Which Ontology for Naturalists?

Josef Quitterer


In the contemporary discussion of philosophy of mind a major issue is the relationship of folk psychology and scientific explanations of human behaviour. Ontologically folk psychology presupposes the existence of enduring subjects which are the bearers of intentional states. Propositional attitudes presuppose acting and thinking subjects which remain the same during time. Most contemporary naturalists deny that in the world conceived from a scientific point of view there can be proper physical correlates for enduring subjects as assumed in folk psychology. The entire folk psychological system and its ontology seem to be incompatible with scientific knowledge. According to Quitterer, however, an analysis of contemporary naturalistic literature in philosophy of mind creates the impression that enduring entities are excluded from the list of possible physical correlates of mental phenomena not so much on scientific grounds but because of a one-sided preference of event ontological accounts. This preference leads to the exclusion of “endurers” from a scientific approach to the human person. Quitterer shows that there are scientific findings about human consciousness and experience which can be interpreted more adequately from the point of view of an ontology of continuants. He concludes that an adequate understanding of the human person needs both—events and continuants. Hence, there are ways to reconcile folk psychological assumptions with current scientific knowledge.


20th century philosophy; metaphysics; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; embodied self; folk psychology; naturalism; ontology; philosophy of mind; physical correlate

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