Constitution and the explanatory gap

Synthese 161 (2):183 - 202 (2008)
Abstract
Proponents of the explanatory gap claim that consciousness is a mystery. No one has ever given an account of how a physical thing could be identical to a phenomenal one. We fully understand the identity between water and H2O but the identity between pain and the firing of C-fibers is inconceivable. Mark Johnston [Journal of philosophy (1997), 564–583] suggests that if water is constituted by H2O, not identical to it, then the explanatory gap becomes a pseudo-problem. This is because all “manifest kinds”—those identified in experience—are on a par in not being identical to their physical bases, so that the special problem of the inconceivability of ‘pain = the firing of C-fibers’ vanishes. Moreover, the substitute relation, constitution, raises no explanatory difficulties: pain can be constituted by its physical base, as can water. The thesis of this paper is that the EG does not disappear when we substitute constitution for identity. I examine four arguments for the EG, and show that none of them is undermined by the move from constitution to identity
Keywords Constitution  Identity  Water  Pain  The explanatory gap  The firing of C-fibers  Manifest kinds  Strongly manifest  Weakly manifest  Natural kind  Twin-Earth  Necessary constitution
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