, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 563–571 | Cite as

Can naturalism explain consciousness? A critique

  • Rajakishore NathEmail author
Open Forum


The problem of consciousness is one of the most important problems both in cognitive science and in philosophy. There are different philosophers and different scientists who define consciousness and explain it differently. In philosophy, ‘consciousness’ does not have a definition in terms of genus and differentia or necessary and sufficient conditions. In this paper, I shall explore the very idea of machine consciousness. The machine consciousness has offered causal explanation to the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of consciousness, but they fail to explain the ‘why’ of consciousness. Their explanation is based on the ground that consciousness is causally dependent on the material universe and that of all conscious phenomena can be explained by mapping the physical universe. In this regard, consciousness is basically a physical phenomenon and can be mechanically explained following the naturalistic methods of science. In other words, the mechanistic assumption is that consciousness and mind have an artificial origin and therefore have to be understood only within a mechanistic framework available in the sciences. If this is so, then this epistemological theory of consciousness is essentially committed to scientific world view that cannot avoid metaphysical implication of consciousness. At the same time, neo-Advaitins have maintained that the evolution of nature leads to the manifestation of human consciousness only because consciousness is already implicit in the material nature. Thus, the existence of consciousness in this physical world far exceeds the methods of science and needs a non-mechanical metaphysical explanation.


Naturalism Machine consciousness Supervenience Ātman Self-luminosity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of Technology BombayMumbaiIndia

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