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The explanatory gap - Essay Example

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The explanatory gap

John Levine introduced the explanatory gap for the difficulty that the mind theories of physicalists have in explaining the physical properties in giving rise to the way things experienced when they are felt. Levine in his 1983 article used the explanatory gap to point out that even though it might be applicable in a physiological sense, the explanatory gap does not aid our understanding of pain feeling. The explanatory gap has intrigued and vexed a number of researchers and philosophers in a similar way in the past decades and resulted into a considerable debate. Finding a fulfilling and gratifying mechanistic explanation to bridge the gap is a hard problem. This paper seeks to define the explanatory gap, and highlight whether or not the explanatory gap poses an obstacle to materialism with reference to the work of Levine. The explanatory gap infers that there is an existence of a gap of consistent and rational meaningful information that describe and account for characteristics and qualities of consciousness processes, content and states that it is explicable to a rational and logical level of mastery. That is to say, explanatory gap is in the human concept. The term explanatory gap does not illustrate a gap in nature, but rather a gap in our own understanding of nature (Levine 1983). Joseph Levine in his works demonstrates the explanatory gap as an obstacle to materialism. Materialism holds that there exist identities between material kinds and conscious kinds. Joseph Levine illustrates that pain is identical with the C-fibers firing, and also gives an example of viewing something are red which is identical with an activity in the visual V4 area cortex. Joseph Levine also looks at the explanatory gap as an obstacle to materialism in the line with contemporary orthodoxy materialist, and that such kind of identities are posteriori. Levine argues that it is a matter of scientific investigation, to ascertain whether or not pain is the firing C-fibers, rather than conceptual reflection to seeing things as red is an activity in the V4 area in the visual cortex. In this regard, the identities of mind and brain that are discovered will be of the same kind to such exemplary a posteriori identities of science as that of temperature is mean kinetic energy, or that of water is H2O. There is also a good scientific evidence for the presence of such like brain and mind identities. In particular cases, there are direct evidence in the co-occurrence of certain material kinds and conscious kinds. Joseph Levine even asserted that the identities of mind and brain strike quite differently from the apparently corresponding scientific identities (Levine 1983). Levine cites some questions to demonstrate the explanatory gap as an obstacle to materialism: presume that we actually have evidence that pain is the same as firing of C-fiber and is one. Would we not still want to try and find out why firing of C-fiber feels pain instead of something else? And why there is pain in the firing of the C-fiber? There is however no analogous questions that press on us in most of the scientific cases. For example, after finding out that water is H2O, there is no further feeling of the need to know why even when there is H2O, we still have water, or why water is H2O and not anything else. This is the reason Joseph Levine coined the explanatory gap in order to give an impression that something have been left unexplained by mind and brain identities. Many other philosophers besides Joseph Levine have argued that explanatory gap emerges because people cannot draw from the facts ...Show more


The explanatory gap is a term used in the modern philosophy by Joseph Levine in his "Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap" published in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly in 1983. …
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