Untangling the Hard Problem of Consciousness

by Todd Duncan at The Global Spiral

"A feeling of alienation is a common reaction to modern scientific descriptions of the cosmos. As journalist Bryan Appleyard (1992) expresses it, “On the maps provided by science, we find everything except ourselves.” At the core of this reaction is the discrepancy between the inner world of our awareness and the outer world of our objective scientific description of reality. This disconnect between two dominant aspects of our experience is a significant hurdle on the path toward what Weislogel (2007) calls a “whole story of the whole cosmos for the whole person.” Thus a key step along the path toward wholeness is to find a comfortable home for our inner world of subjective experience within the framework of a scientific map of physical reality.

This challenge is often referred to as the “hard problem” of consciousness: How can it be that subjective experience arises from physical processes in the brain? (The topic has a long history, but see, e.g., Chalmers 1995, 2002a, b.) Why is it that certain physical brain states are accompanied by the experience that there is “something it is like” to be in those states? (Nagel, 1974) After all, subjective experience seems extraneous to the physical description, and most physical states (rocks, ice, pencils, cell phones, etc.) are apparently not accompanied by such experiences.

My aim here is to describe a way to untangle the difficulty by clarifying the origin of the problem..."

Read the article.


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