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Function and phenomenology: Closing the explanatory gap

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This paper critiques the view that consciousness is likely something extra which accompanies or is produced by neural states, something beyond the functional cognitive processes realized in the brain. Such a view creates the ‘explanatory gap'between function and nomenology which many suppose cannot be filled by functionalist theories of mind. Given methodological considerations of simplicity, ontological parsimony, and theoretical conservatism, an alternative hypothesis is recommended, that subjective qualitative experience is identical to certain information-bearing, behaviour-controlling functions, not something which emerges from them. This hypothesis explains the isomorphism between the structure of experience and neural organization, while providing a naturalistic account of qualiait's relational properties of informational states, not a sparate ontology of phenomenal essences. On this functionalist view, the hard, empirical problem of consciousness is to discover precisely which neural functions constitute subjective experience.

Keywords: Consciousness; explanatory gap; hard problem; phenomenology; qualia; subjective experience

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 34 Winslow Avenue, Somerville, MA 02144, USA.

Publication date: March 1, 1995


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