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"Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness," 1995
David J. Chalmers, "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3), 1995, pp. 200-219
- Why doesn't all this information-processing go on "in the dark", free of any inner feel? ...We know that conscious experience does arise when these functions are performed, but the very fact that it arises is the central mystery. There is an explanatory gap [a term due to J. Levine, "Materialism and qualia: The explanatory gap" Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64:354-61, 1983] between the functions and experience, and we need an explanatory bridge to cross it.
- The easy problems of consciousness are those that seem directly susceptible to the standard methods of cognitive science, whereby a phenomenon is explained in terms of computational or neural mechanisms. The hard problems are those that seem to resist those methods. ...The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. ...When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought.
- Another useful way to avoid confusion [used by e.g. Allen Newell 1990 Unified Theories of Cognition] is to reserve the term "consciousness" for the phenomena of experience, using the less loaded term "awareness" for the more straightforward phenomena... If such a convention were widely adopted, communication would be much easier; as things stand, those who talk about "consciousness" are frequently talking past each other.
The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1996)
- Introduction. Taking Consciousness Seriously
- Consciousness is the biggest mystery. It may be the largest outstanding obstacle in our quest for a scientific understanding of the universe.
- I am an optimist about consciousness: I think that we will eventually have a theory of it, and in this book I look for one. But consciousness is not just business as usual; if we are to make progress, the first thing we must do is face up to the things that make the problem so difficult. Then we can move forward toward a theory, without blinkers and with a good idea of the task at hand.
- In developing my account of consciousness, I have tried to obey a number of constraints. The first and most important is to take consciousness seriously. The easiest way to develop a "theory" of consciousness is to deny its existence, or to redefine the phenomenon in need of explanation as something it is not. This usually leads to an elegant theory, but the problem does not go away.
- Part 1. Two Concepts of Mind
- Conscious experience is at once the most familiar thing in the world and the most mysterious.
- Consciousness can be startlingly intense. It is the most vivid of phenomena; nothing is more real to us. But it can be frustratingly diaphanous: in talking about conscious experience, it is notoriously difficult to pin down the subject matter.