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Explanatory gaps: sparse or abundant?

Friday, September 16, 2022, 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Abstract: The idea that reality’s more and less fundamental aspects are intelligibly connected is intuitively plausible. Ordinary life is ripe with examples seemingly confirming it: it seems intelligible how lego bricks constitute lego castles and how grains of sand make up heaps. Perhaps, for a powerful enough intellect, there would be no mystery how anything more fundamental connects to anything less fundamental. However, this generalization might be too quick. It faces at least one big bad bug: consciousness. Many philosophers of mind agree that there is an explanatory gap between the facts of physics and the facts of consciousness. Some, such as David Chalmers, argue that this gap has substantive metaphysical implications: that it entails the falsity of physicalism. In contrast, Jonathan Schaffer has recently rejected the idea that the consciousness gap is special. Instead, in his view, explanatory gaps are everywhere in nature. In this talk, I will investigate Schaffer’s claims that explanatory gaps are abundant and will assess whether the putative consciousness gap is indeed special.

Bio: Damian Aleksiev is a recent Ph.D. graduate from CEU’s Philosophy Department. He works primarily in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics. From October 2022, he will join the Institute Vienna Circle at the University of Vienna as a postdoc on a project investigating the metaphysics, epistemology, and existence of explanatory gaps.