This Saturday we will continue with Lecture Three -The "Problem" of Consciousness and Lecture Four -The Explanatory Gap. The following outline may be printed out for your convenience, it has "excerpts " from the Course Guidbook.
The "Problem" of Consciousness
In this lecture, we look at the perplexing relationship between the mmaterial and the physical. We ask what it is about consciousness that would concern a physicist, and we address the claim that "physics is complete." We discover what Aristotle had to say about "real being," substance, and causality and raise the question of how the physical worldd interacts with a mental world not reducible to anything physical.
I Today, consciousness is an issue that tests both philosophers and Theoretical phsicists.
A. Pierre-Simon Laplace [masked])
1. Laplace summed up the confidence of his age when he claimed that if we had complete knowledge of the
position and velocity of every particle in the universe, the direct application of Newton's laws would allow us
to predict perfectly every future event.
2. Physics is complete adopts the metaphysical position-physicalism-that the only and ultimate reality is physical.
1. Aristotle's "meta ta phusica" is the pioneering work in metaphysics, and its influence is nothing less than
2. In his Metaphysics, Aristotle addresses this issue with his categorization of real entities.
a. Sensible entities are those whose being is readily established through perception and can be explained by
b. Another class of entities comes under the deading of "unmovable"- changeless over time and in their
II The question at this point is ontological: What has "real being"; what really exists?
A. George Berkeley [masked]) early in the 18th century, concluded that the real, material world required for its
subsistence a representation in the mind.
1. If, with George Berkeey, we find the most telling arguments being those that deny the independent reality of
matter and require of the seemingly material world the foundational reality that is mind, then we retain a monistic
ontology, but in this case, we would call it monistic idealism, real existence now being in the form of idea.
2. The more commonsense position to which we tend is that of dualism: There really is a physical world
independent of us and a mental world of consciousness and its contents.
B. Somewhere in this mix of questions and answers there seem to be assumptions that have not had the benefit of
* Note: new words
Dualism-The thesis that there are two basic and different constituents of reality,one physical and one mental.
Metaphysics-The branch of philosophy that deals with first principles and seeks to explain the nature of being and of the origin and structure of the world.
Monistic idealism-The thesis that the ultimate reality is not physical but mental and that the physical world, to the extent that it exists at all, does so in a totally mind-dependent fashion.
Ontological-The study of the nature of being or reality
The Explanatory Gap
This lecture discusses the so-called explanatory gap that is inherent in the problem of consciousness. Philosophy of mind favors foundational explanations: The problem is seen as a gap between the dynamics of the nervous system and the nature of consciousness itself. Can causal relationships be established between neural events and conscious life? some deny the esistence of an explanatory gap at all. In th end, must we resign ourselves to the idea that this is just one of life's elusive facts?
I If the major problem in philosophy of mind is the problem of consciousness, then it is so because of the so-called explanatory
A. If the premise of an explanatory gap is accepted, then criteria must be developed to judge the quality of an explanation
and its seeming validity.
B. The big gap in philosophy of mind has been seen as the gap between dynamic of the nervous system and the nature of
II The majority of todays' foremost philosophers would probably expect that gap to be filled by some sort of causal law.
A. There seems to be something of an explanatory gap between any number of paired relationships, where we sense that the
first is somehow responsible for the second, but we cannot figure out how this responsiblity is best understood.
1. Issac Newton [masked]) accounted for the fall of objects toward the center of the Earth through gravity. But to
cite gravity as the cause does not explain just how gravity has this effect.
2. David Hume [masked]) claimed that all such causal attributions are based on experience, specifically, on what he
called the "constant conjunction" of events.
B. A contemporary philosopher, Michael Tye, argues that the notion of a "gap" is illusory. He reaches this conclusion by a
complex analysis of how various concepts are formed and how they function at the level of our understanding of things.
1. Tye would have us accept the thesis that the actual references of our phenomenological expressions just constitute
states of the brain; so called conscious states simply are states of the brain under a different set of conceptual
III If the explanatory gap really exists, we still must ask whether it is a measure of where we have arrived in what is finally a work
in progress or whether it promises to remain just one of those eternally elusive facts of mental life.
Note; new words
Explanatory gap-The "gap" in an otherwise completely physical account of reality; the gap arising from the resistance of mental
phenomena to physicalistic explanations.
Physicalism- A thesis committed to the position that all reality is, at base, physical.
My hope is that the contents of this outline has whet your appetite for what will come next in the lecture series and I hope to see you Saturday 27. Thank you Dave for asking me to be one of the discussion leaders, it is an honor and a pleasure.