Bridges Over Sand The Bridge Metaphor and Conceptualizing the Explanatory Gap

Author: Green, Sean

Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 20, Numbers 1-2, 2013 , pp. 103-125(23)

Publisher: Imprint Academic

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Abstract:

Attempts to explain consciousness often challenge our intuitions by metaphorically bridging an 'explanatory gap' between objective reality and subjective experience. The intuitive appeal of these arguments -- such as Jackson's knowledge argument and Dennett's zimbo argument -- may depend partly on elements that do not necessarily relate to the explanatory gap. Like a bridge across sand in a dry garden, an argument may carry symbolic weight even if it does not connect one shore to another. To ensure that thought experiments advance our understanding of the explanatory gap, the conceptual 'bridge' in these thought experiments should (a) be crucial to (rather than incidental to) the intuitive appeal of the scenario described, and (b) be unambiguous, even to an audience that does not share the experimenter's definition of consciousness. This might prevent philosophical stalemates and increase the chance that current arguments remain relevant as scientific advances refine our understanding of the explanatory gap.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, Email: srgreen@buffalo.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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