Philosophy:Naturalistic pantheism

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Short description: Form of pantheism

Naturalistic pantheism, also known as scientific pantheism, is a form of pantheism. It has been used in various ways such as to relate God or divinity with concrete things,[1] determinism,[2] or the substance of the universe.[3] God, from these perspectives, is seen as the aggregate of all unified natural phenomena.[4] The phrase has often been associated with the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza,[5] although academics differ on how it is used. Natural pantheists don’t believe in any God, though they do worship the universe as if it was one. They believe in science, hence the name scientific pantheist, instead of a deity.

Component definitions

The term “pantheism" is derived from Greek words pan (Greek: πᾶν) meaning "all" and theos (θεός) meaning God. It was coined by Joseph Raphson in his work De spatio reali, published in 1697.[6] The term was introduced to English by Irish writer John Toland in his 1705 work Socinianism Truly Stated, by a pantheist that described pantheism as the "opinion of those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe."[7]

The term "naturalistic" derives from the word "naturalism", which has several meanings in philosophy and aesthetics.[8] In philosophy the term frequently denotes the view that everything belongs to the world of nature and can be studied with the methods appropriate for studying that world, i.e. the sciences.[9] It generally implies an absence of belief in supernatural beings.[8]

Early conceptions

Joseph Needham, a modern British scholar of Chinese philosophy and science, has identified Taoism and the technology of the Wuxing as "a naturalistic pantheism which emphasizes the unity and spontaneity of the operations of Nature."[10] This philosophy can be dated to the late 4th century BCE.[11]

The Hellenistic Greek philosophical school of Stoicism (which started in the early 3rd century BCE)[12] rejected the dualist idea of the separate ideal/conscious and material realms, and identified the substance of God with the entire cosmos and heaven.[3] However, not all philosophers who did so can be classified as naturalistic pantheists.[13]

Modern conceptions

Naturalistic pantheism was expressed by various thinkers,[5] including Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for his views.[14] However, the 17th century Dutch philosopher Spinoza became particularly known for it.[5]

Baruch Spinoza

Main page: Philosophy:Philosophy of Spinoza

Possibly drawing upon the ideas of Descartes,[15] Baruch Spinoza connected God and Nature through the phrase deus sive natura ("God, or Nature"),[16][17][18] making him the father of classical pantheism. He relied upon rationalism rather than the more intuitive, contemplative approach to understanding and integration of the traditional technologies of Yin and Yang (deductive thinking) and the application of five phase protoscientific theory of Chinese Taoist traditions.[19]

Spinoza's philosophy, sometimes known as Spinozism, has been understood in a number of ways, and caused disagreements such as the Pantheism controversy. However, many scholars have considered it to be a form of naturalistic pantheism. This has included viewing the pantheistic unity as natural.[20][self-published source] Others focus on the deterministic aspect of naturalism.[21][22] Spinoza inspired a number of other pantheists, with varying degrees of idealism towards nature.[23][24] However, Spinoza's influence in his own time was limited.[25] [26]

Scholars have considered Spinoza the founder of a line of naturalistic pantheism, though not necessarily the only one.[27][28] [29]


In 1705 the Irish writer John Toland endorsed a form of pantheism in which the God-soul is identical with the material universe.[7][30][31]

German naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919[32]) proposed a monistic pantheism in which the idea of God is identical with that of nature or substance.[33]

The World Pantheist Movement, started in 1999, describes Naturalistic Pantheism as including reverence for the universe, realism, strong naturalism, and respect for reason and the scientific method as methods of understanding the world.[34] Paul Harrison considers its position the closest modern equivalent to Toland's.[7]

See also


  1. Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language by Quentin Smith, 1998, Yale University Press, p. 226
  2. Paul Tillich: Theologian of the Boundaries by Paul Tillich, Mark K. Taylor, Mark Lewis Taylor, Collins, 1987, p. 165
  3. 3.0 3.1 Panentheism--The Other God of the Philosophers, John W. Cooper, Baker Academic, 2006, p. 39
  4. Lectures on Divine Humanity by Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Lindisfarne Press, 1995, p. 79
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The history of European philosophy: an introductory book by Walter Taylor Marvin, Macmillan Company, 1917, p. 325: “Naturalistic pantheism had already made its appearance in the sixteenth century and most notably in the writings of Giordano Bruno; but its most famous teacher was the seventeenth century philosopher Benedict Spinoza.”
  6. Ann Thomson; Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment, 2008, page 54.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Harrison, Paul. "Toland: the father of modern pantheism". Pantheist History. World Pantheist Movement. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 A Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. T. Mautner, Blackwell, 1996
  9. Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich, Oxford University Press, 1995
  10. Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 2, Joseph Needham, Cambridge University Press, 1956, p. 38
  11. Kirkland, Russell. Taoism: The Enduring Tradition. (London and New York: Routledge, 2004). p. 61. ISBN:978-0-415-26321-4
  12. Stoicism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  13. Cooper, John W. (2006). Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present. Baker Academic. p. 16. "Naturalistic pantheism anticipates Bruno, Spinoza, Toland, Einstein (not Schelling, Hegel) defining God in terms of Nature should not be construed as naturalistic pantheism. By "Nature" Eriugena means something like "Reality" rather than the mere physical universe. "But his position is in fact closer to the naturalistic pantheism of ancient Stoicism. The World-Soul is not a higher reality that generates the physical world but the rational causal agent immanent in the world"..." 
  14. Turner, William (prof. of philosophy at the Catholic University), "History of Philosophy", 1903, p. 429
  15. Elements of general philosophy By George Croom Robertson, p. 282
    "The pantheistic element in Descartes’ thought viz. the tendency to conceive the notion of substance in the truest sense as being only One, and the naturalistic element, viz. the tendency to conceive the One Substance of God as Order of Nature, were brought together and set in the front of Spinoza’s thought as the mother-idea of it all…Spinoza’s philosophy remains as yet and is likely to remain, the very type of a Naturalistic Pantheism."
  16. Elements of General Philosophy, George Croom Robertson, John Murray, 1896, p. 282
  17. Matthew Arnold: Between Two Worlds, AJ Lubell, Modern Language Quarterly, 1961, Duke University Press, page 5
  18. A Concise Dictionary of Theology by Gerald O'Collins, Edward G. Farrugia, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 188
  19. Philosophies of History: Meeting of East and West in Cycle-pattern ... Grace Edith Cairns, 1962
    This attitude is close to that of Spinoza's naturalistic pantheism in the West although Spinoza reached it by the more characteristically Western method, rationalism, versus the intuitive way of the Taoists
  20. Pafumi, G.R. (2010). Is Our Vision of God Obsolete. Xlibris Corporation. p. 153. ISBN 978-1441590404. "Spinoza = naturalistic pantheism — universe as a "single, interconnected, and solely natural substance."" [self-published source]
  21. Tillich, Paul; Taylor, Mark Kline (1987). Paul Tillich: Theologian of the Boundaries (1. Fortress Press ed.). London: Collins. p. 165. ISBN 9780800634032. "Naturalistic pantheism "denies finite freedom" as in Spinoza (as opposed to idealistic type of pantheism which identifies God with the universal essence of being)..." 
  22. Christian philosophy, God: being a contribution to a philosophy of theism by John Thomas Driscoll, Benzinger 1904, p. 190
    “In the criticism of his system we meet with the same difficulties that we find in Spinoza, i.e., the nature of the mind and of matter, the character of their interaction and the doctrine of determinism. Both Spinoza and Spencer teach a pure Naturalism … The two theories set forth are phases of Realistic or Naturalistic Pantheism.”
  23. Goethe, Nietzsche, And Wagner: Their Spinozan Epics of Love And Power by T. K. Seung, p. 11
    “The second function of the Earth Spirit was to clarify Goethe’s own version of pantheism. With the revival of Spinoza’s philosophy, naturalistic pantheism became a groundswell for the German intellectuals of Goethe’s generation. Although they rejected the other world, many of them subscribed to an idealistic or Romantic view of Nature, which Goethe regarded as an unreal view of reality…”
  24. The five great skeptical dramas of history by John Owen (theologian), 1896, p. 13
    “If he could be said to have owned a master of philosophy it was Spinoza. Of none other does he speak in such terms of commendation … In all probability Spinoza found his greatest disciple on the road to a naturalistic pantheism.”
  25. Christian Ethics by Adolf Wuttke (theologian), 1876, p. 289, p. 327
    “Spinoza exerted in his own age but little influence. Notwithstanding the deep spiritually-moral declension of that dark period, the religious God-consciousness was as yet too vital to fall in with this naturalistic pantheism.”
  26. Matthew Arnold: Between Two Worlds, AJ Lubell, Modern Language Quarterly, 1961, Duke University Press... Page 5
    "the naturalistic pantheism he then or somewhat later learned from Spinoza"
  27. Nothingness in the theology of Paul Tillich and Karl Barth by Sung Min Jeong University Press of America, 2003, p. 24
    "Spinoza establishes a naturalistic pantheism. Tillich considers Spinoza’s substance as a category"...
  28. George Finger Thomas (prof of religious thought), "Philosophy and religious belief", 1970, p. 92
    "..two forms of pantheism we have distinguished, idealistic monism and naturalistic pantheism. Here we shall consider only the naturalistic pantheism we have been describing, especially that of Spinoza."
  29. The riddle of the universe by Edward Douglas, London: Fawcett, 1893, p. 30
    "Spinoza carried philosophy into the realms of a naturalistic pantheism."
  30. "Materialism in Eighteenth-Century European Thought" in New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 2005, ed. Peter Machamer and Francesca di Poppa
  31. The Middle Works of John Dewey, Volume 2, SIU Press, 1976, p. 184
  32. "Ernst Haeckel – Britannica Concise" (biography), Encyclopædia Britannica Concise, 2006, Concise. webpage: CBritannica-Haeckel .
  33. The Presbyterian and reformed review, Volume 7, Anson D.F. Randolph, 1896, p217
  34. "Is your spiritual home right here on Earth?". World Pantheist Movement.