Does the acceptance of scientific naturalism commit one to the view that the universe is devoid of all meaning?

There are at least two ways to interpret your question: (1) Does scientific naturalism imply that no meaning at all exists anywhere in the universe? (2) Does scientific naturalism imply that the universe itself has no meaning? I think the answer to (1) is pretty clearly no . By "scientific naturalism," I presume you mean the denial of supernaturalism , i.e., the denial that any nonphysical minds or causes exist. On that reading, scientific naturalism is compatible with the fact that you meant something by your question (your question isn't meaningless) and the fact that I mean something by this answer to it. Nor does scientific naturalism imply that nothing is ever non-linguistically meaningful: it allows that an experience (say, of great music) can be meaningful to someone. What holds for the concept of meaning holds, I'd say, for the concept of purpose as well. I think the answer to (2) is pretty clearly yes . But what could it mean, anyway, to say that the universe itself has...

It seems to me that today's rationality is completely irrational in a sense that it attacks everything that is not rational. But who define what is rational? For example, many people like to back up their beliefs by scientific arguments or by pointing on the bad parts of religion. Yet in 19. century frenology was considered science. Today we call it pseudoscience. Is it lacking humility for most people or something else that they cannot accept that in 200 years people will laugh at our modern "science"? And, if we are so deeply influenced by beliefs of our times why wouldnt relativism allow for more open minded approach in a sense that it would allow people to believe anything they want (without the need for justification) instead of using relativism primarily for attacking "old" beliefs (example would be the view that christianity is obsolete)?

Your comment seems to be in tension with itself. You end it by suggesting that we adopt a version of relativism "that...would allow people to believe anything they want (without the need for justification)." Yet you begin your comment by apparently condemning, as "completely irrational," the beliefs of those who think pseudoscience or religion are irrational. I don't think you can have it both ways: relativism for their judgments, objectivism for your own. You ask, "Who defines what is rational?" I take it you have some definition in mind when you describe critics of pseudoscience and religion as "completely irrational." Relativism has an undeserved reputation for being open-minded. Those who think that they can "believe anything they want (without the need for justification)" should feel no pressure to keep their minds open to any evidence or arguments against what they believe.

Are empirical questions inherently non-philosophical? If answers to those questions can be determined by polling or science, should philosophers never address them?

Your question touches on a current debate within philosophy. You can find more about the debate by searching under "experimental philosophy" and "x-phi" on the web. Regardless of which side one takes, however, it's always important to know which kind of question (empirical, conceptual, logical, normative, or a mixture of those) one is trying to answer: the answer to "Which kind of question is that?" is a philosophical matter. In my experience, philosophers too often fail to recognize that the question they're asking has empirical aspects -- aspects that, as philosophers, they're not trained to investigate. If a question can be answered by polling or some other empirical method, then any philosopher who tries to answer it had better be properly trained in the relevant empirical method. Once the empirical results are in, the implications of those results are something that philosophers, as such, are well-equipped to work on.

Would it be fair to say that philosophy is a manipulation of words, and that scientists deal with the relationship between language and extra-language observations? Thus "truth" would primarily be a language concept according to which consistency between words would exist. In the non-language (empirical) world truth would be infrequent because be empirical observations can rarely be one hundred percent verified.

To be candid, your question seems to embody some confusions. I'll try to address them in this reply. 1. I think it's fair to regard philosophy as the analysis (if you like, the logical manipulation) of concepts , although that view of philosophy is rejected by some philosophers. In any case, concepts can be expressed in any number of languages, so I wouldn't regard philosophy as the manipulation of words as such. 2. Scientists, as far as I can tell, don't in general examine the relationship between language and extralinguistic observations. Instead they try to explain or predict patterns of observations in as unified and elegant a way as they can manage. 3. I don't see how it follows ("Thus") from your first sentence that "truth [is] primarily a language concept according to which consistency between words would exist." First, what does "consistency between words" mean? Are "red" and "colorless" mutually inconsistent words because red and colorless are...

I'm attending a lecture on the philosophy of science, and our professor told us yesterday that "we constantly rely on inductive reasoning all the time in our lives, such as when we assume that the floor won't suddenly collapse beneath our feet if we walk forwards." This struck me as odd. Is it accurate to say we "assume" such a thing? It seems to me that we don't even think about these things at all, much less try to justify any such assumptions - saying we're relying on some kind of argumentation seems like a stretch, but perhaps it isn't. Is everything we do, then, the result of certain processes of reasoning? Or are there things we just do without any reasoning to support them?

You wrote, "Is it accurate to say that we 'assume' such a thing?" I don't think it's part of the concept of an assumption that all assumptions are explicit or top-of-mind when we make them. Some assumptions are merely implicit, unstated, tacit. That's why the phrase "implicit assumption" isn't a contradiction in terms. So the inductive assumptions that we make could be mostly or entirely implicit, and it may be only when such an assumption proves wrong -- for instance, when the floorboard gives out -- that we realize we were making the assumption in the first place. I think your professor is right that we do rely on inductive assumptions all the time, almost always implicitly. Philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) famously argued that we rely on inductive reasoning all the time even though we have no good reason to trust it. See also this link: .

Stephen Hawking, in his recent book entitled The Grand Design, states that philosophy is dead. Without going into the reasons behind his thinking, I'd like to know the response of current philosophers to Hawking's statement. He has laid down a gauntlet of sorts, a challenge to philosophers to make their work relevant to the recent advances and discoveries made by cosmologists, astrophysicists, and others on the cutting edge of scientific discovery and investigation. Are present-day philosophers up to Hawking's challenge?

Scientists who write obituaries for philosophy forget that science depends on philosophical assumptions. When some lab results or observations of the visible universe confirm or disconfirm a prediction in physics, Hawking and colleagues draw conclusions about the whole universe. But does any set of observations justify conclusions about unobserved cases? Is "elegance" an objective feature of a theory, and does it make a theory having it more likely to be true? And so on. Philosophers grapple with these questions; scientists just presume answers to them. Unless we ignore such questions, philosophizing is inescapable.

Is modern philosophy too abstract? I mean when it asks questions about being does it ask questions that about any kind of being when perhaps it could be asking question about the particular kind of being that we live in? I guess you could say the answer is no because philosophers deal with questions about science and science is about the world we live in. But is the kind of being of science the only "concrete" form of being that philosophers can ask about? I personally think that their is more to being than either physics or hyper-abstractions that only look at being in terms of temporarily, causality and quantity, etc. Is a disagreement about what we think is "being" perhaps one of the central splits between analytic and "continental" philosophy?

I tend to use the noun 'being' as a count noun: You and I are both beings; maybe the number seven is also a being (although of a different kind from you or me). I'll therefore use the words 'existence' or 'reality' for what you seem to refer to by 'being' in your question. When it asks questions about existence or reality, modern-day philosophy -- including analytic philosophy -- ranges as broadly as you like. Philosophy doesn't confine itself to the world described by natural science. Often philosophy asks about the existence or reality of non-natural beings such as abstract objects (maybe numbers, properties, propositions) or concrete, non-natural beings (maybe immaterial minds or souls, maybe God). It's true that analytic philosophers tend to respect natural science, but they shouldn't (and largely don't) think that all legitimate questions are questions for natural science. Furthermore, contemporary philosophy -- perhaps especially analytic philosophy -- asks about ways that reality could...