A Physicalist Solution to the Explanatory Gap

Dissertation, University of Rochester (2021)
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Abstract

As substance dualism fell out of favor, philosophers became increasingly interested in making sense of mind in purely physicalist terms. Along the way, the physicalist project has hit a few snags. Perhaps the most popular challenge was presented by Frank Jackson’s Mary’s Room thought experiment, wherein Mary, a brilliant color scientist, comes to know all of the physical facts about color whilst confined to a black-and-white room. Once released, Mary is presented with a ripe tomato. The intuition is that Mary, upon seeing a colored object for the first time, has learned something new, but what she has learned apparently cannot be accounted for by physicalism, thereby leaving an explanatory gap between mind and matter. There are those, like Joseph Levine, who believe the explanatory gap to be a necessary consequence of any physicalist theory of mind. I disagree, and in this dissertation, I aim to show that at least one physicalist theory of mind can close the gap. However, it requires embracing a theory that physicalists are hesitant to embrace: panpsychism.

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Yanssel Garcia
University of Nebraska, Omaha

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