Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread: Consciousness, the hard problem and the nature of reality

  1. #1
    Leon Freeman
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Ho Chi Minh City

    Default Consciousness, the hard problem and the nature of reality

    David Chalmers

    As a boy he also had synaesthesia, meaning that music produced strong colour sensations in his mind.
    "A lot of things were just kind of boring greens and browns but every now and then something would be bright red. I remember Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles was bright red."
    how can the machinery of the brain (the neurons and synapses) produce consciousness — the colours that we see, for example, or the sounds that we hear?

    Look at a brain scan and you will see nothing resembling consciousness. Brains, in fact, do not appear particularly remarkable — which makes the fact that they are even more exceptional.

    "The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience,"
    "It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does."
    why should moving parts produce perception and sensation? And why should only brains (as far as we know) be responsible for consciousness?
    Car engines are sophisticated systems, albeit far less complicated than brains, yet not one has ever shown the vaguest inclination of wanting to drive.

    To claim that pain is nothing more than a configuration of molecules in our heads seems to ignore the fact that pain actually hurts.

    In the 1950s, philosophers at the University of Adelaide were at the forefront of attempts to tackle such problems. A later generation of so-called eliminative materialists (most notably Patricia and Paul Churchland) were more radical.

    Eliminativists claim that brain states do not merely generate conscious experiences, but literally are them. Daniel Dennett, who debated Professor Chalmers in a now notorious showdown in the Arctic Circle funded by a Russian entrepreneur, has even claimed that consciousness itself is an illusion.

    The reality of experience, however, tends to refute this idea.
    It seems that there is a hole in our scientific picture of the world, what philosopher Joseph Levine called an "explanatory gap".

    When I spoke to Professor Chalmers ahead of his recent talk at the Australasian Association of Philosophy, he went so far as to call the hard problem "the number one unanswered scientific challenge of our time".
    "The problem of consciousness certainly comes up from thinking about robots," Professor Chalmers said.

    "Could a robot be conscious in the way that a human being is, or do you need a special biology to be conscious? I was always on the side of the robots. That's not to say there's no mystery about consciousness."
    An encounter with Douglas Hofstadter's classic book Godel, Escher, Bach deepened his burgeoning passion for philosophy, and he decided to switch fields.

    "I had zero demonstrated talent at philosophy so there was no particular reason to think I'd be any good at it. It was a bit of a leap of faith."
    He recalls a conversation he had with his father, who was a professor of medicine at Flinders University, as he was making the transition.

    "He was a bit worried about the whole philosophy thing," Professor Chalmers said. "He's a scientist ... and then for me to be wanting to be veering off into philosophy.

    "He told me 'don't tell me you're going to spend your life looking for the soul!'"
    "We're not going to reduce consciousness to something physical ... it's a primitive component of the universe," he said.

    "But that frees us up to search for the fundamental principles that govern it. In physics, we don't try and explain space and time in terms of more fundamental things. We just find the laws that govern them."

    Professor Chalmers retains a love of science, despite the hostility sometimes shown by scientists towards his own discipline. In recent years, theoretical physicists have been especially critical of philosophy. Lawrence Krauss is one. Stephen Hawking is another.

    "You get a few people with strongly expressed opinions about this," he said. "Often they don't know so much about philosophy. Certainly Stephen Hawking doesn't.
    "A lot of the great philosophers of the 20th century have actually been scientists. Einstein was a great philosopher in his way, as well as people like Heisenberg and Schrodinger. Some of the best philosophical conversations I've had have been with scientists."

    Neuroscientist Giulio Tononi is among those to have piqued Professor Chalmers' interest. Dr Tononi has developed what has come to be known as Integrated Information Theory, which attempts to measure consciousness using maths.

    Professor Chalmers does not believe Dr Tononi has solved the hard problem, but thinks he may be closing in on significant new insights about the connections between mind and matter.

    "He takes the attitude of presupposing the existence of consciousness as basically a fundamental component of reality, as I do, and [tries to] find the fundamental laws that link it to physical processing," Professor Chalmers said.

    "For him, these principles that connect integrated information and consciousness are kind of like fundamental laws of physics, and that's roughly the view that I think you have to take too."

  2. #2
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    Default Re: Consciousness, the hard problem and the nature of reality

    A much better paper on 'consciousness':
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may edit your posts