Closing (or at least narrowing) the explanatory gap

In David Braddon-Mitchell & Peter Anstey (eds.), Armstrong's Materialist Theory of Mind. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 125-142 (2021)

Abstract

In this chapter, I revisit the issue of the explanatory gap that is supposed to open when considering identity statements between physical and mental phenomena. I show that the question asked in the original formulation of the explanatory gap was this: ʻwhy this phenomenal character, rather than any other, is attached to this physiological process?ʼ I argue that this question can be answered, because there is a natural fit between the phenomenal character of experiences and their functional roles. For example, pains feel inherently unpleasant, and that explains why they cause avoidance behaviour, and the felt location and intensity of pain indicates the location and extent of damage to the body. I discuss some other possible gaps in our understanding the relationship between the mental and the physical, and conclude that the fit between functional role and phenomenal character goes a long way, though probably not the whole way, to closing the explanatory gap.

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References found in this work

Epiphenomenal Qualia.Frank Jackson - 1982 - Philosophical Quarterly 32 (April):127-136.
Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap.Joseph Levine - 1983 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64 (October):354-61.
Naming and Necessity.Saul A. Kripke - 1985 - Critica 17 (49):69-71.
Consciousness and Mind.David M. Rosenthal - 2005 - Oxford University Press UK.

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