The term 'explanatory gap' infers that there is a gap of coherent meaningful information describing and accounting for qualities and characteristics of consciousness content, processes, and states that is explainable to a logical level of understanding.
A description of, the philosophical "explanatory gap", is located here.
The following are the current understandings as to how mind, consciousness content, thought, and experience etc. come into being. There are many theories as to how this happens. Three of the most common categories of theories are listed below; the third is the object of this article:
1) The brain cells and neural network are mind and consciousness and there is nothing further to explain. There also is the belief that consciousness is merely an illusion. There is then no “gap” of further understanding or discovery to be made. There are some who claim that the subject of consciousness is simply too complex to be explainable. There is no gap to be bridged. That is all there is.
2) The brain contains localized neuronal correlates of consciousness, that have yet to be identified, creating a gap of understanding that at this time can not be explained. Correlations of brain activity do not necessarily imply causation. The inability to of science to identify specific neuronal correlates between abstract mental thought and the physical brain, nerve cells and sensory organs leaves an unexplained “gap” of possible future discovery.
3) That the brain, mind and consciousness are interdependent processes that may be logically explained thus creating what can be referred to in philosophical terms as an "explanatory gap". Filling in parts of this gap with a brief but logically explainable theory is object of this article.
In matters of the subject of human consciousness there are those who believe that the brain solely gives rise to mind and consciousness and there is nothing to explain. They believe that like water that is heated to create steam vapors, the brain somehow mysteriously gives rise to conscious experience and thought. That biochemical processes are happening in the brain is readily observed and understood, but whether the observation of neurotransmitter electrical fields and the firings of synapses that can be defined as the cause of specific individual mental thoughts is unclear.
Beyond the motor and sensory regions of brain activity little is understood. If it is considered that no “gap” exists to require further discovery there is nothing to explain. Mapping of the brain and the understanding of neural networks have revealed much as to the functions of the brain but defining any properties and attributes of so called Neural Correlates of Consciousness is yet to be done. The premise that consciousness and concepts as to intentions and conscience somehow emerge from a physical neural network, appear to be false, leaving a gap yet to be explained. This seemingly “inexplicable gap” along with the, “no gap” brain is mind and consciousness concept, gives rise to many and varied religious, spiritual and philosophical concepts that are not always logical, nor reasonable, causing much misunderstanding and division based upon the irrationality of these theories.
Are the brain and its complex neural networks only perceiving through the senses and reacting to the observed environments? Are brain, mind and consciousness one and the same phenomena? There appears to be no complete evidence to support these hypotheses. If there is a gap of scientific and philosophical understanding as to what is defined as consciousness in relationship to the workings of the brain neural network, can that gap be explained? Upon realizing the plausibility that their is a logical and explainable gap of understanding to describe the attributes, relationships and inter-dependency of individual consciousness, with individual mind, brains neural network and nervous system, an explainable and provable concept must be developed to bridge, close or fill the “gap”.
Any “explanatory gap” would need to have a logical and provable basis that would include clear definitions and understandings of the interrelationships of the (1) brain and its neural network, (2) what is defined as mind, and of (3) what is defined as consciousness.
One of the most common definitions of mind is that it is what the brain does. This simplistic view does not give an explanation as to the higher order of awareness of conscious mind. Similarly it is mistakenly considered that mind and consciousness are synonymous as they share common attributes.
Consciousness can be defined in simplistic terms as a sense of spatial-temporal awareness of self and environment that is universal to all humans. Individual homo sapien “mind” is an expression of that universal conscious awareness and provides individual self consciousness, personality, memory, thought, emotions and above all reasoning capacity.
That homo sapien has a higher form of consciousness than any other animal specie gives humans special attributes. Having the phenomena called mind which is an individual expression of consciousness identifies the “I ” or personality. Humankind (as differentiated from animals) has unique brain cells and nervous systems which can facilitate the phenomena of mathematics and language through highly evolved cognitive pattern and sequence recognition. Mathematics and language gives sophisticated expression to conscious human mind and brain cells.
Consciousness or awareness is required to perceive and comprehend all physical matter but most importantly consciousness is required to comprehend and understand the function and attributes of consciousness itself. “Thoughts” are an expression of consciousness. Thoughts and thinking (reasoning) are the root perceiver of the existence of both cause and effect, and both reason and reality.
Reason or purpose exists in nature. The human specie being part of nature has reason and purpose but also has specific reasoning and creative attributes that no other species has. Humanity is endowed with seemingly supra-natural like powers of good or evil. Two clear examples: Through sophisticated and analytical thought and creative processes and the invention of powerful atom bombs individuals are given the god like power over life or death. Contraception and abortion are human but god like powers that can and do thwart the evolutionary process.
That something is non-physical but is observable, can be qualified and categorized may be difficult to conceive due to the intangibility of the subject. The example of the two basic components of a computer may illustrate the point. A computer has non-physical software which is comprised of abstract logic, concepts, sequencing, and programmed objectives that are placed on a physical medium or computer hardware. The physical computer hardware and the intangible software are interdependent and produce the desired results. The intangible is seemingly seamlessly merged with the tangible.
The facilitators of sophisticated thought and consciousness are mathematics (universal grounded relational order) and language. Both have special attributes that are little understood. Discovered natural order being an instantiatation of the numerical symbols of mathematics. Order and temporal sequence represent the intelligence behind life itself. Numerical categorizations of what appear to be mentally subliminal sensations of qualia underlie our perceptions and reactions to our environment. The human created symbols of language are extensions or projections of the naturally ordered sensory categories that are represented by numerical symbols. The universal recognition of individual languages that consistently use and adhere to a common alphabet to provide broad acceptance and intelligence to the language are the basis for communicating highly developed awareness. Human sophisticated consciousness, mathematics (numerical order of qualitative categories are instantiations of mathematics) and language are interdependent just as the phenomena of consciousness, mind and brain are interdependent.
Human individual consciousness which can be referred to as “mind” is a living abstract phenomena with many special attributes that require both mathematics and language to give the mind greater levels of expression and reasoning. Secondly, subliminal informational instantiations of the symbols (forces of intelligence) created by the intelligent order of alphabets used in language to create names in identifying the individual phenomena of conscious minds, influence the qualities that are given expression to by that mind. The suppression, or expression of mental characteristics, is modified or enhanced by numerically defined mental and emotional qualities that are represented by the letters of the name that comprise the "forces of intelligence" that influence the qualities of that individual mind. The potential for qualitative mental balance may be created by the harmonious arrangement of the instrument of intelligence (language) in the deliberate and thoughtful assignment of proper names.
There is much yet to be discovered about consciousness with its existing “explanatory gap” and that gap of understanding should be explainable in rational, methodical terms to give greater understanding of the very nature of humankind, mind and consciousness. The comprehension of this seemingly unexplored, undiscovered, unexplained gap has the potential to unify all religions, and beliefs in logical philosophical and methodical scientific terms.