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poetic naturalism

A way to talk about the world that strives to be accurate and still able to talk about things that we can't talk about accurately.

Naturalism is a philosophy that believes there’s only one world: the natural world (made of matter, energy, space, time, etc). It can be explored and tested and understood through the scientific method. There’s no “supernatural” world that can’t be explained as part of the natural world. The “poetic” qualifier comes from Sean Carroll, which I learned about through his book “The Big Picture”.

He does a good job of making the case for an appreciation of not only the natural world, but “ways of talking about it” through stories, mental models, theories, etc. To the extent that these various ways of talking about the natural world are useful and consistent with what we know about the natural world, they can be considered “real”.

In his words:

“A poetic naturalist will deny that notions like “right and wrong,” “purpose and duty,” or “beauty and ugliness” are part of the fundamental architecture of the world. The world is just the world, unfolding according to the patterns of nature, free of any judgmental attributes. But these moral and ethical and aesthetic vocabularies can be perfectly useful ways of talking about the world. The criteria for choosing the best ways to talk about it will necessarily be different that the criteria we use for purely descriptive, scientific vocabularies. There won’t be a single rational way to delineate good from bad, sublime from repulsive. But we can still speak in such terms, and put in the hard work to make our actions live up to our own internal aspirations. We just have to admit that judgments come from within ourselves.”

This resonates with me quite a bit.

From Sean-Carroll.
Added to the Nature of reality pile.
December 29, 2018

Buster Benson (@buster) is a writer and builder of things. If you're new here, check the about page or see my entire life on a page.


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