(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
The British philosopher Colin McGinn claims that consciousness cannot be
understood by beings with minds like ours. In other words, we will never
explain consciousness, because our minds are not capable of explaining it.
Inspired part by Russell and part by Kant, McGinn thinks that consciousness is known by the faculty of introspection, as opposed to the physical world, which is known by the faculty of perception. The relation between one and the other, which is the relation between consciousness and brain, is "noumenal", or impossible to understand: it is provided by a lower level of consciousness which is not accessible to introspection. In more technical words, consciousness does not belong to the "cognitive closure" of the human organism.
Understanding our consciousness is beyond our cognitive capacities, just like a child cannot grasp social concepts or I cannot relate to a farmer's fear of tornadoes. McGinn notices that other creatures in nature lack the capability to understand things that we understand (for example, the general theory of relativity). There are parts of nature that they cannot understand. We are also creatures of nature, and there is no reason to exclude that we also lack the capability of understanding something of nature. We may not have the power of understanding everything, unlike what we often assume. Some explanations (such as where the universe comes from and what will happen afterwards and what is time and so forth) may just be beyond our mind's capabilities. Explanations for these phenomena may just be "cognitively closed" to us. Phenomenal consciousness may be one such phenomenon.
Is our cognitive closure infinite? In other words: can we understand everything in the world? Is there something that we can't understand? McGinn thinks that our cognitive closure is not infinite, that there are things we will never be capale of understanding. And consciousness is one of them. "Mind may just not be big enough to understand mind".