Can We Know What the Mind Is? The Case for Mysterianism
There are several different theories of the nature of mind and consciousness vigorously defended in contemporary philosophy of mind, ranging from physicalism through emergentism to panpsychism. All these theories assume that we human beings have the cognitive capacity to know what the mind is. I wish to show that this is a highly questionable assumption. My starting point will be a naturalist, evolutionary standpoint, asserting continuity between the physical and mental make-up of humans and the other higher mammals. I will investigate the implications of this evolutionary standpoint for our cognitive faculties and limits. I shall then evaluate considerations that have been advanced by Noam Chomsky and Colin McGinn for treating the mind and its consciousness as an unfathomable mystery to cognitive beings like ourselves.