The Explanatory Gap: The Responses of Horgan and Papineau Essay

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The Explanatory Gap: The Responses of Horgan and Papineau The what it is like to undergo an experience is essential to understanding that experience. Known by philosophers as subjective qualia, these characteristics are part of what makes a felt experience exactly that experience. If we introspect our own mental states, this seems apparent and incontrovertible. Most philosophers are unwilling to grant that subjective qualia are non-physical states, and attempts to face this problem and maintain physicalism must address arguments from qualia. While differing physical explanations for these subjective qualia exist, I will only briefly refer to them here as qualia will serve only as a means of leading the reader to the Explanatory…show more content…
The common example of introspecting one's own pain seems to reveal a transparent nature of qualia- it is rather impossible to think of pain without thinking to some degree about actual pain and therefore the phenomenal subjective qualities of pain. Or put another way, if pain is not quality of a certain feeling then how could it be a pain at all? The effort to explain this phenomenon has met unique difficulties, and from this apparent difficulty arises the Explanatory Gap. Equipped with some physical theory about what those subjective qualia are, there is the formidable problem that any such explanation seems to leave something out- namely the what it is like of the experience. We can explain many qualities of things in the world if we learn the science that sufficiently describes the quality(2). The wetness of water and the hardness of diamonds may require some mental exercise but do not exceed one's ability to explain. Furthermore, there are levels of explanation about each phenomenon, and the debate over primacy may ensue(3), but at some level humans succeed in explaining many previous mysteries. The Explanatory Gap is best illustrated by demonstrating one explanation that closes the Gap, and then looking at how all attempts to explain phenomenal experiences fail to similarly close the Gap. In science a description of water is given in terms of the chemical structure and molecular components that compose the liquid in a given
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