The Problem of Consciousness: Easy, Hard or Tricky?

Topoi 36 (1):17-30 (2017)
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Abstract

Phenomenal consciousness presents a distinctive explanatory problem. Some regard this problem as ‘hard’, which has troubling implications for the science and metaphysics of consciousness. Some regard it as ‘easy’, which ignores the special explanatory difficulties that consciousness offers. Others are unable to decide between these two uncomfortable positions. All three camps assume that the problem of consciousness is either easy or hard. I argue against this disjunction and suggest that the problem may be ‘tricky’—that is, partly easy and partly hard. This possibility emerges when we recognise that consciousness raises two explanatory questions. The Consciousness Question concerns why a subject is conscious rather than unconscious. The Character Question concerns why a conscious subject’s experience has the phenomenology it has rather than some other. I explore the possibility of one or other of these explanatory challenges being hard and the other easy, and consider the dialectical ramifications this has for all sides of the debate.

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Tom McClelland
Cambridge University

References found in this work

What is It Like to Be a Bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
What Do Philosophers Believe?David Bourget & David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.
Epiphenomenal Qualia.Frank Jackson - 1982 - Philosophical Quarterly 32 (April):127-136.

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