In academic philosophy, the idea (or in natural science, the hypothesis) that everything we see in the natural world is the result of ordered processes which operate according to natural laws, and that there is no supernatural realm that interacts with our own. Naturalists believe that everything that happens in the world has a cause, and most believe that these causes can generally be discovered by reason. Many religions disapprove of naturalism. Compare materialism.

In ethics, the view that propositions about value may deductively follow from propositions about factual states of affairs, contra the Humean dictum that "you can't get ought from is."

An example of a naturalistic ethic is utilitarianism, where the good is said to inhere in the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, or some similar supposedly measurable quantity.

Ethical non-naturalism opposes this way of allowing true statements about values, but nonetheless holds value to be real.

In theatre, naturalism is a mode which developed in the late 19th century, influenced by Émile Zola, who wrote the essay Naturalism and the Theatre. A reaction to the contrived, unrealistic narratives which dominated the stage at the time, naturalistic theatre attempted to present a scientific analysis through drama of Man in his natural habitat, responding to the "natural" forces which act upon him. These forces included society, family and heredity.

Naturalism is often confused with realism, in that the naturalist plays pioneered many of the modes of presentation which we now refer to as realist: accuracy of set and costume, faithful reproduction of the speech and manners of ordinary people and, above all, the convention of the fourth wall, placing the audience in the role of outside observers of the characters' drama.

Not all realistic drama is naturalistic, however, as naturalist drama is characterised by preoccupations related to the moral and scientific philosophies of the same name, and is very much rooted in the period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The archetypal naturalist play is often identified as Zola's Thérèse Raquin, and other typical examples of the mode would be Ibsen's A Doll's House and Strindberg's Miss Julie. Naturalist drama is also closely associated with André Antoine's Théâtre Libre.

Nat"u*ral*ism (?), n. [Cf. F. naturalisme.]


A state of nature; conformity to nature.

2. (Metaph.)

The doctrine of those who deny a supernatural agency in the miracles and revelations recorded in the Bible, and in spiritual influences; also, any system of philosophy which refers the phenomena of nature to a blind force or forces acting necessarily or according to fixed laws, excluding origination or direction by one intelligent will.


© Webster 1913

Nat"u*ral*ism, n.


The theory that art or literature should conform to nature; realism; also, the quality, rendering, or expression of art or literature executed according to this theory.


Specif., the principles and characteristics professed or represented by a 19th-century school of realistic writers, notably by Zola and Maupassant, who aimed to give a literal transcription of reality, and laid special stress on the analytic study of character, and on the scientific and experimental nature of their observation of life.


© Webster 1913

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