The Orders of Nature

By Lawrence Cahoone

Subjects: Metaphysics, Philosophy Of Science, Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438444161, 387 pages, January 2014
Hardcover : 9781438444154, 387 pages, January 2013

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Table of contents

Part I. A Kind of Naturalism

1. From Pluralism to Naturalism
2. A Selective History of Naturalism
3. Reduction, Emergence, and Physicalism
4. Concepts for Pluralistic Nature

Part II. The Orders of Nature

5. The Physical Order
6. The Achievements of Matter
7. The Phenomena of Life
8. Mind and the Hard Problems
9. Meanings of the Cultural Mind
10. The Evolution of Knowledge

Part III. Naturalistic Speculations

11. A Ground of Nature
12. Natural Religion


A systematic theory of naturalism, bridging metaphysics and the science of complexity and emergence.


Winner of the 2015 John N. Findlay Award in Metaphysics presented by the Metaphysical Society of America

Reviving and modernizing the tradition of post Darwinian naturalism, The Orders of Nature draws on philosophy and the natural sciences to present a naturalistic theory of reality. Conceiving of nature as systems, processes, and structures that exhibit diverse properties that can be hierarchically arranged, Lawrence Cahoone sketches a systematic metaphysics based on the following orders of nature: physical, material, biological, mental, and cultural. Using recent work in the science of complexity, hierarchical systems theory, and nonfoundational approaches to metaphysics, Cahoone analyzes these orders with explanations of the underlying science, covering a range of topics that includes general relativity and quantum field theory; chemistry and inorganic complexity; biology and telenomic explanation, or "purpose"; the theory of mind and mental causation as an animal phenomenon; and the human mind's unique cultural abilities. The book concludes with an exploration of what answers such a theory of naturalism can provide to questions about values and God.

Lawrence Cahoone is Professor of Philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross. His many books include Cultural Revolutions: Reason versus Culture in Philosophy, Politics, and Jihad and From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology.


"Every once in a while a book appears that presents in systematic form the current state of human knowledge. The Orders of Nature is such a book. While it includes concise summaries of prominent theories in the natural sciences and to a lesser extent in the social sciences and humanities, it is much more than a general compendium of thought today. Its presentations are organized and interpreted according to the perspective of a naturalistic metaphysics. The result is an unusually impressive achievement worthy of wide dissemination and discussion." — American Journal of Theology and Philosophy

"In a book of impressive scope and clarity, Cahoone presents a strong case for a pluralist, naturalist metaphysics that aims to systematically account for the physical, material, biological, mental, and sociocultural levels of nature … This is a rare, valuable book synthesizing the latest results of study of the natural and human sciences through the tradition of emergentist metaphysics. It is a great example of the sort of transdisciplinary inquiry encouraged in the liberal arts tradition … Highly recommended." — CHOICE