Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Sarah F. Brosnan

Second Advisor

Dr. Andrea Scarantino


In this thesis, I present Feinberg and Mallatt's (2020) theory of neurobiological naturalism and attempt to situate it within the broader philosophical discussion of consciousness. They propose what they consider to be the neurobiological components sufficient for phenomenal consciousness to have evolved and claim to have filled the explanatory gap in our understanding of how the brain gives rise to experience. I will argue that their claim for doing so is premature and rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of what distinguishes the hard and easy problems of consciousness, which results in a vicious circularity. I explore how Feinberg and Mallatt could respond and remain internally consistent with their theory. One way is an appeal to what I have called virtual irreducibility, which is an epistemic claim regarding the limitations of our knowledge of weakly emergent system properties. I consider this response, among others, and demonstrate why they are problematic.


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