SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

A Biological Approach to the Explanatory Gap
(Philosophy of Mind, Englisch)

The explanatory gap between matter and experience is a central problem for contemporary philosophy of mind. One of the main questions we must meet in order to come closer to bridging the gap is what it takes for something to have subjective experience. On this question philosophers of mind have radically different views. On the one hand we have panpsychism, which holds that everything has some sort of experience, and on the other we have views like Global Workspace Theory (GWT) which holds that a cognitive architecture is needed for subjective experience. Recently, philosophers of biology have entered the debate.
Peter Godfrey-Smith argues that between panpsychism and approaches like GWT there is an alternative view, which he dubs the transformation view (Godfrey-Smith 2016). On this view, subjective experience is possible in relatively simple organisms, while the evolution of more complex sensory and cognitive features will transform the character of subjective experience, but not bring it into being. The benefits of this view are that subjective experience can be thought of as coming in degrees and that we can look to evolutionary- and sensory biology for clues as to the necessary conditions for a minimal account of subjective experience, i.e. what makes subjective experience come into being. If for example, an organism with a nervous system that exhibits sensory input and behavioral output is sufficient, then it is argued, we are one step closer to bridging the gap.
In this talk I will go through Godfrey-Smith's arguments and see if it does indeed improve on the other views available. My main worry is that the explanatory gap will reappear in a different guise. Specifying the conditions for minimal subjective experience might be just as difficult here as in the other views.


Godfrey-Smith, P. (2016) "Mind, Matter, and Metabolism" in Journal of Philosophy (113:10) pp. 481-506.

Chair: Katsiaryna Suryna
Zeit: 12:00-12:30, 13. September 2018 (Donnerstag)
Ort: SR 1.003

Bendik Hellem Aaby
(KU Leuven, Belgien)

I am a Norwegian PhD student at KU Leuven, Belgium. My current research lies at the interface between the philosophy of evolutionary biology, mind, and animal psychology. I am one year into a four year PhD.
I did my MA on Mechanistic Explanation at the University of Oslo, and my BA in history, focusing on two 18th century texts that justified the absolute monarchy in Denmark-Norway in the age of enlightenment.

Testability and Meaning deco