Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (2):459-468 (1997)
No contemporary philosopher has tried harder to demystify the mind than Fred Dretske. But how to demystify it without eviscerating it? Can consciousness be explained? Many philosophers think that no matter how detailed and systematic our knowledge becomes of how the brain works and how it subserves mental functions, there will always remain an "explanatory gap." Call it a brute fact or call it a mystery, trying to explain consciousness, they think, is as futile as trying to explain why there is something rather than nothing. Dretske is not exercised by the explanatory gap-he'd rather exorcise it. He thinks we can get all the explanation we need by understanding what consciousness does. Consciousness is at bottom sensory experience and what it does, essentially, is to represent the world. Explaining consciousness, therefore, comes down to understanding the representational character of experience.
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