WHY THE EXPLANATORY GAP IS NOT A DECISIVE ARGUMENT AGAINST NATURALISM IN PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

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Transliteration of original Title: 
Pochemu razryv v ob'yasnenii ne yavlyaetsya reshayuschim argumentom protiv naturalizma v filosofii soznaniya
Author(s): 
Mariya Sekatskaya
Saint Petersburg State University
Issue number: 
No. 2 (Vol. 44)
Pages: 
125-135
Abstract: 

Conscious phenomena are subjective and are experienced from the first person perspective. Science aims for objectivity. Scientific theories deal with publicly observable phenomena, which are therefore said to be given from the “third person perspective”. In philosophy of mind there have been presented several arguments to the effect that objective scientific approach can’t explain consciousness. In this article I focus on the famous argument of “explanatory gap” by Joseph Levine. According to Levine, there is an unremovable gap in any scientific explanation of the phenomena of conscious experience, because no such theory can intelligibly correlate objective scientific concepts with subjective phenomenal states. I argue for two claims.

First, I want to show that “explanatory gap” can not be used as an independent argument against physicalism or functionalism such that it would give anti-physicalist or anti-functionalist thought experiments additional conceptual force. It can’t be used for this aim not because it is wrong, but because it is not an argument, strictly speaking, but rather a formal expression of basic anti-physicalist and anti-functionalist intuitions. 

Second, I want to demonstrate that “explanatory gap” is not specific for explaining consciousness. This kind of gap also exists in other theoretical explanations of concrete facts and is not considered problematic in those other cases. In order to show this I argue that physical theories of space can not explain why I am “here” and physical theories of time can not explain why I am “now”, but we do not think that they leave out something important for our understanding of space and time.

My conclusion is that the existence of “explanatory gap” is not a decisive argument in favor of anti-naturalism in philosophy of mind.

Keywords: 
explanatory gap, qualia, consciousness, experience, physicalism, functionalism, philosophical zombies
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