Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

Chalmers thinks that if any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, then it is this: "Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?" Do you agree with Chalmers that it seems objectively unreasonable that all this physical processing should give rise to a rich inner life, as in fact it does? (See "The Hard Problem of Consciousness" in Max Velmans and Susan Schneider, eds. The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007: 228)


  1. I think that Chalmer's claim is too strong in saying that physical processes giving rise to a rich inner life is unreasonable. To me, it seems completely reasonable that consciousness may have risen from natural or evolutionary beginnings as some sort of beneficial adaptive trait. The question still remains as to how these physical processes may give rise to such a rich inner life, but to say that it's not reasonable is where I think Chalmers' claim is too strong. It would be alright if he were to say that physical processes giving rise to a rich inner life is improbable, but to call it flat out unreasonable seems like a hasty conclusion for me.

  2. First, I'm not sure how tough the hard problem is in terms of science because they are studying humans as conscious beings in doing neuroscience. But as far as theorizing about consciousness, I think that Chalmers may be relying on too strong of a distinction between subject and object. Of course it seems unlikely that consciousness would arise out of purely physical processes if you think that there is a strict line between subject and object, because it seems impossible that any number of interactions between physical objects would ever be able to produce a subject, the sole creator and possessor of experience. But when we think of subjects as relational concepts, i.e. that they arise because of the interactions between the body's physical processes and the peculiar way those processes are hooked up to the world, the conscious experiences we have don't seem so hard to explain.


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