 2004. “The Charm of Naturalism”. In Naturalism in Question, edited by Mario De Caro and David Macarthur, 231–51. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

Taylor, Charles. 2016. “Can Secularism Travel?”. In Beyond the Secular West, edited by Akeel Bilgrami, 1–27. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Weber, Max. 2004. “Science as Vocation”. In The Vocation Lectures, edited by Max Weber, 1–31. Hackett Publishing.

Weinberg, Steven. 1993. The First Three Minutes. Fontana Books.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1984. Über Gewissheit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.



How to Cite

Spiegel, Thomas J. 2022. “Liberal Naturalism Without Reenchantment”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 14 (1):207-29.