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Using an interactive format, workshops encourage participants to explore their assumptions about causality, freedom, agency, and the implications of naturalism. Workshops can be tailored to last from 1.25 to 2.5 hours, including a 10-15 minute break.

Below is the outline of a recent workshop, "Encountering Naturalism: From Self to Society," presented at the American Humanist Association 2005 conference in Albuquerque. Please be in touch if you're interested in scheduling a workshop for your group or conference.

Encountering Naturalism: From Self to Society
Workshop presented at AHA Conference, May 7, 2005

I. Introduction

About CFN and its mission – make naturalism known as a worldview.

Objective of workshop: to introduce a thorough-going naturalism which extends the standard secular humanist critique of the supernatural inwards as well as outwards; draw out the personal and social consequences.

Explore together our intuitions about human nature, human agency, freedom, and choice.

See how a naturalistic view of ourselves based in science affects these notions.

Explore what might be the consequences of naturalism about the self.

Want to get your participation in working through the implications.

See what’s intuitive and counter-intuitive about a thorough-going naturalism.

II. About naturalism

Naturalism as the basic operative worldview of most secular humanists – the denial of supernatural.

Science as the naturalist’s epistemology, unites existence into a single natural world.

History – Hume and other Enlightenment philosophers; rise of science; not appealing to god in explanations; American naturalist tradition - Dewey, Woodbridge, Santayana, Hook, Kurtz.

Current – naturalism as standard in academy, among humanists, atheists, skeptics, etc., abjured by religious right, e.g., William Dembski, Alvin Plantinga, Discovery Institute.

III. Human nature, self and freedom

Mental/physical distinction – how do we categorize the mental vs. physical?

Experiment on thinking – the experience of mental counting.

Intuitions on Universe A (everything caused) vs. Universe B (everything but human choosing caused).

Could have done otherwise (CHDO).

Intuitions on freedom and free will. Do we have free will? What is it, precisely?

Intuitions on the self: who or what are we? – Descartes vs. Hume.

IV. Choosing and deciding

The phenomenology of choice – introspection on choosing.

Comprehensive decision finder – schematic analysis of choice.

The self as decision-maker.

V. Implications of an extended naturalism

Intuitions about the implications of challenging the soul and free will.

Is an extended naturalism a “universal acid”?

Naturalistic responsibility: justifying credit and blame, reward and punishment.

Criminal justice, addiction, social inequality.

VI. Conclusions

Can humanists accept this extension of naturalism and its implications?

Many benefits if we do, but such acceptance may not be forthcoming soon.

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