Dan Zahavi
University of Copenhagen
In his book The Conscious Mind David Chalmers introduced a by now familiar distinction between the hard problem and the easy problems of consciousness. The easy problems are those concerned with the question of how the mind can process information, react to environmental stimuli, and exhibit such capacities as discrimination, categorization, and introspection (Chalmers, 1996, 4, 1995, 200). All of these abilities are impressive, but they are, according to Chalmers, not metaphysically baffling, since they can all be tackled by means of the standard repertoire of cognitive science and explained in terms of computational or neural mechanisms. This task might still be difficult, but it is within reach. In contrast, the hard problem—also known as the problem of consciousness (Chalmers, 1995, 201)—is the problem of explaining why mental states have phenomenal or experiential qualities. Why is it like something to ‘taste coffee’, to ‘touch an ice cube’, to ‘look at a sunset’ etc.? Why does it feel the way it does? Why does it at all feel like anything? Chalmers’s distinction confronts us with a version of the so-called ‘explanatory gap’. On the one hand, we have certain cognitive functions, which can apparently be explained reductively, and on the other hand, we have a number of experiential qualities, which seem to resist this reductive explanation. We can establish that a certain function is accompanied by a certain experience, but we have no idea why that happens, and regardless of how closely we scrutinize the neural mechanisms we don’t seem to be getting any closer at an answer. In his book, Chalmers also distinguished two concepts of mind: a phenomenal concept and a psychological concept. The first captures the conscious aspect of mind: Mind is understood in terms of conscious experience. The second concept understands mind in functional terms as the causal or explanatory basis for behavior..
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2010
ISBN(s) 0045-5091
DOI cjphil200333supplement29
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,959
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness.David Chalmers - 1995 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3):200-19.
The Significance of Consciousness.Charles P. Siewert - 1998 - Princeton University Press.

View all 46 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Sensorimotor Subjectivity and the Enactive Approach to Experience.Evan Thompson - 2005 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 4 (4):407-427.
Husserl's Noema and the Internalism‐Externalism Debate.Dan Zahavi - 2004 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 47 (1):42-66.
Indian Cognitivism and the Phenomenology of Conceptualization.Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad - 2011 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 10 (2):277-296.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
248 ( #44,310 of 2,504,605 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #140,063 of 2,504,605 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes