Dissolving the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Dissertation, Emory University (2003)
The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining the experiential aspects of consciousness in the physical terms of computational neuroscience. I argue that, on the one hand, the problem cannot be what it is often said to be---the problem of explaining the "feel" of conscious experiences, their subjective or qualitative character, or the problem of explaining qualia---since each of these notions embodies serious conceptual confusions. On the other hand I claim that there is a sense in which we may say that certain aspects of experience cannot be explained in physical terms. The reason they cannot, however, is not mysterious; it has to do with the fact that these aspects depend, not only for their description but also, in a sense, for their very existence, on our being the kind of conscious creatures who use language. There is no such thing, I argue, as an explanation in purely physical terms of an organism's being in a conscious state whose individuation depends on that organism's satisfying certain linguistic or conceptual criteria
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