Consciousness-dependence and the explanatory gap

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 45 (4):521-540 (2002)
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Contrary to certain rumours, the mind-body problem is alive and well. So argues Joseph Levine in Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness . The main argument is simple enough. Considerations of causal efficacy require us to accept that subjective experiential, or 'phenomenal', properties are realized in basic non-mental, probably physical properties. But no amount of knowledge of those physical properties will allow us conclusively to deduce facts about the existence and nature of phenomenal properties. This failure of deducibility constitutes an explanatory problem - an explanatory gap - but does not imply the existence of immaterial mental properties. Levine introduced this notion of the explanatory gap almost two decades ago. Purple Haze allows Levine to situate the explanatory gap in a broader philosophical context. He engages with those who hold that the explanatory gap is best understood as implying anti-materialist metaphysical conclusions. But he also seeks to distance himself from contemporary naturalistic philosophical theorizing about consciousness by arguing that reductive and eliminative theories of consciousness all fail. Levine's work is best seen as an attempt to firmly establish a definite status for the mind-body problem, i.e. that the mind-body problem is a real, substantive epistemological problem but emphatically not a metaphysical one. Because Levine's work is tightly focused upon contemporary Anglophone analytic philosophy of mind, there is little discussion of the broader conceptual background to the mind-body problem. My aim here is to place Levine's work in a broader conceptual context. In particular, I focus on the relationship between consciousness and intentionality in the belief that doing so will allow us better to understand and evaluate Levine's arguments and their place in contemporary theorizing about mentality and consciousness



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Neil Manson
Lancaster University

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Epiphenomenal qualia.Frank Jackson - 1982 - Philosophical Quarterly 32 (April):127-136.
On a confusion about a function of consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
Consciousness and Experience.William G. Lycan - 1996 - Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

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