Deflating the hard problem of consciousness by multiplying explanatory gaps

Ratio 37 (1):1-13 (2024)
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Recent philosophy has seen a resurgence of the realist view of sensible qualities such as colour. The view holds that experienced qualities are properties of the objects in the physical environment, not mentally instantiated properties like qualia or merely intentional, illusory ones. Some suggest that this move rids us of the explanatory gap between physical properties and the qualitative features of consciousness. Others say it just relocates the problem of qualities to physical objects in the environment, given that such qualities cannot be derived from the non-qualitative properties of objects, and it does not resolve the problem of consciousness either. I argue that such an outcome is welcome: if the physical world is full of explanatory gaps, then the mind–body explanatory gap is not so special. Moreover, the explanatory gaps regarding qualities of objects are less puzzling than the brain-qualia gap. In order to counter the usual worries concerning realism about objective qualities, I introduce ‘imperfect realism’ as an alternative to colour pluralism and complex reductionism, which accommodates realism in the face of widespread perceptual error. I conclude with a discussion of how this ‘multiple-gaps view’ sits better with a naturalistic framework compared to the Galilean-Cartesian account of qualities.

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Işık Sarıhan
Central European University (PhD)


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