naturalism, transcendental
 
 
The doctrine according to which the solution to certain philosophical problems (e.g., the mind-body problem) lies outside our cognitive abilities.
 

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Transcendental naturalism (TN) was put forward by Colin McGinn, a philosopher at Rutgers University. Applied to the mind-body problem, TN tells us that, although consciousness can be seen as a natural, emergent property of the brain, we lack the biological capacity to articulate such a relation. Insofar as consciousness is considered as an emergent property of a brain, it represents as much a natural phenomenon as those studied by physics, chemistry, or biology. However, to determine exactly how such an emergence takes place requires a kind of method that we are biologically incapable of defining.
 
To use a loose metaphor, the solution to the mind-body problem is as cognitively closed to us as the solution to quantum mechanics equations for the hydrogen atom might be cognitively closed to a chimpanzee. To put it bluntly, we are not smart enough, as a species, to solve the mind-body problem, a limitation that is biologically imposed. So, it's not that the mind-body problem does not have a solution, but that its solution lies outside our cognitive abilities.
 
Originally, McGinn (1989) applied this idea solely to the mind-body problem. However, in a more recent book (see references), he generalizes this view (and introduces the term "transcendental naturalism") to other "hard" problems, such as free will, meaning, the a priori, and the self. A rather bleak implication is that the solution to these problems will have to wait for a biologically more advanced species, which could take thousands, perhaps millions of years. Not a very optimistic (and certainly not very flattering) picture. I find McGinn's premises compelling. If it makes sense to accept the fact that we have biologically imposed perceptual and motor limitations, then it makes perfect sense to also assume that we have biologically imposed cognitive limitations (to use McGinn's words, we are not Gods, cognitively speaking). Also, the fact that we have spent 2000 years trying to solve the mind-body problem (and other philosophical problems) with very little progress suggests that such problems are especially hard for us. McGinn proposes that philosophical perplexity arises precisely from our attempts to solve problems that we cannot solve due to biological limitations.
 
 
José E. Burgos