Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Continuing Commentary
Ned Block (1995). On a confusion about a function of consciousness. BBS 18:227–287.

On widening the explanatory gap

A. H. C. van der Heijden a1, P. T. W. Hudson a1 and A. G. Kurvink a1
a1 Department of Experimental and Theoretical Psychology, Leiden University, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands


The explanatory gap refers to the lack of concepts for understanding “how it is that . . . a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue.” By assuming that there are colours in the outside world, Block needlessly widens this gap and Lycan and Kitcher simply fail to see the gap. When such assumptions are abandoned, an unnecessary and incomprehensible constraint disappears. It then becomes clear that the brain can use its own neural language for representing aspects of the outside world. While this may not close the gap, it becomes clearer where we need new concepts.