WRITTEN BY CHRIS K, AAI NEWS TEAM
What do you get when you cross a computer scientist with humanism? Naturalistic transcendentalism, of course.
Naturalistic transcendentalism, a nascent humanist philosophical approach, is the brainchild of Peter Bishop, PhD, a long-time humanist who worked in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. Bishop, who spoke at the recent American Humanist Association (AHA) meeting in Philadelphia, noted that transcendentalism gained traction in the 19th century, primarily from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. But Emerson’s philosophical approach, which had room for intuition, lost favor in the next century to science, the philosophy of science, and humanism.
“As we look at these issues today, we notice that our naturalism is much more complex than it was in the early 19th century,” Bishop said. “Naturalism today is so oriented toward scientific thinking that modern science has declared that human intuition should not be studied until we can understand the natural law that causes it to work.”
But naturalistic transcendentalism does not accept this view. Rather, Bishop’s philosophical approach deems it “appropriate to study intuition using the most powerful observations that exist of intuition: our subjective observations of our inner beings.” However, science measures what it can observe and subjective experience cannot be observed from an external vantage point. If scientists alone cannot study the personal experiences of intuition (or other subjective experiences), who else can? Bishop suggested turning to the humanities for help, as these disciplines “deal more with the subjective lives of people than do the sciences.”
Reason, Emotion, Intuition
One of the first steps along this path is to acknowledge that the human spirit is real, Bishop said. In other words, one’s subjective experience should be considered valid. The scientist can record the subjective experience as an event, but should not attempt to determine its meaning merely from its observation. This way, “we can remain on solid scientific footing.”