In the history of philosophy it's a well-known fact that philosophy of nature has separated from philosophy and moved to science as "natural science" in the late 19th century. My question is, are there philosophers today (in the last 50 years at least) who still try to make philosophy of nature claims? In other words - is philosophy of nature, as a philosophical discipline, dead? Are only scientists eligible to claim "natural" theories?

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    Did you look at Wikipedia's Natural Philosophy? There is no implied dichotomy though, natural philosophers go beyond science in their speculation, but typically incorporate what it has to say about nature. Meillassoux, who made a recent big splash in this area, even defends realism of science against transcendental "correlationism".
    – Conifold
    Feb 18, 2018 at 22:02
  • @Conifold oh wow I can't believe I missed that part in the wiki page. Thanks. And thank you for the Meillassoux reference. Feb 18, 2018 at 22:24

1 Answer 1


contemporary work /studies on the philosophy of nature

Among living scholars, Brian David Ellis, Nancy Cartwright, David Oderberg, and John Dupré are some of the more prominent thinkers who can arguably be classed as generally adopting a more open approach to the natural world.

Ellis (2002) observes the rise of a "New Essentialism."[21] David Oderberg (2007) takes issue with other philosophers, including Ellis to a degree, who claim to be essentialists.

He revives and defends the Thomistic-Aristotelian tradition from modern attempts to flatten nature to the limp subject of the experimental method.[22]

In his In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life (2017), Nicholas Maxwell argues that we need to reform philosophy and put science and philosophy back together again to create a modern version of natural philosophy.


*The central thesis of this book is that we need to reform philosophy and join it to science to recreate a modern version of natural philosophy; we need to do this in the interests of rigour, intellectual honesty, and so that science may serve the best interests of humanity.

Modern science began as natural philosophy. Profound discoveries were made, indeed one should say unprecedented discoveries. It was a time of quite astonishing intellectual excitement and achievement. And then natural philosophy died.

It split into science on the one hand and philosophy on the other. This happened during the 18th and 19th centuries, and the split is now built into our intellectual landscape.

But the two fragments, science, and philosophy are defective shadows of the glorious unified endeavor of natural philosophy. Rigour, sheer intellectual good sense, and decisive argument demand that we put the two together again, and rediscover the immense merits of the integrated enterprise of natural philosophy.

This requires an intellectual revolution, with dramatic implications for how we understand our world, how we understand and do science, and how we understand and do philosophy. There are dramatic implications, too, for education. And it does not stop there.

For, as he details in the final chapter, resurrected natural philosophy has **dramatic, indeed revolutionary methodological implications for social science and the humanities, indeed for the whole academic enterprise.**

It means academic inquiry needs to be reorganized so that it comes to take, as its basic task, to seek and promote wisdom by rational means, wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge, technological know-how and understanding, but much else besides.

The outcome is institutions of learning rationally designed and devoted to helping us tackle our immense global problems in increasingly cooperatively rational ways, thus helping us make progress towards a good world – or at least as good a world as possible.*


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_philosophy https://philpapers.org/rec/MAXIPO-4

  • Yeah I've seen Maxwell's paper, and I was very excited to see it as I feel that way as well. Do you know of any progress he made since that paper? And thanks for the answer! Sep 29, 2018 at 11:51
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    @Yechiam Weiss- thanks sir, in the same reference his recent work has been cited...one of them is...The Menace of Science Without Civilization: From Knowledge to Wisdom. Nicholas Maxwell - 2012 - Dialogue and Universalism 22 (3):39-63.; Popper's Paradoxical Pursuit of Natural Philosophy. Nicholas Maxwell - 2016 - In J. Shearmur & G. Stokes (eds.), Cambridge Companion to Popper. Cambridge University Press. pp. 170-207.
    – drvrm
    Sep 29, 2018 at 13:29

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