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)


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.

Download options


External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

138 (#87,058)

6 months
44 (#19,291)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

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.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Qualia and Materialism: Closing the Explanatory Gap.Clyde L. Hardin - 1987 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 48 (December):281-98.
Functionalism and Qualia.Kalevi Lehto - 2003 - Dissertation, Bowling Green State University
Functionalism and Sensations.Mark Brown - 1983 - Auslegung 10:218-28.
Functionalism, Qualia, and the Inverted Spectrum.Terence Horgan - 1984 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 44 (June):453-69.
Sensory Holism and Functionalism.Joseph Thomas Tolliver - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (6):972-973.
Quality-Space Functionalism About Color.Jacob Berger - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (3):138-164.
Testing Robots for Qualia.James H. Moor - 1988 - In Herbert R. Otto & James A. Tuedio (eds.), Perspectives on Mind. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Kim's Functionalism.Marian David - 1997 - Philosophical Perspectives 11:133-48.
Physicalism and the Subjectivity of Secondary Qualities.Janet Levin - 1987 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65 (4):400-411.
Qualia.David Villena Saldaña - 2016 - Escritura y Pensamiento 39 (39):79-103.
Absent and Inverted Qualia Revisited.Joseph Levine - 1988 - Mind and Language 3 (4):271-87.