The Explanatory Gap. Where All The Subtleties Are Derived.

I was reading an article in Scientific American this past weekend, tucked away in the “nerds only” section of the already erudite publication. It was about something I’ve thought about a million times, and, after years of proper philosophical thinking and testing on the subject, I’m a little tired of thinking about it.

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t still be amazed by the variations of prose in which the question is being asked and assessed.

Basically the question of the explanatory gap, perhaps first posited in this blatant of a manner by Thomas Nagel’s “What Is It Like To Be A Bat?”, asks what is the causal correlation between mind and body? What is the connection between when I pine over the nostalgic effects of a past memory and the patterns of activation that are relaying their way through my neural circuits? How do exchanges of sodium and potassium “give rise” to sensations and let me feel utterly unique when I embrace a breathtaking sight? You get the picture. It’s the question everyone asks. It’s the question that has been asked countless times. However, now all the sophists are scientists and they give names and apply complex terminology.

However, at the end of the day….the “explanatory gap” is an infinitely simple concept, but inherently enigmatic and, truthfully, minus some work in the field of Quantum Mechanics, its answers are still at large.

That’s why, like how I tackle most of the problems I can’t resolve, I have found beauty in not the pursuit of the answers, but the ways in which the questions are asked. Even attempts at answers seem to me to be more like questions.

That brings me back to the quote from the article I linked to above.

Where is Aunt Millie’s mind when her brain dies of Alzheimer’s? I countered to Chopra. Aunt Millie was an impermanent pattern of behavior of the universe and returned to the potential she emerged from, Chopra rejoined.

mmm. Ponder that.

I feel like this came at a perfectly aligned time for my particular pattern of existence.

Just after reading that quote, I headed out to Yoga. The instructor was really driving home the concept of our own individual uniqueness and being like snowflakes, blah blah blah. However, all cliches aside, it really did make me think.

I’m always trying to be the best or the most memorable. If I make love to a woman, I want to make sure she remembers it as different. If I do research, I want my publication to be influential enough to referenced as a framework for future work. However, my existence, my patterns of behavior, as impermanent as they may be, yield the most significance I could ever ask for. I came from a potential, to which I shall return, but for now, I am not that one. I am this. I am the bearer of these words. And with that, I need not chase the answers (for which I have plenty, previous, cathartic attempts), but instead I can revel in the beauty of the questions.


But, time passes. We cannot revel forever, and it is the subtleties to which me must lay blame for harnessing our inspired minds for the labors that pursue the answers.

Therefore, I’ll be spending a good amount of time tackling this problem, but I think it’s important to start with the inherent sublimity of that which I’m diving into.

I hope to expand on my overarching theories that extend back to the explanatory gap, which rest on my initial axioms:

  • Order was first, like a Rubik’s cube in the initial packaging, but chaos arose as time was introduced. The patterns in this chaos that allowed for a greater permanence of existence found ways to persevere.
  • Consciousness arose as a way to be cognizant of these processes and, with this understanding, the conscious beings can arrange future patterns in a more coherent, time-lasting manner.
  • This is all in pursuit of resolving back to the initial order. To complete the cycle of an attempt of the one attempting to understand itself. However, one cannot understand itself, until they split and communicate with their parts.

I hope to expand upon the dense ideas illustrated in those bullet points. They’ve taken much contemplation and it’s amazing to see how minimal the number of words were to convey the theses properly.

We have time.

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