The Unmysteriousness of Consciousness: A Case Study in Naturalistic Philosophy

Johannes L. Brandl


A naturalistic philosophy of mind is generally associated with physicalist theories. Brandl rejects this link between naturalistic philosophy and physicalistic conclusions drawn out of it. Naturalists are not to be confounded with physicalists. To make this point he uses the problem of consciousness as a case study. Brandl thinks a promising way out of the problematic anti-mentalistic stance many philosophers took after Quine is to return to ontological neutrality as promoted by members of the Vienna Circle. This makes room for what he calls a modest form of naturalism. Such a naturalism is pluralistic from an epistemological and methodological point of view. Everything which can be explained rationally belongs to the realm of such a modest naturalism. In this sense also consciousness is a natural property: There are reasonable explanations how living creatures come to have conscious experiences. This claim can plausibly be defended against the view that consciousness is mysterious and thus, something non-natural as long as ontology is left out of the game. The problem of qualia in a physical world, mental causation, and the mind-body-problem are simply not part of a modest naturalism’s program.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; consciousness; logical empiricism; naturalism; physicalism; qualia

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