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On explaining phenomenal consciousness

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Over the last two decades, doubts have been expressed about the adequacy of materialism as the correct framework for explaining phenomenal consciousness (the experience of saturated greenness one has when looking at a lush lawn, for example). This paper reconstructs a generic form of the various arguments that have been used to defend the view of the materialistically inexplicable nature of consciousness (MINC). This reconstruction reveals that the arguments turn on an impoverished notion of explanation. By discussing some examples from the history of science, the paper shows that a reasonable notion of explanation has to be wider than the one utilized in the argument for MINC, which opens the possibility for the materialistic explicability of consciousness. The author ends the paper by raising a question about the very intelligibility of the project of trying to explain the so-called nature of consciousness as opposed to the regularities characteristic of the relation between states of consciousness and brain states.
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Keywords: consciousness; explanation; explanatory gap; materialism; qualia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071-3392, USA e-mail: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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