Meaning, Definition, Principles and Characteristics of Naturalism

Naturalism is also termed as materialism. According to this philosophy, the basis of the world is matter. Mind is also a form of matter

Meaning of Naturalism

Naturalism is also termed as materialism. According to this philosophy, the basis of the world is matter. Mind is also a form of matter or an element of matter or a synthesis of both. Naturalistic philosophy defines life in terms of material and chemical laws and emphasizes the relationship between power, speed and matter as of the nature of casual relationship.

Meaning, Definition, Principles and Characteristics of Naturalism

According to Naturalism, only nature is every thing. Nothing is before and beyond it. Hence, man should investigate the truths of Nature by scientific methods with all his capacities and resourcefulness. Naturalists believe that due to the advancement of human civilization and development of society, man has gone away from Nature. If he comes nearer to nature, his development will be natural and normal.

Thus, according to Naturalists, the ultimate reality is of nature or matter. It may be noted that Naturalists do not believe in spiritual development. They deny the existence of any such things as the supremacy of God. immortality of soul and the freedom of will. To them there is nothing else than matter, which is ultimate reality and the ultimate truth. Protagonists of Naturalism are Aristotle, Comte, Hobbes, Bacon, Darwin, Lamark, Huxley, Herbert Spencer, Bernard Shaw, Samuel Butler, Rousseau, etc.

Definition of Naturalism

1. According to Joyce, "Naturalism is a system whose silent characteristic is the exclusion of whatever is spiritual or indeed whatever is transcendental of experience from our philosophy of Nature and man."

2. According to R.B. Perry, "Naturalism is note 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."

3. According to J.S. Ross, "Naturalism is a term loosely applied in educational theory to systems of training that are not dependent on schools and books but on the manipulation of the actual life of the educated."

Naturalism in Education

In the field of education, Naturalism means the development of child according to his inherent nature. The credit of introducing Naturalism in education goes to Comenius and Bacon, but Rousseau brought this movement to the Zenith, Herbert Spencer and Basedow, Salzman and Campe of Germany are its notable protagonists.

The world Nature has two interpretations: (1) Physical Nature and (2) Nature or psychology of child. Physical Nature is external and Nature of the child is internal which means the basic instincts, impulses, tendencies, capacities and other inborn potentialities of the child. According to Naturalism, the external laws of Nature should correspond and co-operate with the internal Nature of the child for his full natural development.

Characteristics of Naturalistic Education

The following are the characteristics of Naturalistic education-

1. Back to Nature:- Out of three essential factors of education. namely Nature, man and objects, Naturalism gives prime importance to Nature. Hence, its call is "Back to Nature. According to Naturalists, the best teacher of child is Nature. Hence, to develop the child according to his nature, education should provide natural environment. In the 18th century the rebelled against formalism, verbalism and the artificiality of education and exhorted one and all to return to education which brings about the natural and normal development of the individuality. Rousseau firmly believed that life became artificial by coming in contact of social institutions. Thus, he decided to educate his imaginary child 'Emile' in the laps of Nature.

2. Opposition to Bookish knowledge:- The second characteristic of Naturalistic education is its opposition to mere academic knowledge and verbalism of books. The prevalent education meant mere cramming of Greek and Latin literature. Naturalists opposed this education calling it artificiality, snobbery and mere show. They emphasized real education to be according to the nature of the child through natural interests and activities. Rousseau was such a staunch supporter of education by nature that he did not prescribe anything for mental development of the early childhood except the reading of 'Robinson Cruso' because this novel narrates the exploits of the hero in natural surroundings guided by his own natural tendencies. To him all education, even the early childhood should be self-learning or learning by doing.

3. Progressive:- The third characteristic of Naturalistic education is that education should be progressive. Prevalent education prepares the child for his future adult life. It believed the gospel-Child is the father of man. As such, more and more knowledge used to be forced down into the mind of the child to prepare him to face the problems of adult life. This, the Naturalist thought as cruel and unjust behaviour towards a child. Naturalistic education believes that a child is a child and not an adult in the making. As a child, he is a dynamic individual who develops gradually. This development passes through four stages namely infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

4. Negative Education:- The fourth characteristic of Naturalism is negative education. J.S. Ross is right when he says- "A negative education does not mean a time of idleness, far from it. It does not give virtue, it protects from vice. It does not inculcate truth, it protects from error. It disposes the child to take the path that will lead him to truth when he has reached to understand it, and goodness, when he has acquired the faculty of recognizing and loving it."

5. Central Position of Child:- The fifth characteristic of Naturalistic education is to put the child at the center of the educational process, Naturalists believe that education is meant for the child. Thus, it should be so organized that child learns by his own activities, observations and experiences without any guidance.

6. Freedom of the Child:- The sixth characteristic of Naturalistic education is to allow full freedom to the child to develop himself according to his natural tendencies. The school, the time-table, the books and the teacher should not condition his experiences in any way as per-planning or preconditioning spoils his natural growth and stunts his normal development. The child should be put under no restraints, no interference, no difficulties and no confusions. He should be completely free to structure his own plans, activities, observations and experiences. Rousseau emphatically exhorts "God makes all things good. Man meddles with them and they become evil."

7. Emphasis on the Training of Senses:- Naturalistic education emphasizes the training of senses. Nothing is acquired by force from outside, Our senses are the gate-ways of knowledge. These senses need training to discharge their function with efficiency. In this connection Rousseau has well said- "Education should prepare the way for reason by the proper exercise of senses."

Aims of Education According to Naturalism

All Naturalists do not agree on the formulation of education aims Different Naturalists have expressed different views about the aims of education. Yet the main aims as propounded by all Naturalists are as under-

(1) To perfect the human machines:- Naturalists regard the whole universe as a huge machine. Man is a part of this huge machine and is a complete machine in himself also. Hence, the first aim of education is to make the individual work very efficiently as a part of the huge machine and also work as a very efficient machine himself.

(2) Attainment of Present and Future Happiness:- Biological Naturalism advocates the attainment of happiness of the individual. This should be in the present life as well as in the life to come. Education should be co-operative in this process and bring it to success. But McDougall asserts that happiness and misery come according to the natural consequences and as such no voluntary seeking after them will be of any use.

(3) Preparation for struggle of existence:- Darwin believed in the principle of struggle for the existence and survival of the fittest. According to this principle, man has evolved from lower forms of animal life. One has to struggle constantly with the environment for survival. Those who lose, decay and disappear. Hence, education should develop the capacities o of the individual so that he comes out victories in the struggle of life and existence in this world.

(4) Adaptation to environment:- New Lamarchians also believe in the Darwinian theory but assert that a human being, unlike the other animals, has a power to adapt himself to the ever changing environment This is a natural capacity. Thus, the aim of education should be to strengthen this capacity of adaptation of the individual. Reinforcement by education will give the individual added capacity and efficiency to this task of adaptation.

(5) Improvement of Racial Gains:- Some Naturalists believe that the racial heritage of cultural and civilizational achievements cannot be transferred from generation to generation by a mere natural process of inheritance. As such, education should conserve and preserve this cultural heritage and develop it further. J.S. Ross aptly remarks-"Education, then, is the preservation the handing and the enhancement of the racial gains generation by generation."

(6) Self-expression and Self-preservation:- While idealism emphasized 'self realization' as the main aim of education but it ie different from self-expression. Self expression is gratification only on instinctive level. The child should be provided suitable environment for the free development of his natural instincts. Similarly self-preservation is also necessary to survive in this world.

(7) Natural Development:- Rousseau has emphatically declared that making the child physically healthy and strong, and in view of the individual differences, education should develop the child according to his inborn tendencies, interests, inclinations, aptitudes and capacities in a free environment. Such development will be a development according to Nature in the real sense of the term.

Metaphysics of Naturalism

1. Idea of Reality:- One of the main concerns in which a student of philosophy of education must be interested about a school of philosophy is its idea of reality. Naturalists believe that nature is the ultimate reality and is propelled by her own laws and consequently determined by them. For the naturalists reality and nature are identical. They have no belief in a supernatural reality. As Hocking writes, "Naturalism denies the existence of anything beyond nature, behind nature, other than nature such as the supernatural or other-worldly."

2. Concept of Mind and Body Relationship:- Another significant issue that distinguishes one school from another is the concept of the mind. As naturalists do not believe in anything that is spiritual they do not make a distinction between mind and body. This position of the naturalist is in contradiction to that of the idealists for whom the mind is spiritual and the body is just matter which is and through which the mind manifests. Because man has mind, for idealists man is spiritual in essence. But for the naturalists man is also matter, his mind is the result of his brain function.

Epistemology of Naturalism

1. Theory of Knowledge:- One of the other main concerns of philosophical enquiry which has a bearing on the principles and practices of education is epistemology or the theory of knowledge. The fundamental questions that has been raised many time and again in the history of philosophical thought which has a direct relation to curriculum theory and practice is "What knowledge is of most worth?" The naturalists in answer to this question would highlight the value of scientific knowledge as a utmost worth. Herbert Spencer said that scientific knowledge must be the content of living.

2. Method of Acquiring Knowledge:- The method of acquiring knowledge advocated by the naturalists is the inductive method; it is the method of science. It involves the following stages meticulous observation, exhaustive collection, careful classification, accurate description, intelligent, interpretation and cautioned generalisation. Francis Bacon is considered to be the father of the inductive method, So naturalists believe that knowledge gained primarily through observatio is of utmost worth.

Axiology of Naturalism

1. Pleasure and Life:- Another significant realm of philosophy where the naturalist position is distinct from other school is axiology or the theory of value. Naturalists have no belief in spiritual values. They behave that values are resident in nature. To realise the values of nature one has to live in harmony with nature. For example, one has to avoid physical pain and suffering as they are not natural.

2. Social Values of Life:- For naturalists man is basically an off-spring of nature and not a segment of society. They would not agree with the pragmatists who say that man is a social animal. Therefore, social values need to be for the good of the individuals who live in society.

Naturalism and Curriculum

Naturalists regard religious educations as useless. According to them, curriculum should consist of subjects and items which reflect the inborn tendencies, natural interests, natural activities, individual differences and sex problems of children so that they develop their individuality naturally and normally. As such, curriculum should contain Games, Sports, Physical culture, Biology, Physics, Nature study, Language, History, Geography, and other allied subjects.

Herbert Spencer, a staunch Naturalist advocates 'Complete Living Aim of education and to achieve this aim, curriculum should contain Physiology, Biology, Physical culture, Chemistry, Arithmetic, Home Science and other scientific subjects as main subjects whereas Language, Literature, Art and other cultural subjects as subsidiary subjects.

Naturalism and Methods of Teaching

In the field of methodology, Naturalism has made very significant contribution. In the traditional system of education, the same type of education was imparted to a group of individuals at a time. Naturalistic educations opposed this traditional system and advocated the system of developing inherent tendencies by providing conducive experiences and the children imbibing knowledge according to their interests and aptitudes by their own efforts, observations and experimentation. Discarding the old system as stagnant Naturalism prescribed: (1) Learning by Doing. (2) Learning by Experience and (3) Learhing by play as the basis of teaching.

Naturalism and Teacher

Rousseau thought the child as pure inherently. His natural development takes place only when he is allowed to develop freely without any hindrance or interference from outside. Naturalists do not like that children should be taught in classes by teachers who are spoiled by the artificial atmosphere of society. To them, Nature is the only supreme teacher, in whose close contact the child develops normally and naturally. In the process of education, the place of the child is more important and central than the teacher.

The teacher should not impose upon the child and thing under his own authority or supremacy. The teacher should so sympathetically and affectionately behave towards the child that he feels full freedom to develop himself according to his natural qualities, interests and capacities. The teacher is only to set the stage and allow the child to act freely according to his inherent capacities and the teacher is only to act as a sympathetic observer and guide.

Naturalism and Discipline

In the field of discipline also, Naturalists depend upon Nature and advocate the theory of 'discipline by Natural consequences. According to them, Nature will punish the child if he contravents the law of Nature and thus he will learn by the consequences of his own actions, Thus, no body should interfere in this process of Nature. The child should be allowed full freedom to indulge in the activities of his choice.

The teacher should provide such experience for free activity. Any interference is likely to create mental complexes in the sub-conscious mind of the child. Thus, the Naturalists decry all kinds of external interference and allow full freedom to the child to think and act according to his interests, inclinations, aptitudes and capacities.

Naturalism and School

According to Naturalists, the organization of school is rigid, controlled and artificial and as such the growth and development of children is stunted and spoiled. Thus, they assert that school environment should be completely free, flexible and without any rigidity. There should not be any fixed time-table and no forcing from above the ready-made dozes of knowledge into the minds of children. Nature will do all the planning and processing for the natural development of children.

Not only this, Nature itself structures all the free and desired experiences and also develops the feeling of self-learning and self-discipline. The Summer Hill School of Heel and Tagore's Vishwa Bharti are models of such free schools where children are given full freedom to plan their own thinking and activities according to their own interests and natural tendencies. These creative and self creative activities go to develop the character and the personality of the individual through self-discipline and freedom to experiment. All modern and progressive schools adopt this concept of self-discipline to promote self-development.

Evaluation of Naturalism

Correct evaluation of Naturalism is in the following lines-

(1) One-sided and unsatisfying aims of education:- Naturalism concentrates about natural environment and natural development by Nature. Scholars hold that if the child is developed according to his nature in the lap of Nature only, the child will become unsocial with no feeling of social service or social good. He will develop into a pure animal. In fact, the child has animal instinct at the time of birth. If his animal tendencies are to be socialized through education, then social environment is greatly essential. Thus, the aims of naturalistic education are one-sided and unsatisfying.

(2) Emphasis on present needs:- Naturalism lays, stress on the solution of present needs and problems of an individual. It advocates no concern for spiritual values and the remote future. Actually life and education should have an ultimate goal. unless there is a goal before a child, his intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual thirst cannot be quenched. This will lead to continue lack of satisfaction in human life. Thus, no education worth the name can avoid spiritual values and preparation for future life.

(3) Ignores Books:- Naturalism emphasizes that education of the child should be based on his activities and life experiences. But only activities and experiences cannot ensure the total development of the child's personality. How can we leave those books which contain valuable knowledge and experiences of others forming the cultural treasure of humanity? No nation can afford to neglect or be indifferent to books. Natural activities as well as books all contribute their share in the development of total personality.

(4) Undue emphasis on Physical education:- Naturalism lays too much emphasis on the development of the physique and the physical senses. It is for this reason that Rousseau advocates natural education for twelve years to be given to a child, only then moral education may be imparted. This is an unbalanced process of education. Social, moral and. spiritual development is an important and essential as physical development. According to Pestalozzi-"Specialized development of one side of human nature is unnatural and false... To consider any one capacity exclusively is to destroy man's natural equillibrium."

(5) More importance to scientific subject in curriculum:- Naturalism emphasizes scientific education. Herbart Spencer, a staunch naturalist has given prime importance to scientific subjects and secondary place to humanities in the curriculum. In fact the curriculum should show. a balance of the two categories of subjects as both are equally important and essential in the development of child's personality.

(6) No Importance of Teacher:- Naturalism assigns to the teacher the role of a mere guide and observer. He is to be a sympathetic guide and helper in structuring experiences for the child and observe the activities undergone. He is not to interfere or plan any teaching directly. This attitude is not considered very healthy and desirable in modern democratic countries where various social, moral and spiritual qualities, are to the inculcated by the educational process in children. Without these qualities, it will not be possible to become a dynamic citizen promoting good to the self and welfare of the nation.

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