Philosophy and Social Criticism 46 (2):162-172 (2020)

It is very contentious whether the features of the manifest image have a place in the world as it is described by natural science. For the advocates of strict naturalism, this is a serious problem, which has been labelled ‘placement problem’. In this light, some of them try to show that those features are reducible to scientifically acceptable ones. Others, instead, argue that the features of the manifest image are mere illusions and, consequently, have to be eliminated from our ontology. In brief, the two options that are open to strict naturalists for solving the placement problem are ontological reductionism and eliminativism. Other advocates of naturalist philosophy, however, claim that both these strategies fail and, consequently, opt for ‘mysterianism’, the view according to which we cannot give up the recalcitrant features of the manifest image even if we are not able to understand the ways in which they could be reduced to the scientific features. Mysterianism has the merit of facing the difficulties that whoever wants to explain reductively, or explain away, the features of the manifest image encounters. It is also a defeatist philosophical view, though, since it considers the most important philosophical problems as unsolvable mysteries. For this reason, I argue that mysterianism can also be taken as a reductio of strict naturalism, given its presumption that all phenomena are either explainable by the natural sciences or to be rejected as illusory. In this article, it is argued that the failures of reductionism, eliminativism and mysterianism should teach us that both the scientific image and the manifest image of the world are essential and mutually irreducible but not incompatible with each other. To support this claim, in the second part of the article, the case of free will is discussed.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453719826615
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