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Mission - Guiding Philosophy - Objectives

 

Mission

The Center for Naturalism (CFN) is an educational and advocacy organization devoted to increasing public awareness of naturalism and its implications for social and personal well-being. The CFN seeks to foster the understanding that human beings and their behavior are fully caused, entirely natural phenomena, and that human flourishing is best achieved in the light of such understanding.


Guiding Philosophy

Based on knowledge derived from the physical and social sciences, the world view that is naturalism holds that human beings are fully included in nature. Science tells us that we are connected and united, in each and every aspect of our being, to the natural world. There is, under naturalism, nothing supernatural about us which places us above or beyond nature, but this is something to be celebrated, not feared. Practically speaking, naturalism holds that an individual’s development and behavior are entirely the result of prior and surrounding conditions, both genetic and environmental. Naturalism, therefore, denies that persons have contra-causal free will - that something within them is capable of acting as a first cause. But this isn't a problem, it's just how things are. See A Guide to Naturalism, Tenets of Naturalism, Consequences of Naturalism, and Resources.

Naturalism as a guiding philosophy can help create a better world by illuminating more precisely the conditions under which individuals and societies flourish, and by providing a tangible, real basis for connection and community. It holds that doctrines and policies which assume the existence of a contra-causally free agent, and which therefore ignore the actual causes of behavior, are unfounded and counter-productive. To the extent to which we suppose persons act out of their uncaused free will, to that extent will we be blind to those factors which produce criminality and other social pathologies, or, on the positive side, the factors which make for well-adjusted, productive individuals and societies. See Philosophy and Free Will.

By holding that human behavior arises entirely within a causal context, naturalism also affects fundamental attitudes about ourselves and others. Naturalism undercuts retributive, punitive, and fawning attitudes based on the belief that human agents are first causes, as well other responses amplified by the supposition of free will, such as excessive pride, shame, and guilt. Since individuals are not, on a naturalistic understanding, the ultimate originators of their faults and virtues, they are not deserving, in the traditional metaphysical sense, of praise and blame. Although we will continue to feel gratitude and regret for the good and bad consequences of actions, understanding the full causal picture behind behavior shifts the focus of our emotional, reactive responses from the individual to the wider context. This change in attitudes lends support for social policies based on a fully causal view of human behavior. See Applied Naturalism.

Naturalism also has deep implications for how we conceive of our place in the world, since it replaces the dualism and human exceptionalism of free will with the unity of full causal connection to nature. The psychological and spiritual consequences of naturalism are far-reaching and positive, giving us a sure sense of being at home in a vast, awe-inspiring universe as we create meaning in our lives. The importance we attach to the self and its agenda may lessen when we understand that we aren’t self-made or permanent, but temporary manifestations of individuality created by the unfolding natural order. See Naturalistic Spirituality.

 

Objectives

Increase awareness of naturalism – The Center for Naturalism seeks to increase public awareness of naturalism as a means toward personal and social well-being. Understanding that human beings - their traits, attitudes, and behavior - are fully included in natural causality can lead to more productive social policies and more fulfilling personal relationships to the world and others. Although it challenges supernaturalistic views of the self and morality, naturalism does not threaten or undermine basic human values, but rather puts them on a more realistic footing.

Policy development – The CFN seeks to apply the insights of naturalism to social and economic issues in order to increase human flourishing and reduce unnecessary suffering. By taking a fully causal view of human nature, naturalism can inform the design of social policies which reflect the full range of factors that influence human development and behavior. Such a view can also influence policy objectives by changing fundamental attitudes about credit and blame based in supernaturalistic views of the self.

Serve as resource for personal growth – Naturalism has significant implications for our self-concept and how we understand our place in the world. Seeing our deep connection to nature in every respect can supply the basis for a mature, fulfilling, and cognitively consistent quest for personal growth and meaning. Properly presented, the challenge to conventional wisdom about the self can be a powerful means to increase life satisfaction and deepen interpersonal relationships.

Create a sustainable community for naturalists – Because naturalism is a relatively new and unexplored world view, philosophical naturalists need a community of like-minded individuals who can offer guidance and encouragement. The CFN seeks to develop a broad-based community, on-line and in cities and states world-wide, within which naturalists can meet to develop strategies, local agendas, and opportunities for creative expression, and to simply enjoy each other’s company.



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