Ideology & Ism


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Understanding Naturalism

Feelosofi –  Naturalism in the field of philosophy is a view or approach that emphasizes the understanding that all phenomena, both in the natural world and in the human realm, can be explained through natural laws or empirical science. The philosophy of naturalism assumes that reality can be understood and explained through scientific methods and empirical observation, without the need to rely on spiritual or supernatural aspects. This view often relies on scientific methods, such as physics, chemistry, biology, and sociology, to explain natural phenomena and human behavior.

Naturalism in philosophy also rejects views that are metaphysical in nature or based on religious beliefs. This means that everything must be explainable on the basis of empirical evidence and observation, and must not rely on assumptions or beliefs that cannot be scientifically proven. This view emerged as a reaction to the more speculative philosophy of idealism and metaphysics.

Philosophers associated with naturalism in the history of philosophy include figures such as John Stuart Mill, Auguste Comte, and Ludwig Feuerbach They seek to understand and explain the world and humans based on objective observations and scientific methods. Naturalism in philosophy has made important contributions to the development of science and our understanding of the world we inhabit.

History Of Naturalism

Naturalism in the history of philosophy has strong roots in the development of philosophical thought. This school began to develop in the 17th century with the thoughts of scientists such as Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, who explored natural laws and scientific methods to explain natural phenomena. However, the peak development of naturalism in philosophy occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially through the thinking of figures such as John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant.

John Locke, in his work ” An Essay Concerning Human Understanding ” (1690), put forward the idea that human knowledge comes from empirical experience , namely what can be observed and sensed. This thinking is the basis for epistemological naturalism which emphasizes the importance of experience in building knowledge.

David Hume, a Scottish philosopher , developed the view of empirical naturalism further by highlighting the importance of the association of ideas in the human thought process. He argued that all human concepts and beliefs are rooted in experience and the association of ideas that arise from it.

However, Immanuel Kant brought significant changes to this stream of naturalism. In his work “ Critique der reinen Vernunft ” (Critique of Pure Reason) (1781), Kant considered the important role of human reason in processing experience. Although he still upholds the scientific method and naturalism in his thinking, Kant also gives respect to a priori concepts that govern our understanding of the world.

Naturalism in philosophy continued to develop and change over time, and in the 19th century, figures such as Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill contributed to the formation of positivism, which combined the principles of naturalism with scientific methods and social analysis. The history of naturalism in philosophy reflects human efforts to understand the world and human existence through a more empirical and objective approach, without relying on spiritual or supernatural aspects.

Figures In The Philosophy Of Naturalism

Figures in the history of naturalist philosophy have had an important role in developing and articulating the basic principles of this school. The following are some of the leading figures in the philosophy of naturalism:

  1. John Locke (1632-1704) : John Locke was an English philosopher who is considered one of the fathers of epistemological naturalism. In his work “ An Essay Concerning Human Understanding ” (1690), Locke emphasized that human knowledge comes from empirical experience, which later formed the basis for naturalist epistemology .
  2. David Hume (1711-1776) : Scottish philosopher David Hume played an important role in developing empirical naturalism. He emphasized that all human knowledge comes from experience and the association of ideas. Hume also argued that natural laws are the result of consistent experience and observation.
  3. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) : Although Immanuel Kant is often considered a philosopher who shifted direction from naturalism, he still played an important role in the development of this school. In “ Critique der reinen Vernunft ” (Critique of Pure Reason) (1781), Kant combines elements of naturalism with elements of rationalism, emphasizing the important role of human reason in the processing of experience.
  4. Auguste Comte (1798-1857) : Auguste Comte was the founder of positivism , which was an extension of naturalism into the social sciences. He argued that scientific methods should be applied in social analysis, and he developed the idea of ​​the “law of three stages” which states that human thought progresses from the theological stage to the metaphysical stage, then to the positive (scientific) stage.
  5. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) : John Stuart Mill was an English philosopher and economist who continued the tradition of empirical naturalism. He combined the ideas of Locke, Hume, and Comte in his thinking and defended the importance of the scientific method in analyzing social and political problems.

The figures above are representatives of naturalist thinking in various aspects such as epistemologyethics and social sciences. Their contributions have formed the basis of thought for philosophers and scientists in various fields and are still relevant in our understanding of the world and humans.

Differences Between The Philosophy Of Naturalism And Other Schools

The philosophy of naturalism has several significant differences with other philosophical schools, especially with schools such as rationalism and idealism. Here are some of the main differences:

  1. Source of Knowledge : Naturalism prioritizes empirical experience as the main source of knowledge. Naturalist philosophers such as John Locke and David Hume believed that human knowledge comes from concrete observation and experience. Meanwhile, rationalism, held by figures such as René Descartes , emphasizes the role of reason and rational thinking in obtaining knowledge. Idealism, as espoused by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, tends to emphasize ideas and concepts as sources of knowledge.
  2. Reality and Materialism : Naturalism tends to be materialist, namely that reality consists mostly of matter or physical substances. This is different from idealism which argues that basic reality is ideas or thoughts. Rationalism tends to combine rational aspects and ideas in understanding reality.
  3. Research Methods : Naturalism emphasizes scientific methods and empirical observation as the main tools in approaching natural phenomena and human behavior. Rationalism , on the other hand, seeks truth through rational and deductive thinking. Idealism often utilizes speculative methods in understanding reality and the world.
  4. Determinism : Naturalism tends to emphasize determinism in explaining human behavior and social phenomena. They believe that environmental and social factors greatly influence human behavior. In contrast, rationalism and idealism tend to highlight the role of human reason and freedom in determining their fate.
  5. Approaches to Religion : Naturalism is often skeptical of religious and supernatural aspects in understanding reality. Rationalism can include religious thought but with an emphasis on rationality. Meanwhile idealism, especially in a Hegelian context, can try to include spiritual or idealistic elements in the understanding of religion.

These differences create diversity in worldviews and philosophical approaches to reality, knowledge, and ethics . Although these schools have fundamental differences, they also often interact and contribute to the development of philosophical thought as a whole.

Human Relations With Nature In The Philosophy Of Naturalism

In the philosophy of naturalism, the relationship between humans and nature is one of the central aspects that is emphasized. This school considers humans as part of nature and emphasizes human dependence on the environment. Several important points regarding the relationship between humans and nature in the context of naturalism are as follows:

  1. Dependence on Nature : Naturalism recognizes that humans are inseparable from nature and are very dependent on nature for their survival. Humans, in the naturalist view, are creatures bound by natural laws and cannot function outside the context of their natural environment.
  2. Influence of the Environment on Humans : Naturalism emphasizes that human character and behavior are significantly influenced by their physical and social environment. This means that factors such as geography, weather, culture, and social structure contribute to the formation of humans and societies.
  3. Harmony with Nature : In naturalism, the success of humans and society is often measured by their level of harmony with nature. A life in balance with nature is considered an important principle in achieving human well-being.
  4. Natural Resource Management : Naturalism also highlights human responsibility in managing natural resources wisely. Environmental destruction and excessive exploitation of nature are seen as detrimental actions, because they can damage the balance of nature and ultimately harm humans.
  5. Scientific Approach to Nature : Naturalism emphasizes the use of scientific methods in understanding nature. Humans are expected to understand the laws of nature and live lives based on empirical knowledge to optimize their success and well-being in their relationship with nature.

Overall, the relationship between humans and nature in the philosophy of naturalism reflects the recognition of the strong interconnection between humans and their natural environment. Naturalism encourages awareness of human responsibility in protecting nature, understanding and respecting natural laws, and using science and empirical observations to guide their behavior and actions in facing the challenges and opportunities provided by nature.

Naturalism In Science

Naturalism in science refers to a scientific approach that focuses on observation, experimentation and analysis based on natural reality. This is closely related to the view that nature is the only reliable source of knowledge and that scientific explanations must be based on natural phenomena that can be observed and measured. Here are some important points regarding naturalism in science:

  1. Empiricism and Observation : Naturalism in science emphasizes the importance of empirical experience and observation in building knowledge. Naturalist scientists believe that reliable knowledge must be based on observable and measurable data and repeatable experiments.
  2. Scientific Method : This school prioritizes the scientific method as the main tool in revealing the truth about the world. The scientific method includes hypothesis formation, experimentation, observation, data analysis, and drawing conclusions based on empirical evidence .
  3. Determinism : Naturalism in science often recognizes the existence of natural laws that govern natural behavior and phenomena. This means that nature has an order and uniformity that can be understood through scientific methods.
  4. Rejection of the Supernatural : Naturalism rejects explanations based on supernatural or metaphysical elements. This means that all explanations in science must be based on natural principles and natural laws.
  5. Respect for Objective Truth : Naturalist scientists strive to achieve objective and universal knowledge that can be accepted by anyone, without reliance on personal or religious beliefs. Scientific truth must be able to be tested, proven, and accepted by the scientific community.
  6. Application to Various Scientific Disciplines : Naturalism in science can be applied in various scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, and psychology. The principles of naturalism help guide scientific research and ensure that science continues to advance.

Naturalism in science has become a philosophical basis for the scientific method and the discovery of new knowledge. This approach provides the basis for scientific and technological progress and results in a deeper understanding of the universe and the world around us.

Criticism Of Naturalism

The philosophy of naturalism, like other philosophical schools, cannot be separated from various criticisms and questions that have been raised by critics and other philosophers . The following are some criticisms of the philosophy of naturalism:

  1. Reductionism : One of the main criticisms of naturalism is that this approach can tend to be reductionist , that is, reducing complex reality to simpler parts. Critics argue that naturalism tends to ignore abstract and qualitative aspects of natural phenomena, such as consciousness, morality, and meaning.
  2. Morality and Ethics Issues : Naturalism often faces challenges in explaining aspects of morality and ethics. Views that base morality on empirical facts and evolution are sometimes considered unable to meet deeper and universal ethical needs. Critics also highlight the difficulty in taking the step from “this is” (scientific description) to “this must” (normative or ethical ).
  3. Strict Determinism : Some critics believe that naturalism places too much emphasis on determinism in explaining human behavior and natural phenomena. This criticism considers that naturalism tends to ignore the role of human freedom, creativity, and the possibility of change in reality.
  4. Limitations in Understanding Abstract Reality : Naturalism tends to have difficulty in explaining abstract reality such as mathematics, philosophical concepts, and aspects of life that are difficult to measure empirically . This school mainly focuses on observation and measurement, so it often faces difficulties in dealing with aspects that cannot be seen or measured directly.
  5. Limitations in Understanding Qualia : Naturalism often cannot explain subjective experiences or qualia, such as what it is like to feel color or pain. Philosophers who highlight qualities as an important part of human reality consider that naturalism is unable to deal adequately with this concept.

These criticisms illustrate that, although naturalism provides a powerful framework for the scientific understanding and explanation of natural phenomena, it also has certain limitations and challenges in explaining its more abstract, subjective, and moral aspects. The philosophy of naturalism remains a subject of interesting debate in the world of philosophy, and these discussions continue to address shortcomings and improve our understanding of reality.


In conclusion, the philosophy of naturalism is a philosophical school that emphasizes the use of scientific methods and empirical experience in explaining natural reality and human behavior. This school views that all forms of knowledge must be able to be tested and explained through observable natural phenomena. Naturalist philosophers believe that humans are part of nature and that scientific explanations are the key to understanding the world.

Although the philosophy of naturalism has provided a strong foundation for scientific and technological progress, this school also has criticism and limitations. Reductionism, difficulties in explaining aspects of morality and ethics , as well as obstacles in understanding abstract reality and qualities are some of the criticisms that are often faced. However, naturalism remains a powerful approach to understanding the physical world and our universe.

In subsequent developments, the philosophy of naturalism continues to develop and adapt to new challenges in science and philosophical thought. It remains a foundation for the scientific method, bridging the gap between science and philosophy , and continuing to contribute to our understanding of humans, nature, and the relationship between the two. As time progresses, the philosophy of naturalism will continue to be a subject of debate and research, helping us understand our world better.


What Is The Philosophy Of Naturalism?

The philosophy of naturalism is a philosophical approach that emphasizes the scientific method and empirical observation as a way to understand natural reality and human behavior. This school believes that all forms of knowledge must be explained through observable natural phenomena.

How Does Naturalism Relate To Science?

Naturalism is very closely related to science, because this school views the scientific method as the key to obtaining reliable knowledge. Naturalist scientists use scientific methods to explain natural phenomena and human behavior.

What Is The Difference Between Naturalism And Rationalism?

The main difference is that naturalism emphasizes observation and empirical experience as sources of knowledge, while rationalism emphasizes the role of reason and rational thinking. Naturalism tends more towards concrete facts, while rationalism tends towards concepts and deduction.

Does Naturalism Exclude Abstract Aspects Such As Ethics And Morality?

Naturalism often faces criticism regarding its ability to explain aspects of morality and ethics . This school tends to focus more on scientific descriptions rather than normative or ethical ones . However, there have been attempts to include ethics within the framework of naturalism with approaches such as naturalist ethics.

Who Are The Famous Figures In The Philosophy Of Naturalism?

Some famous figures in naturalist philosophy include John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant in the context of epistemology . Meanwhile, in the context of social science, figures such as Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill played an important role in developing the flow of positivism which originated from naturalism.


  • “ An Essay Concerning Human Understanding ” – John Locke (1689)
  • “ A Treatise of Human Nature ” – David Hume (1739)
  • Critique der reinen Vernunft ” – Immanuel Kant (1781)
  • “ Positive Philosophy ” – Auguste Comte (1830-1842)
  • “ A System of Logic ” – John Stuart Mill (1843)

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Raymond Kelvin Nando, "Naturalism," Feelosofi, 1 November 2023,
Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast