On Monday, November 17th, Dr. Georg Gasser from the University of Innsbruck (Austria) delivered the lecture titled «The Naturalization of Man? Prospects and Pitfalls.» Currently, many philosophers are naturalists, meaning they consider that all of reality can be explained solely in terms of physical reality. They seek to reduce concepts such as ‘consciousness,’ ‘first-person perspective,’ and ‘free will’ to mere physical processes.
The speaker argued against this naturalistic view. First, he pointed out that naturalism is a combination of various philosophical hypotheses, meaning there is not a single naturalism but rather multiple forms of it. Second, he highlighted an epistemological incoherence in naturalistic theses. Science delimits reality, focuses on a specific aspect for in-depth study, and, through the scientific method, aims to gain a more detailed understanding of that fragment of reality. However, sometimes it takes this delimited view as the totality of what exists, generalizes its conclusions, and assumes that this is all there is, neglecting the ‘Lebenswelt’ or ‘world of life,’ which is what we experience daily and from which the scientist started when initiating their research. Finally, some of the empirical data on which naturalist philosophers rely are not as solid as they may seem, lacking a strong experimental foundation.
Following the presentation, there was a lively exchange with the audience, during which other aspects of the issue and new arguments also emerged. As a conclusion to the activities of the year at the Institute of Philosophy, the lecture introduced many of the themes that will be studied in 2015, with a significant focus on the philosophy of neuroscience.