Naturalism and Secular Humanism

Naturalism and the Issue of Ethics

Naturalism is an essential philosophical belief and approach to an extended number of eternal problems. The main concept of this theory is that all events and beings in the universe, notwithstanding their character, come from nature (Jacobs, n.d.). For example, naturalism in literature may be evident when characters follow their survival instincts and are controlled by the environment and circumstances surrounding them. Such characters can be found in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Overall, naturalism rejects the idea that philosophy is dominant and has a special status, and it also views philosophical problems as ill-formulated and states that they need to be solved with correct naturalistic methods. According to Jacobs (n.d.), naturalists believe that “there are no Platonic forms, Cartesian mental substances, Kantian noumena, or any other agents, powers, or entities that do not (in some broad sense) belong to nature” (para. 2a). Thus, nature is the order of things that is people can access with the help of the empirical sciences and observation.

As for ethical naturalism, this theory has its own views regarding moral choices and issues. It is the view that ethical principles, rules, concepts, and terms are defined in terms of the natural world facts. These facts include ideas about people, human societies, and nature (Jacobs, n.d.). Naturalists have their specific perception of good and bad, and their opinion is opposed to the idea of George Edward Moore, an English philosopher who perceived goodness as undefinable and unexplainable. On the contrary, naturalism states that rightness and wrongness and badness and goodness can be identified with the help of other concepts or characteristics, explained, analyzed further, and reduced to other ideas (Jacobs, n.d.). As for the right thing to do, John Stuart Mill believes that it is right to do whatever brings joy to the person and makes them happy (Jacobs, n.d.). This is the paradigmatic concept of moral naturalism.

Secular Humanism and the Issue of Ethics

It is hard to disagree that religion shapes the lives and behavior of many people all over the world, and humans have believed in God and supernatural forces for millennia. However, times are changing, and now there are more and more people who do not find for themselves proof of the existence of God. An option for them is to study Secular Humanism – a life stance or philosophical doctrine that embraces philosophical naturalism, secular ethics, and human reason and denies that superstition and religious dogma should be the basis of decision-making and morality.

While doubting the existence of anything supernatural, Secular Humanism is based on the concept of viewing humans as potentially kind, unselfish, and creative creatures (Zuckerman, 2020). This philosophical theory emphasizes people’s initial desire to seek the truth, support justice and equality, and also make this world a greener, better, safer, more welcoming, and more humane place. As for the violence, selfishness, cruelty, and other concepts of badness, Secular Humanism states that persons’ more dominant capacities can often overweigh them.

Thus, instead of believing in and worshiping something improbable and invisible, like supernatural forces, Secular Humanists put their faith into human beings and their potential. Ethics and morality are defined as relieving the sufferings of animals and people and the fight for justice and fairness. Therefore, according to Secular Humanists, the right thing to do is something that brings happiness, health, and joy to other people and the world (Zuckerman, 2020). Finally, it is possible to say that Secular Humanism “humanizes” naturalism in a manner consistent with reason because it makes persons aware of animals, other people, and the planet and plans their behavior not as nature dictates but as their minds tell them.


Jacobs, J. (n.d.). Naturalism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.

Zuckerman, P. (2020). What is secular humanism? Psychology Today. Web.

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