Narrowing the Explanatory Gap with Bridge Metaphors

Jeffrey YoshimiUC Merced

Abstract

A central problem in philosophy of mind concerns the relationship between subjective experiences and the physical processes that subserve them. There seems to be an unbridgeable ``explanatory gap'' between the two. Whereas other scientific explanations (e.g. the explanation of temperature in terms of kinetic energy) involve determinate relationships between two kinds of phenomena, correlations between patterns of neural activity and conscious experiences seem to be arbitrary. I argue that by developing computer models of embodied agents, and interpreting them using the tools of philosophical phenomenology, the relationship between neural and conscious processes can be seen to be systematic, and non-arbitrary. Visualizations of these models serve as ``bridge metaphors'' that further emphasize how systematic neuro-phenomenological relations are. By showing that links between brain states and conscious states are non-arbitrary, the explanatory gap is narrowed.

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