6 Comments

David Chlamers on Consciousness

Here is an excerpt of an interview of David Chalmers – one of the leading contemporary David ChalmersPhilosophers in the area of Philosophy of Mind. It is interesting to note that Chalmers suggests that may be some modification is required in the method of science to incorporate the subjective elements, which he takes to be the central feature of consciousness. I presume that Philosophers of science have to think about the feasibility of this suggestion if they consider the suggestion to be important. What do you think about Chalmers’ suggestion?

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6 comments on “David Chlamers on Consciousness

  1. Very interesting video. Thanks for posting it. I periodically try to listen to Chalmers when I can to see if I’m just missing something in the hard problem arguments, but every time I do listen to him, or any of the other hard problem folks, I find myself more strongly in the category mistake / semantic confusion camp.

    It seems to me that once we remove each of our senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste), along with any perceptions coming from our body (most notably our gut), and then remove our memories of past perceptions, when we’re down to nothing but the mental engine itself, we’ve eliminated everything that makes up an inner subjective experience.

    • I see. Great to know that you follow Chalmers regularly. I do not have a sound understanding of many of the debates in Philosphy of MInd. Can you briefly tell me that how you understand the ‘category mistake’ argument? and How would you state the ‘hard problem’ issue?

      • I fear I may not be able to do the hard problem justice. As I understand it, the hard problem is that while we may be able to explain things like behavior, or how perception works, we can’t explain how that translates into our subjective inner experience. For example, light bounces off an apple and hits the receptors in my eyes, creating an electrical signal to the vision portions of my brain, where it is processed and then pattern matched to stored information of previous inputs that match the category ‘apple’. However, this doesn’t explain my subjective inner experience of the redness of the apple and its shape. It doesn’t explain what it’s like to be me perceiving the apple.

        I think the category mistake is the expectation of an objective explanation for a subjective inner experience. No list of objective facts will ever intuitively add up to my inner experience. To expect it to is like asking what the color of 7 is, or what a triangle sounds like.

        That said, I’m not entirely sure I really understand what Chalmers and Nagel mean by the hard problem.

      • Thaks Mike for succintly putting it. Kindly see whetehr I understand what you are saying.
        Hardproblem:
        You said: “the hard problem is that while we may be able to explain things like behavior, or how perception works, we can’t explain how that translates into our subjective inner experience”.
        I guess what you are saying is that It is not clear that how the physiological processes that are involved in cognition can lead to the generation of a subjective experience. Why is it not clear? Are we saying that it is not clear by supposing the following? Are we suposing that the physiological processes are in some sense “physical” but the subjective experience which seems to be the result of the physiological processes is “menatl”. So are we worrying that: how can a “physical” process produce a “mental” phenomenon? Here you seems top be saying that the problem at issue is that how physical process in general can produce (I take that that is what you mean by “translate”) mental states in general? I make this assumption since you said “our subjective experience”.
        **************************
        To expalin the point you said: “For example, light bounces off an apple and hits the receptors in my eyes, creating an electrical signal to the vision portions of my brain, where it is processed and then pattern matched to stored information of previous inputs that match the category ‘apple’. However, this doesn’t explain my subjective inner experience of the redness of the apple and its shape. It doesn’t explain what it’s like to be me perceiving the apple”.
        Here you seems to be saying that it is not clear that how the physiological processes can produce certain experiences in me (with its idiosyncracies?). I guess that is what you mean by saying “this does not explain”. is the difficulty here is that it is not cleatr how the physiological processes can produce certain experiences or it can produce experiences which has certain idiosyncrasies? Or is it the point something else? Is the difficulty the follwing? The physioligcal processes, that are involved in cognitive processes of the kind you mentioned, are not sufficient in expaling a mental phenomenon. It is not sufficient since there is a subjective experience that is to be accounted in the explanation. The subjective experience with its idiosyncracies cannot be understood by anyone other than the agent herself. Hence any expalantion of a cognitve process by a third person will be incomple. I think I am lost 🙂

        Category Mistake:
        Yes it is clear that the ‘objective facts’ will leave out the experiential part. So what would be your suggestion? Menatal terms has to be understood solely on the basis of experiential features?
        Cheers,
        Sreejith

      • Those are excellent questions. For answers, I’d really have to defer to someone who thought the hard problem was real. My suspicion is that we’re dealing with intuitions. Even if we eventually explain all the constituent parts, it won’t feel like we solved the hard problem.

        You asked for what I suggest on how to explain subjective experience. I think we should realize that our intuitions won’t be satisfied. The brain isn’t necessarily equipped to intuitively understand itself. But it can objectively understand itself, and that may have to be enough.

    • I see. Thanks for the clarifications.
      Cheers,
      Sreejith

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