Naturalism and its Forms:
Naturalism is mainly concerned with ‘Natural self’ or ‘real self’. Naturalists believed that the ‘mental world is the real world’. This real-world is governed by laws. They say that man, the creature of the material world, must submit to the laws’. ‘They don’t believe in sentimentalism, spiritualism and supernaturalism’. They find reality in nature only. Everything is governed by the laws of nature. We must not go against nature. We must follow the track formed by the nature. The thing which is not seen to us is also natural and it is the only duty of a man to discover those hidden things and their properties. Now, this discovery is only possible through the mutual aid of ‘science and common sense’. This coordination of Science and common sense will help a man to discover these realities.
Different scholars have defined the term “naturalism”.
According to James Ward, “Naturalism is the doctrine which separates nature from God, subordinates spirit to matter and sets up unchangeable laws as supreme”.
In the words of Hayward Joyce, “Naturalism is a system whose salient characteristic is the exclusion of whatever is spiritual or indeed whatever is too transcendental of experience from our philosophy of nature and man”.
According to R. B. Perry, “Naturalism is not science but an assertion about science. More specifically it is the assertion that scientific knowledge is final, leaving no room for extra-scientific or philosophical knowledge”.
Forms of Naturalism:
Naturalism is of the following three forms-
(1) Physical Naturalism- This form of naturalism explains human activities and experiences in terms of material objects and natural laws. These natural laws are laws of external nature that have a complete hold on the life of man. In other words, physical naturalism lays greater stress on physical sciences than on conscious human efforts. Since education is a conscious and deliberate human process of development and not merely a physical science process, as such, it has not influenced educational theory and practice.
(2) Mechanical Naturalism- According to this form of naturalism, man is merely a part of the huge machine i.e. the universe. This machine is run by some guiding principles and these principles are natural. In the movement of this machine, no mind or mental activity is required nor any spiritual power is needed. This means that man is a mechanical creature. He has no creative force, purpose or direction. He is solely dissected by exterior influence. This form of naturalism has given rise to the modern psychology of Behaviourism and has contributed to the principles of learning by doing.
(3) Biological Naturalism- “Man is the product of evolution” is the essence of biological naturalism. Man is the highest being who inherits the racial past, consisting of natural impulses or instincts, the primitive emotions. The achievements of mankind in the spiritual realm have not been interpreted by biological naturalists.
“This school has given us the doctrine of “the natural man” and prefers instinctive judgements and primitive emotions as the basis for action to reflection or experience that come from association with society”.
According to J. S. Ross, “Education is seen as the process of adjustments to the environment, it aims at enabling the individual to be in harmony with and well adapted to his surrounding”.
In the naturalistic philosophy ‘self’ is everything. Instincts and emotions, especially those supported by moral force are not studied and interpreted in this school. Innate conscience is not real to this school philosophy. This is merely an illusion. Naturalists do not believe in the three fundamentals of truth, beauty and goodness. There is no ultimate truth or reality. ‘Spiritual nature of man’ has no significance in this philosophy. Instinct is the outcome of an evolutionary process that is helpful in the ‘freedom of organism’. This freedom increases with the aid of instinct. Further, they add that all the Psychological, Social and Biological activities are supported by instincts. These instincts are mainly responsible for these actions. “The education of the child must accord, both in mode and arrangement, with the education of mankind, considered historically”. Thinkers and philosophers Comte, Bacon, Hobbes, Lamark, Rousseau, Aristotle, Huxley, Spencer, Butler, Bernard Shaw etc. are realists in the sense that they see things as they are. They do not interpret them in the light of supernaturalism. The things in the world are guided and supported by the laws of nature.