What is consciousness? How does the subjective character of consciousness fit into an objective world? How can there be a science of consciousness? In this sequel to his groundbreaking and controversial The Conscious Mind, DavidChalmers develops a unified framework that addresses these questions and many others. Starting with a statement of the "hard problem" of consciousness, Chalmers builds a positive framework for the science of consciousness and a nonreductive vision of the metaphysics of consciousness. He replies (...) to many critics of The Conscious Mind, and then develops a positive theory in new directions. The book includes original accounts of how we think and know about consciousness, of the unity of consciousness, and of how consciousness relates to the external world. Along the way, Chalmers develops many provocative ideas: the " consciousness meter", the Garden of Eden as a model of perceptual experience, and The Matrix as a guide to the deepest philosophical problems about consciousness and the external world. This book will be required reading for anyone interested in the problems of mind, brain, consciousness, and reality. (shrink)
This appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59:473-93, as a response to four papers in a symposium on my book The Conscious Mind . Most of it should be comprehensible without having read the papers in question. This paper is for an audience of philosophers and so is relatively technical. It will probably also help to have read some of the book. The papers I’m responding to are: Chris Hill & Brian McLaughlin, There are fewer things in reality than are (...) dreamt of in Chalmers’ philosophy Brian Loar, DavidChalmers’ The Conscious Mind Sydney Shoemaker, On DavidChalmers’ The Conscious Mind Stephen Yablo, Concepts and consciousness Contents. (shrink)
John Perry's book Knowledge, Possibility, and Consciousness is a lucid and engaging defense of a physicalist view of consciousness against various anti-physicalist arguments. In what follows, I will address Perry's responses to the three main anti-physicalist arguments he discusses: the zombie argument , the knowledge argument , and the modal argument.
More than a decade ago, philosopher John Searle started a long-running controversy with his paper “Minds, Brains, and Programs” (Searle, 1980a), an attack on the ambitious claims of artificial intelligence (AI). With his now famous _Chinese Room_ argument, Searle claimed to show that despite the best efforts of AI researchers, a computer could never recreate such vital properties of human mentality as intentionality, subjectivity, and understanding. The AI research program is based on the underlying assumption that all important aspects (...) of human cognition may in principle be captured in a computational model. This assumption stems from the belief that beyond a certain level, implementational details are irrelevant to cognition. According to this belief, neurons, and biological wetware in general, have no preferred status as the substrate for a mind. As it happens, the best examples of minds we have at present have arisen from a carbon-based substrate, but this is due to constraints of evolution and possibly historical accidents, rather than to an absolute metaphysical necessity. As a result of this belief, many cognitive scientists have chosen to focus not on the biological substrate of the mind, but instead on the abstract causal structure_ _that the mind embodies (at an appropriate level of abstraction). The view that it is abstract causal structure that is essential to mentality has been an implicit assumption of the AI research program since Turing (1950), but was first articulated explicitly, in various forms, by Putnam (1960), Armstrong (1970) and Lewis (1970), and has become known as _functionalism_. From here, it is a very short step to _computationalism_, the view that computational structure is what is important in capturing the essence of mentality. This step follows from a belief that any abstract causal structure can be captured computationally: a belief made plausible by the Church–Turing Thesis, which articulates the power. (shrink)
John Searle's review of my book The Conscious Mind appeared in the March 6, 1997 edition of the New York Review of Books. I replied in a letter printed in their May 15, 1997 edition, and Searle's response appeared simultaneously. I set up this web page so that interested people can see my reply to Searle in turn, and to give access to other relevant materials.
In my book _The Conscious Mind_ , I deny a number of claims that John Searle finds "obvious", and I make some claims that he finds "absurd". But if the mind/body problem has taught us anything, it is that nothing about consciousness is obvious, and that one person's obvious truth is another person's absurdity. So instead of throwing around this sort of language, it is best to examine the claims themselves and the arguments that I give for them, to (...) see whether Searle says anything of substance that touches them. (shrink)
Metaphysics is definitely back on the agenda of contemporary philosophy. It is a metaphysics in the full traditional sense, seeking to provide the means to gain knowledge that covers being as a whole, not just parts of it. Oxford University Press published three books in 2011 and 2012 each of which spells out that ambition. The present review sums up the main topics covered in these books and offers some comments.
In the autumn of 1915 at Princeton, the graduate student, Charles Hendel, and the professor, Norman Kemp Smith, went for a walk. Hendel thought the time auspicious to announce his desire to write a dissertation on Rousseau. As happens not infrequently between an adviser and a student, Kemp Smith attempted to dissuade his student from his intention and advised him to look into David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , instead. The professor noted that a ‘deadlock’ had long existed (...) between those who thought the sceptic, Philo, spoke for Hume, and those who thought the theistic views of Cleanthes most nearly echoed Hume's true opinions on religion. Perhaps through researching the problem, Kemp Smith suggested, Hendel could ‘resolve that impasse and establish Hume's position on the religious question’. (shrink)
Why is two-dimensional semantics important? One can think of it as the most recent act in a drama involving three of the central concepts of philosophy: meaning, reason, and modality. First, Kant linked reason and modality, by suggesting that what is necessary is knowable a priori, and vice versa. Second, Frege linked reason and meaning, by proposing an aspect of meaning (sense) that is constitutively tied to cognitive signi?cance. Third, Carnap linked meaning and modality, by proposing an aspect of meaning (...) (intension) that is constitutively tied to possibility and necessity. (shrink)
*[[This paper is largely based on material in other papers. The first three sections and the appendix are drawn with minor modifications from Chalmers 2002c . The main ideas of the last three sections are drawn from Chalmers 1996, 1999, and 2002a, although with considerable revision and elaboration. ]].
Scott Soames’ Reference and Description contains arguments against a number of different versions of two-dimensional semantics. After early chapters on descriptivism and on Kripke’s anti-descriptivist arguments, a chapter each is devoted to the roots of twodimensionalism in “slips, errors, or misleading suggestions” by Kripke and Kaplan, and to the two-dimensional approaches developed by Stalnaker (1978) and by Davies and Humberstone (1981). The bulk of the book (about 200 pages) is devoted to “ambitious twodimensionalism”, attributed to Frank Jackson, David Lewis, (...) and me. After a quick overview of two-dimensional approaches, I will focus on Soames’ discussion of ambitious twodimensionalism. I will then turn to a system advocated by Soames that is itself strikingly reminiscent of a two-dimensional approach. Two-dimensional semantic theories are varieties of possible-worlds semantics on which linguistic items can be evaluated relative to possibilities in two different ways, yielding two sorts of intensional semantic values, which can be seen as two “dimensions” of meaning. The second dimension is the familiar sort of Kripkean evaluation in metaphysically possible worlds, so that necessarily coextensive terms (such as ‘Hesperus’ and ‘Phosphorus’ or ‘water’ and ‘H2O’) always have the same semantic value. The first dimension behaves differently, so that there are typically at least some cases where necessarily coextensive terms have different semantic values on the first dimension. For this reason, the two-dimensional framework is sometimes seen as a way of granting many of the insights of a Kripkean approach to meaning (on the second dimension), while retaining elements of a Fregean approach to meaning (on the first dimension). (shrink)
The initial argument presented herein is not significantly original—it is a simple reflection upon a notion of computation originally developed by Putnam and criticised by Chalmers et al. . In what follows, instead of seeking to justify Putnam’s conclusion that every open system implements every Finite State Automaton and hence that psychological states of the brain cannot be functional states of a computer, I will establish the weaker result that, over a finite time window every open system implements the (...) trace of FSA Q, as it executes program on input . If correct the resulting bold philosophical claim is that phenomenal states—such as feelings and visual experiences—can never be understood or explained functionally. (shrink)
DavidChalmers burst onto the philosophical scene in the mid-1990s with his work on consciousness, which awakened slumbering zombie arguments against physicalism and transformed the explanatory gap into the hard problem of consciousness. The distinction between hard and easy problems of consciousness became a central dogma of the movement. Chalmers’ influence in philosophy and consciousness studies is unquestionable. But enthusiasts of Chalmers’ work on consciousness may be excused for not fully appreciating his own justification for drawing (...) the hard/easy distinction, or even exactly which distinction he is drawing. Consequently, it is not clear that the ‘Chalmers’ hard problem’ that has been widely influential is Chalmers’ ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. Chalmers’ ‘hard problem’ rests on, among other things: a methodological view about how philosophy—metaphysics, especially—ought to be conducted; a view about the requirements for explanation and reduction in philosophy and in the sciences; and a theory of the semantics of concepts.1 Although Chalmers writes that the present book is not intended as a foundation for his. (shrink)
The philosophical study of consciousness is chock full of thought experiments: John Searle’s Chinese Room, DavidChalmers’ Philosophical Zombies, Frank Jackson’s Mary’s Room, and Thomas Nagel’s ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ among others. Many of these experiments and the endless discussions that follow them are predicated on what Chalmers famously referred as the ‘hard’ problem of consciousness: for him, it is ‘easy’ to figure out how the brain is capable of perception, information integration, (...) attention, reporting on mental states, etc, even though this is far from being accomplished at the moment. What is ‘hard’, claims the man of the p-zombies, is to account for phenomenal experience, or what philosophers usually call ‘qualia’: the ‘what is it like’, first-person quality of consciousness. (shrink)
John Searle has argued that the aim of strong AI of creating a thinking computer is misguided. Searle’s Chinese Room Argument purports to show that syntax does not suffice for semantics and that computer programs as such must fail to have intrinsic intentionality. But we are not mainly interested in the program itself but rather the implementation of the program in some material. It does not follow by necessity from the fact that computer programs are defined syntactically that the (...) implementation of them cannot suffice for semantics. Perhaps our world is a world in which any implementation of the right computer program will create a system with intrinsic intentionality, in which case Searle’s Chinese Room Scenario is empirically (nomically) impossible. But, indeed, perhaps our world is a world in which Searle’s Chinese Room Scenario is empirically (nomically) possible and that the silicon basis of modern day computers are one kind of material unsuited to give you intrinsic intentionality. The metaphysical question turns out to be a question of what kind of world we are in and I argue that in this respect we do not know our modal address. The Modal Address Argument does not ensure that strong AI will succeed, but it shows that Searle’s challenge on the research program of strong AI fails in its objectives. (shrink)
I argue that an identity theorist can successfully resist a Kripkean modal argument by employing what I call a metaconceptual move. Furthermore, by showing how this move fails to apply straightforwardly to Chalmers' argument, I clarify the nature of the threat presented by Chalmers and how it differs from a Kripkean modal argument.
Propositions are the referents of the ‘that’-clauses that appear in the direct object positions of typical ascriptions of assertion, belief, and other binary cognitive relations. In that sense, propositions are the objects of those cognitive relations. Propositions are also the semantic contents (meanings, in one sense ) of declarative sentences, with respect to contexts. They are what sentences semantically express, with respect to contexts. Propositions also bear truth-values. The truth-value of a sentence, in a context, is the truth-value of the (...) proposition that it semantically expresses, in that context. This much is common ground among many (but not all) philosophers. I accept other claims about propositions that are more controversial. Propositions (I hold) are Russellian: they are structured entities whose constituents include individuals, properties, and relations. The contribution of a proper name to the proposition that a sentence semantically expresses (in a context) is the referent of that name. Thus, the semantic content of ‘Bill Clinton’ is Bill Clinton himself, and the semantic content of ‘Bill Clinton smokes’ is a proposition whose constituents are Bill Clinton and the property of smoking (ignoring tense, as I shall do from here on). Such 1 singular propositions are among the objects of belief, assertion, and other cognitive relations. This combination of a Millian view about proper names with a Russellian theory of propositions might appropriately be called ‘Millian Russellianism’, or ‘MR’ for short. DavidChalmers, in his stimulating paper “Probability and Propositions,” defines a closely related view, Referentialism, as follows (see also the penultimate paragraph of his introduction). Referentialist views say that insofar as beliefs are about individuals (such as Nietzche), the objects of these belief are determined by those individuals. On one such view, the objects of belief are Russellian propositions composed from the individuals and properties that one’s belief is about.. (shrink)
Advance directives are useful ways to express one's wishes about end of life care, but even now most people have not completed one of the documents. David Doukas and William Reichel strongly encourage planning for end of life care. Although Planning for Uncertainty is at times fairly abstract for the general reader, it does provide useful background and practical steps.
DavidChalmers and Frank Jackson have promoted a strong program of conceptual analysis, which accords a significant philosophical role to the a priori analysis of concepts. They found this methodological program on an account of concepts using two-dimensional semantics. This paper argues that Chalmers and Jackson’s account of concepts, and the related approach by David Braddon-Mitchell, is inadequate for natural kind concepts as found in biology. Two-dimensional semantics is metaphysically faulty as an account of the nature (...) of concepts and concept possession. It is also methodologically flawed as a guideline for how to study scientific concepts. Proponents of two-dimensional semantics are criticized for not taking seriously semantic variation between persons and for failing to adequately account for the rationality of semantic change. I suggest a more pragmatic approach to natural kind term meaning, arguing that the epistemic goal pursued by a term’s use is an additional semantic property. (shrink)
On reading DavidChalmers's book, The Conscious Mind (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), one is struck by the author's efforts to meet the difficulties and obscurities in understanding the human mind, as indeed most other philosophers have, by hazarding theories. Such undertakings rest on two broad, usually unexamined, assumptions. One is that we have direct access to our conscious minds such that pronouncements about it and its contents are descriptive. The other is that our actions have causal (...) explanations which incorporate beliefs, intentions, desires, etc . (propositional attitudes) as functional elements. These assumptions are questioned in this essay. They rest upon a notion of data which is out of place in explicating the mind. The conclusion reached is that we do not know our own minds because there are no data upon which such knowledge might be founded, and, consequently, there can be no responsible theories of mind. (shrink)
David Cheetham's text, 'John Hick: A Critical Introduction and Reflection' is an extensive introduction to the equally extensive work of philosopher of religion, John Hick. Cheetham traces the development of Hick's thinking from Hick's early adoption of phenomenological approaches to his articulation of a religious pluralism that attempts to read together the world's major religious traditions. Cheetham engages with Hick's defenders and critics, painstakingly analysing the themes which have occupied the minds of philosophers of religion during the (...) twentieth century. Hence we are introduced to the work of Augustine, Irenaeus, Anthony Flew, Terence Penelhum, Richard Swinburne, amongst others.The themes around which these philosophers have focused their work,many of which are 'mainstream' philosophical issues, and which Hick highlights in his own work: realism and anti-realism, metaphysical dualism, belief and knowledge, soul-making and life after death, are some of the most difficult questions on the philosophical agenda. (shrink)
The Library of Scottish Philosophy: Volumes 1 – 6, Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2004 James Otteson , ed. Adam Smith: Selected Philosophical Writings, 247pp. Paperback £12.95. ISBN 184540-001-1 James Harris , ed. James Beattie: Selected Philosophical Writings, 204pp. Paperback £12.95. ISBN 0907845-711 David Boucher , ed. The Scottish Idealists: Selected Philosophical Writings, 201pp. Paperback £12.95. ISBN 0907845-72X Jonathan Friday , ed. Art and Enlightenment: Scottish Aesthetics in the 18th century, 212pp. Paperback £12.95. ISBN 0907845-762 Gordon Graham , ed. Scottish Philosophy: (...) Selected Writings 1690–1960, 253pp. Paperback £12.95. ISBN 0907845-746 Esther McIntosh , ed. John Macmurray: Selected Philosophical Writings, 198pp. Paperback £12.95. ISBN 0907845-738. (shrink)
The author seeks to make the fewest changes that would allow Christianity to withstand the challenges of the problem of evil . The project includes a critical review of the theodicies of John Hick and David Griffin, and also draws upon the thought of Sri Aurobindo. ;From Augustinian thought, the author retains the emphasis upon moral evil. He argues that any theodicy resolving moral evil also resolves natural evil, and that natural evil, as such, would not create major (...) barriers to religious faith. ;The author accepts John Hick's ideas of epistemic distance and soul-making, with supplementation. But he rejects Hick's use of the Greater Good Defense, instead positing that evil cannot be justified. The only question is whether it can be healed. ;David Griffin's strategy of adjusting divine traits to solve the POE is rejected. Instead, the author modifies Christian ideas of human identity and human destiny. Griffin's definition of evil is also rejected. Instead, the author defines evil as "a horrendous violation of an important human value." ;The author posits that Aurobindo correctly identified the Christian doctrine of "one lifetime only" as posing major problems for theodicy. The Indian view of multiple lifetimes helps to resolve dysteleological evil. Karma does not solve the POE all by itself, the author holds, but a revised notion of karma as "a law of appropriate experience" can make an essential contribution. The Indian view of human identity in terms of Self and ego personality is also adopted, again with some modification. ;The author uses an analogy of evil with a wound to argue that all evil can be healed, and must be healed in the process of psycho-spiritual growth. The conclusion is that evil may be ultimate to the ego personality, but is not ultimate to the soul, as such. From the perspective of the Soul or Self, suffering can be self-chosen for important and positive reasons. ;In short, a total picture of human identity and destiny gained by borrowing and revising Indian doctrines enables the author to suggest a new format for the interpretation of evil. (shrink)
This highly technical book is densely packed with arguments and is an important addition to the literature. Even if one ultimately disagrees with Chalmers there is much to be gained in his exhaustive study, and he goes out of his way to show how one can accept limited or modified versions of scrutability. It is impossible for me to do justice to his argumentative rigor and comprehensive coverage of possible views in the space I have here. In the end (...) I find much of what Chalmers says convincing but something of a Pyrrhic victory. (shrink)
When Charles Darwin died in April, 1882, he left behind a world changed forever. Because of his writings, most notably, of course, The Origin of Species, by 1882, evolution was an almost universally acknowledged fact. What remained in dispute, however, was how evolution occurred. So because of Darwin’s work, everyone accepted that new species emerge over time, yet few agreed with him that it was natural selection that powered the change, as Darwin hypothesized. Chalmers’ book, The Conscious Mind , (...) reminds me of The Origin of Species . I have talked t o many people about The Conscious Mind and watched many philosophy students read it, and after they are done, they all take consciousness more seriously than they did before and they are all struck by its deep mystery, yet few accept Chalmers’ specific theory of consciousness and his explanation of its odd nature. (shrink)