-I ran into this definition of (philosophical) naturalism, which struck me as pretty common: “The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.” Really? All phenomena? How about patching a tire? Choosing the winning lotto numbers (or the loosing ones)? How about a white thing thing falling or a triangle having at least two sides? Stepping in the bathtub when an earthquake happens? How about wax becoming a honeycomb? In general, what about anything that happens by art or by chance? More controversial examples against the point might work better, since among “all phenomena” we find, for example, higher incarceration rates among blacks; fewer engineering degrees for women and Latinos; more donut shops owned by Cambodians; More atheist men. Natural laws and causes explain all of them?
For that matter, does the sentence “all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws” come to be naturally?
If you don’t make any meaningful distinction between art and nature and chance (and luck), why should anyone take you seriously? Inventing some sense of “nature” in which artificial things or chance things arise “naturally” is simply an abuse of language and obviously wrong.
-Toward the end of his arguments that nature acts for an end, Aristotle gives this argument against those who assert that nature does not act for the sake of something.
[T]he person who asserts this entirely does away with ‘nature’ and what exists ‘by nature’. For those things are natural which, by a continuous movement originated from an internal principle, arrive at some completion: the same completion is not reached from every principle; nor any chance completion, but always the tendency in each is towards the same end, if there is no impediment.
The argument can be made more simple, as St. Thomas makes it: nature is a principle or source of something coming to be, just as art is a source by which artifacts come to be, and (in an accidental way) chance is the source of chance things. But simply in virtue of being a per se source or principle, nature acts for an end. The “end” is exactly what nature is a principle of.
This is the real reason why philsophical naturalism is contrary to understanding nature. Even on the most basic level of understanding what nature is, we must understand it as a principle of some principled thing and therefore as a source that acts for an end. To use the jargon of the schools, that’s teleology. We all know what that means.