Debates about naturalness go far back into the history of philosophy – just think of the famous (yet somewhat morbid) metaphor of cutting nature at its joints, harking back to Plato's Phaedrus. The same is true of a whole range of related topics, with the problem of projectibility in the philosophy of science standing out in particular. Whereas, according to a famous line of argument by Nelson Goodman (Fact, Fiction, and Forecast, 1955), we use some predicates in our arguments (e.g., being green), we do not do so with other predicates, sometimes called "gerrymandered" (e.g., being grue). We may refer to the former as projectible predicates, while the latter are non-projectible ones. As there is no obvious criterion in sight for distinguishing these kinds of predicates, however, this seems to undermine the justifiability of our reasoning practices. Now, it seems plausible to assume that projectible predicates are precisely the ones that refer to natural entities. This, however, raises the question of the criteria of naturalness – and this is where the workshop takes off.
An interesting proposal comes from recent cognitive research. It was developed by Peter Gärdenfors and is based on geometric properties of cognitive representations. In a nutshell, his idea is that natural properties and concepts are convex regions in conceptual spaces. It has proved fruitful, not only in explaining the behavior of cognitive agents, but also in constructing artificial agents. It explores the issue of naturalness from a pragmatist and instrumentalist design perspective. However, the philosophical foundations of the approach provide room for controversy. According to Gärdenfors, natural properties and concepts are internal, cognitive entities. But current analytic metaphysicians such as David Lewis, who has been a key figure in shaping the debate over naturalness, are typically more concerned with the structure of external reality – Lewis would probably have dismissed Gärdenfors’ account as psychologistic. There thus seem to be two distinct dimensions of naturalness, namely a cognitive and an ontological one – which raises the question of the relation between the two. One central aim of the workshop is to bring together proponents of both camps in order to get to the nature of this relation.
Mehr Informationen zum Workshop finden sich auf der Projektseite: philosophie.hhu.de/naturalness