Talk:Hard problem of consciousness

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What about all the people who think this 'problem' is not a problem?[edit]

  • "Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?"

Depends on what the hell "rich inner life" means.

  • "Why do qualia exist?"

Many of us believe that "qualia" certainly do not exist; it is a vague, quibbling, unhelpful and confusing notion.

  • "Why is there a subjective component to experience?"

What sort of "why" is that? What subjective component? What exactly does this mean?

  • "Why aren't we philosophical zombies?"

Many of us believe we are. And that 'philosophical zombie' is therefore a misleading term, as it implies the possibility of some other, ethereal force behind our consciousness, other than things we can observe. It also (literally) demonizes the perfectly sound theory that the apparent beauty and wonder of our minds are features that emerge from highly complex (but ultimately mechanical) cognitive functions.

This entire notion -- of there being a 'problem' with explaining consciousness -- seems to rely on us having a well-established explanation of what exactly people mean when they talk of 'subjectivity'. Which we don't. People always say, well, it's obvious what subjectivity is; we all experience it. In my opinion, if the nature of subjectivity was obvious, it would be easily explainable, without resorting to something like, "Well, you know what I mean, don't you? It's obvious." Clearly, ideas like subjectivity and qualia are far too vague and elusive to structure into arguments against other positions. This whole "problem of consciousness" thing is just a pain; it gets in the way of progress, just throwing in a bunch of confusing, ill-defined terms and saying, "See, nothing makes sense".

If people must get tied up with this idea and continue this article, please will someone write something acknowledging that a large number of people find this whole 'problem' non-existent. I would do it myself, but I don't really have any idea how philosophy encyclopaedia articles are supposed to be written, and I don't think I'd be very good at it, so I'd rather just give my opinion here on the talk page.

Great post. Next time try to write something relevant to the article rather than its subject. Teflon Don (talk) 06:12, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
It seems based upon the above post that the person who posted it, failed to grasp the issue of what the hard problem of consciousness is. I'm not sure anyone would believe themselves to possibly be a [philosophical zombie], if they understood the concept of what that is. Unless of course they were in fact a philosophical zombie. However I would like to know more about any possible arguments there are about there not being any problem. I can't see how one could argue that there isn't. Nhall0608 (talk) 22:24, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
He's not arguing that there isn't. He's stating that there isn't, but he isn't actually giving any reason (and isn't defeating any of the reasons that there IS a problem), so it's not an argument. It's just an unreasonable opinion. No more then spam, to be honest. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:18, 8 May 2008 (UTC)
If I understand the concept of "philosophical zombie" correctly wouldn't they be just as apt to behave as if they refuse to accept the possibility that they were a philosophical zombie as they would be if they stopped being a philosophical zombie? ie: doesn't the concept of philosophical zombie require they behave exactly the same in every way as they would were they a non philosophical zombie including their participation in debates about philosophical zombies?Zebulin (talk) 04:59, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
That one's a tough call. Personally I'm inclined to believe that this would be the one thing a zombie would not be able to understand. The one exception, if you will. Otherwise, you'd have to have some kind of "special programming" in the zombie so that it would say this stuff, which would not make sense if a zombie is supposed to perceive and think just like humans. It may be that this guy (as well as Dennett and his ilk) are in fact zombies. While I do not personally believe that to be true, sometimes when I look at the stuff these guys say here and on discussion boards I have to honestly say that's the best explanation. When you talk about this stuff, there are some people who "just don't get it". Maybe they're zombies? Mbarbier (talk) 18:40, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
Wow, I've long wondered about people who don't get the hard problem of consciousness and wondered if they were in fact philosophical zombies. It's not that I actually believe this but I just couldn't understand how some seemingly very intelligent people just seem to be on a completely different wavelength (so to speak) when talking about this issue. I proposed that this is the one way they must differ as they would not be able to comprehend something they cannot experience. I thought this idea was an original thought but here it is and I've seen it a couple of more places... (talk) 03:29, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
The problem is that Chalmers assumes there is a hard problem of experience "over and above" the problems of information processing, biology, physics, chemistry. Of course if you define things this way you will end up with the possibility of zombies. The hard problem is NOT simply the problem of experience, but the supposed problem of experience that remains once all the causal/functional/biological/physicochemical details are in. To say that there will be such a remaining problem is an assumption of his work, an assumption he never argues for. For instance, see Mandik and Weisberg's paper on Type Q materialism ( or this post attacking Chalmers' characterization of the problem ( Few people deny the existence of experience. What they reject is Chalmers' formulation of the problem, his a priori certitude that physics, chemistry, biology will not be enough to capture experience. Frankly I think people just haven't read his work, don't realize the staggering assumptions he builds into his representation of the "hard" problem.
I don't think I have seen a better succinct description of why some of us have a problem with the "hard problem" way of describing the problem of consciousness. Kudos for taking the time to explain it. Of course we think consciousness is real, we just don't like Chalmers' initial staging of the problem. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:55, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
As to the possibility of Dennett and his ilk being philosophical zombies: this is the "problem of other minds". The challenge posed by the PZ precisely consists in its behaviour being indistinguishable from that of putatively conscious persons. Its plausibility rests on imposing some multi-level, self-referential, virtually-integrated interpretation on a fundamental physical analysis, broadly analogous to software/hardware decomposition. But the "hard fact" intrudes of my self-assertion of first-person ontological realism, above and beyond any parallel, "causally sufficient" third-person analysis (and this must include, paradoxically, references such as this to its existence!) From this perspective I can project imaginatively an analogously independent ontological realism for my virtual integrations of "external reality". But a cold, parsimoniously "physical" analysis mandates that the substantive ontological claims of anything whatsoever are confined exclusively to the level of its putatively fundamental event base. Consequently, elimination of my first-person perspective would logically result in, not a world populated by "philosophical zombies", nor indeed any other artefact of interpretative integration, but an unintegrated and uninterpreted set of basic physical events. Since I don't cast my vote for solipsism, it would seem more reasonable to suspect that "physical" analysis and "virtual" integration are somehow both ontologically significant, and that the "hard problem" is symptomatic of this. (talk) 16:28, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
To those that take issue with the "hard problem" labelling -- do you disagree that it's an (unsolved) problem, or disagree that it is a difficult one? Apparently the main issue is with some of the details of Chalmers' paper, but I think the concept is used more generally now than to refer to Chalmers' work.
It is a useful concept because the "common-sense" assumption of those who have not studied the subject is that conscious perception is intrinsic to a complex brain -- as soon as you create a brain of sufficient complexity, it will be conscious. And, as soon as we understand all the complexity of the brain, we'll understand consciousness completely. The "hard problem" pools the issues with this line of thinking.--MijinLaw (talk) 04:33, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
The reason why Chalmers does not feel the need to elaborate further is that he assumes that everyone has consciousness and experiences qualia, so no further explanation is necessary. It seems it is not the case and consciousness is not universal. Why I believe that: Some disorders cause people to never experience emotions. Such people talk exactly like this about emotions. For example they insist that the word "sad" is a "social construct" "poorly defined" or "devoid of actual meaning". And almost inevitably they believe it is because they are smarter than others so they can see through this "game" and how useless it is, they almost never realize they are different, they believe that others too fake emotions just to get along with other people etc.--Ancient Anomaly (talk) 01:48, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
This is kind of a fun read for a Wikipedia talk page. Quick axe it! Anyway, I've had private discussions with Marvin Minsky about this subject. And my impression is he (and by association Dennet et al.) are either zombie. People are colour blind. Why not? Or just a contrarian trickster looking to ruffle some feathers; possibly just for attention. I have less respect for Dennet in terms of intellectual honesty for these bits, but could forgive him if he is a zombie. Maybe zombies are just the furniture of the universe. Who knows. Anything is possible. Minsky has a really ambivalent position about reality, but who can blame anyone for that as by all rights nothing should probably exist anyway. Edited: I think this is why Chalmers shifted to "verbal" disagreements, because if there is any merit to the opposition it is purely verbal. And that is just intellectually dishonest since they rightly know what they are doing.-- (talk) 13:38, 27 September 2012 (UTC)
"The problem is that Chalmers assumes there is a hard problem of experience "over and above" the problems of information processing, biology, physics, chemistry. . . . Few people deny the existence of experience. What they reject is Chalmers' formulation of the problem, his a priori certitude that physics, chemistry, biology will not be enough to capture experience."
So says the person who not only fails to sign their posts but even erases their IP address. By "they" do you mean Daniel Dennett, by any chance?
In any case: I find the fact that Chalmers "assumes" there is a problem (beyond the problems of information processing, biology, physics, chemistry, etc.) to be so self-evident that it seems astounding that anyone could possibly question it. OK, for one thing, people's conscious awareness -- i.e., experience -- is intimately bound up with the apparent "moving now" of time. Yet physics, not to mention other sciences, cannot touch what is going on with the moving now experience. At least, they don't even try, since there's nowhere to get traction.
If there's anything in need of argument it's the concept that the "hard problem of consciousness" does not exist, not that it does.Daqu (talk) 19:28, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

Need an explanation of the Opposing view[edit]

Reviewing the linked article "The Hard Problem is Dead", and Dennett's responses to Chalmers, I was unable to distill out a quote that captures the essense of their objection. It appears to be that they deny that consciousness exists in the same way as we experience it, challenge Chalmers to prove consciousness exists, and assert that if such a thing does not exist, then the "hard problem" set is empty. Possibly it is their assertion that consciousness is a biproduct when there exists all the mechanisms of sensation and cognition that can be explained functionally. In any case, the article would benefit if someone familiar with the opposing position can represent it succinctly so the nature of the opposing position may be more clearly understood. -Mak 18:08, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

There is a sort-of summary on Consciousness Explained. It is difficult to summarise DD's argument as he approaches the subject from several directions at once. 1Z 21:26, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure Consciousness Explained is an appropriate opposing view. The book basically just redefines consciousness in order to ignore the problem instead of arguing that it is not a problem. It would be nice to see an opposing view that addresses why the hard problem is not really a problem instead of side stepping it. Nhall0608 (talk) 22:36, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't personally think anyone has done this. But then Dennett and his supporters think he has, and he is a lot more notable than I am. We have to consider what is generally seen as an opposing view, not what we personally think is one. 1Z (talk) 10:05, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree that if it is the best counter-argument it should be put up. I was just hoping to hear of a counter argument with more merrit. It sounds like there are not any real counter arguments though, other than we don't have to think about the problem if we don't want to. (talk) 16:47, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
Douglas Hofstadter (of Godel Escher Bach infamy) has recently published an incredible foray into the very idea that the "hard problem" does not exist - I Am A Strange Loop. I read Consciousness Explained a few years ago and didn't "get it" - I got a lot out of it, but I didn't really grasp the identity of what Dennett was trying to get across, and also felt frustrated that he had just redefined the problem out of existence. In contrast I think Hofstadter has succeeded immensely at communicating his message. I have just about finished it and I think now I do "get it". I don't know if he is right, or even if I fully believe it, but it is a solid, detailed, and utterly fascinating treatise on the nature of consciousness as the emergent high-level interactions of self-referencing symbols in the mind, analogous to the emergent high-level reality of self-referencing Godel statements in formal logic systems. Remy B (talk) 09:17, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Excellent! I shall enjoy reading this book. Thank you! Nhall0608 (talk) 17:01, 28 February 2008 (UTC)
Dennett is OK, but see Mandik and Weisberg's paper on Type Q materialism ( ),or this post attacking Chalmers' characterization of the problem ( As I said above, few people deny the existence of experience. What they reject is Chalmers' formulation of the problem, his a priori certitude that physics, chemistry, biology will not be enough to capture experience. Frankly I think people just haven't read his work, don't realize the staggering assumptions he builds into his representation of the "hard" problem. This entire thread of people not seeing how anybody could deny what Chalmers is saying is staggering coming from people trying to write encyclopedia articles. The article needs to be updated obviously. I don't have the time but egads people think it through.
As I responded above - the reason why Chalmers does not feel the need to elaborate further is that he assumes that everyone has consciousness and experiences qualia, so no further explanation or proof of its existence is necessary.--Ancient Anomaly (talk) 01:59, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

Dennett comes to Chalmers one day and lays a note down which proclaims "consciousness is an illusion. Here is my argument: (blah blah blah) disproving that it even exists!". Chalmers responds "how can I prove that your argument actually even exists?". Dennett replies "here it is!". Chalmers reads it, shakes his head and says "I'm sorry, I'm aware that your argument is right in front of me, and I am aware that it makes sense, but since your argument proves that I have no awareness, its truth is based on something that doesn't exist." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:06, 18 May 2012 (UTC)

There have been a couple books lately that claim to explain why it is that anything exists (read: "something from nothing") which are pretty much the same exercise in denial of the impossible. Some are more hand ringing which is fine. But it's all the same. We accept that photons are real (enough) things for no particular reason. But not the five senses, no, not that-- (talk) 13:45, 27 September 2012 (UTC)
"Dennett comes to Chalmers one day . . . its truth is based on something that doesn't exist."
I love this! ( Had not noticed it before.) Is there any truth to it, or is it just a philosophers' joke? if there is any truth to it (I don't mean the merits of the argument; I mean that this actually happened) then it belongs in the article. Or, if some respected philosopher used this hypothetical as an argument, then it also belong in the article.Daqu (talk) 13:39, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Dennet's 1988 article "Quining qualia", which he has described as a summary of why he believes that qualia do not exist, is currently at this URL: < >. But I do not understand his argument.Daqu (talk) 19:38, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

Nagel "formulation"[edit]

"What is it like to be a bat?" is most certainly not a formulation of the hard problem. "Why is it like something to be a bat?" would be better, but we don't actually know that it is, and it doesn't add anything to what's already been expressed in previous formulations, which is why I just deleted that line instead of modifying it. This article is in my opinion pretty bad, but at this stage I don't know whether I'll manage to put much (or any) more time into improving it. Rebtech 11:11, 28 October 2007 (UTC)


  • "Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?"
  • "How is it that some organisms are subjects of experience?"
  • "Why does awareness of sensory information exist at all?"
  • "Why is there a subjective component to experience?"

What the hell do any of these mean? If these are supposed to be specialized terms or jargon of some sort, I don't see them defined anywhere. -- Ultra Megatron (talk) 02:15, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

Maybe it's just because I've been studying this area for a long time, but I see no specialised terms or jargon there. The only problem I have is with the last item: experience doesn't have a subjective component, it is the subjective component. Otherwise, I believe any decent English dictionary will tell you all you need to know to understand these questions. Rebtech (talk) 14:49, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
If it doesn't have a subjective component, wouldn't that imply that nothing lacks self-awareness? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:23, 8 May 2008 (UTC)
It would imply that nothing that has experience lacks self-awareness. The problem is that experience is always subjective, so it's actually impossible to definitively know what has self-awareness and what doesn't. In a way, the problem of consciousness makes it difficult to logically argue with an animistic or pantheistic worldview.--Pariah (talk) 04:35, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Highly questionable statement...[edit]

Does anyone have a source for the following statement from the article?

"However, the problem can be solved from a non-metaphysical standpoint using 'metaphysical reductor' (X <=> I think that X). Then 'why do qualia exist?' becomes 'why I think that qualia exist?' etc."

It doesn't take much examination to see how utterly useless that is, and it's hard to see if the writer of this sentence is quoting someone in particular, or just trying to be funny. Going from X to I think that X could maybe be a solution to some other problem, but not to qualia. The question "Why I think that qualia exist?" is itself an example of qualia. It's like saying "Why do I have the qualia that qualia exist?" In other words, it just makes the question tautological, and if anything is more an affirmation of qualia than a refutation of them. It seems like the sort of thing Dennett might say, but I don't know if it was him. Can anyone add a reference to the statement?--Pariah (talk) 04:27, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

It doesn't really need debate - the line was barely comprehensible and didn't attempt to show sources so I have just removed it. Remy B (talk) 13:20, 23 August 2008 (UTC)
That works, too :)--Pariah (talk) 19:38, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

I was only showing that it is your BELIEF that you have something completely different than "cold matter". Your brain with its cells creates an idea of "cold matter" (this is a collection of abstract ideas, words circulating in your mind); then it experiences something in the sensorium area, which is primary; and then you come to a conclusion that "oh, I have something different that cold matter, there is dualism". How can you prove it? It is a belief. Moreover, you MUST believe that the physical world is different than what you feel -- you believe it, because that's how your brain is organised.

So again, I'm questioning your whole dilemma. Why you think that qualia exist as something else than matter? This is a problem of self-consciousness. You feel (neurons get aroused) - you think that you feel - you think that you think that you feel - ... Impulses are circulating in your brain, but still, why you think there is a problem?

This is a funny problem because it comes from, I'd call it, vanity of your consciousness. Nowadays consciousness is obviously too much concerned with itself. ;) A mental onanism, something coming from nihilism (a healthy mind sees values outside, doesn't say something is valuable because of "soul", it only cares about reality). It is like trying to shout "BUT I HAVE SOUL! AND YOUR PHYSICS DOESN'T SHOW IT!". But it is not that you have soul, you just come to such conclusion (X -> X", i.e. from a feeling to "I think I had a feeling and that was real and that was something special and...") because of your language, your specific way of thought, your upbringing, etc. And still, your conclusion is not "qualia", it is your brain cells getting aroused.

Although we are so deep to nihilism that we're gonna see something interesting even in nothingness. (talk) 17:42, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

Umm someone to quote? Perhaps Spinoza? (talk) 17:58, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

"I was only showing that it is your BELIEF that you have something completely different than 'cold matter'. Your brain with its cells creates an idea of "cold matter" (this is a collection of abstract ideas, words circulating in your mind); then it experiences something in the sensorium area, which is primary; and then you come to a conclusion that 'oh, I have something different that cold matter, there is dualism'".
Sorry, not good enough. A machine's ability to realize "'I' is different from 'not I'" does not require the perception of qualia. See my comment above about zombies. Mbarbier (talk) 18:49, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but in order to know what "I" is and to form intentions, any being (machine or otherwise) must have qualia. The comments about zombies above do not prove otherwise.
Subjectivity, consciousness, and qualia are all different names for the same thing. Unfortunately, that thing can't be communicated in any definitive fashion because communication itself relies on objectivity. If a machine does not have qualia, it really can't have a "self" in a psychological sense--it is just a pile of parts doing what it's programmed to do (in which case it is a zombie). You might argue, as the anonymous person above your comment argues, that even human qualia stem from programming or the "cold matter" of the brain... but that just misses the point. Obviously, qualia and other psychological processes emerge from the body in a physical sense--but the subjective experiences of the organism are not directly reducible to physical processes. You can't speak of the experience of a sunset in terms of neuronal firing patterns. Actually, you can, but it's meaningless to do so. Knowledge of neuronal firing patterns does not mean the same thing as being there, watching the sunset. It's like trying to listen to music by writing down the frequencies of all the sounds produced by the band--what you end up with is a list of frequencies over time; not music.--Pariah (talk) 04:24, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
It seems you and I are in agreement, except for your first sentence. I think a machine can certainly be programmed to recognize itself. Though I suppose it's possible that to program a machine this way in a thorough fashion will inevitably spawn qualia, I think this depends on how it is programmed.
My main argument was against those who think the hard problem doesn't exist. Some people think the question "Why am I me and not you?" is meaningful, and others do not. I am of the former camp. Mbarbier (talk) 17:42, 14 November 2008 (UTC)


Re the earlier point about philosphical zombies and how they might be different from everyone else; surely the whole point of them is that they would have NO diffences in their external responses and activities.

They are theoretical empty biomachines programmed to behave EXACTLY like a normal human but having no subjective experience of doing or being anything.

As such they could and would be capable of discussing things like say 'the philosophy of the soul' or 'the nature of love' quite as well as any real person - and remain undetectable as zombies by any verbal test.

Steve A

Halifax England —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:29, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

External Links[edit]

The external links section contains

  • several different pages from David Chalmers' websigte. These should be consolidated in to one link to his website (see WP:ELPOINTS, point 4), and clearly labeled as such.
  • a dead link ("The hard problem is dead"). It should be removed.
  • several items that are online articles, self-published, looking very much like original research. They should be removed: external links are supposed to be "kept to a minimum" WP:EL, and there is no reason to single out these articles. They are not "neutral and accurate material that is relevant to an encyclopedic understanding of the subject" (WP:ELYES, point 3).

Any objections? Dark Formal (talk) 02:04, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

Deflationary accounts[edit]

This is a section for explaining the leading theories in Deflationary accounts, so why does it read like someone's personal rebuttel to Daniel Dennet? I don't see a deflationary rebuttal to any of the other sections in this article, nor do we need an 'inflationary' retort that takes up half this section. I expected to see comments on how subjective experiences such as 'pain' can be reduced to mere states of the brain, and instead see explanations of how it is irreducible. We're quoting John Searle in a deflationary section? Really? Someone please redo/remove this obvious POV and make sure we aren't putting up strawmen in its place. Anthiety (talk) 04:33, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

I removed the worst offending parts. Anthiety (talk) 04:39, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

I question why so much of this article is devoted to Daniel Dennet in the first place. He is one of the "Four Horsemen" of the new atheists movement, so of course he is going to be bias in his opinion of how consciousness can be explained seeing as how their whole message boils down to scientism. Surely there is a better person to be referenced in this section. -- (talk) 02:59, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

Daniel Dennett's work looms large in this entry because he is one of the main current thinkers on this question and his theory is important and influential. If the "hard problem" is to be described at all, it cannot be done without due attention to the contributions of Dennett.
(This has next to nothing to do with Dennett's likewise important and influential views on religion; Yes, one possible "solution" to the "hard problem" would be the existence of an immaterial, immortal soul; but that is just one immensely improbable, counterevidential candidate, among a panoply of other candidate solutions, none of which work, but they at least have the virtue of not being supremely improbable. The soul would be a solution to the hard problem of consciousness the same way a miracle would be a solution to the problem of disease, poverty, injustice, global debt, overpopulation, energy depletion or climate change: an infinitesimal theoretical possibility among infinitely many other possibilities, most of them unavailing...) harnad (talk) Stevan Harnad 12:43, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

Additions to introduction[edit]

Expert and self-cited editor User:harnand insists that my additions to the article do not relate directly to article at all. On the contrary, I think each is specifcally mentioned in the article and the introduction does not offer a layman any context for the content before launching into an extended discussion of another expert's opinion on the matter. The material I would like added to the introduction in some form:

  • Mention that the issue predates cog sci and was first noted by philosophers
  • Explain qualia by example and that the concern or "hard problem" is explaining where such an experience could come from or what mechanism could be involved
  • That the most fundamental concern is by what process the experience of consciousness arises

Are these not all issues mentioned in the body of the article and which a layman might look for some explanation of in the intro? Also, while trying to assume good faith, there seems to be a conflict of interest in the same person who is cited for the introduction trying to keep close control of it. Also the apparent bias of the citation itself "Why We Are Not Zombies" seems to color, if you will, any preference for content by this editor. Obotlig (talk) 01:25, 5 October 2011 (UTC)

No, your additions do not belong in the introduction where, if anything, it should be made clear to the reader what the difference is between the "easy" problems of consciousness and "the hard problem." Besides not belonging in the introduction, your additions simply obscure the easy/hard distinction; they could just as well have been added to the article on consciousness. You just haven't understood the point. harnad (talk) Stevan Harnad 01:43, 5 October 2011 (UTC)
In this case I think the second "sentence" (the extended discussion of a simple concept) should be rewritten in more concise terms and combined with the explanation attributed to your Zombie article into a single paragraph of reasonable length. I am not sure what point I have missed but each item above is mentioned in the body of the article. Perhaps a better wording or placement could be used for the material I gave but the second paragraph is unnecessarily long. Perhaps you could explain this in clear terms, for my benefit, and such that we might be able to use for a proper introductory paragraph. Thanks. Obotlig (talk) 02:06, 5 October 2011 (UTC)
You are welcome to fix it. I didn't write any of the sentences. I only inserted a reference for the statement in the first sentence -- which I did not write: That sentence is close to correct, but it's bloated with 4-fold redundancy. I would never have written "The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have qualitative phenomenal experiences". I would have written "The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we feel". But I'm not going to fix it, because it's not wrong, just extremely wordy and repetitious that way. If someone else wishes to fix it, they're free to do so.
As for the second and following sentences in the paragraph, I did not write those either; again, they're perhaps not as elegant as they might be, but as far as I can tell, they are completely correct and to the point. (I would again have written "feeling" rather than the more ambiguous "experience" in the last sentence, but as a single word it's no longer the bloated "having qualitative phenomenal experiences," so it's fine.)
I think there is nothing substantive that needs to be changed in the entire paragraph. It is clear, correct (in the sense that it accurately describes the so-called "hard" problem as it is conceived currently) and complete, for an introductory WP paragraph.
You are quite right that some of the points your proposed addition mentioned are touched later in the article. Some of them are relevant in that subsequent discussion, and some of them are dubious. But they certainly don't belong in the introductory paragraph. harnad (talk) Stevan Harnad 17:48, 5 October 2011 (UTC)

Ok that all makes sense. I hadn't looked at your last revision and was assuming it was reverted to the state before I made any changes: with a paragraph break after the first sentence. I'm not sure that 'feeling' is more clear than 'experience' since feeing would seem to me to imply emotions themselves (which could be described in mechanistic biological terms today) rather than something like the experience of feelings or the apparent tangibility of the experience of feelings which would unfortunately make the wording even more complicated. I am not familiar with all the sources on this topic (some of which no doubt delve into areas of theology I would rather not personally entertain) but is there some simple formulation of the problem and why it is apparently intractable (which is what I assume is meant by the adoption of "hard problem" from computational theory) that would be simple yet fully accurate, unambiguous and fit into the first sentence? Thanks again. Obotlig (talk) 01:45, 6 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't want to keep proselytizing for using the word "feeling," since I said I did not attempt to replace the terms used with what I think is the right and accurate term ("feeling"). But to answer your question, I'll just say that "feeling" has the virtue of showing what a blatant contradiction it is to speak of the occurrence of "unfelt feelings" -- which is exactly what one does if one speaks of the occurrence of "unfelt emotions" (and the fact that emotions are felt rather than just functional states and action tendencies -- mechanistic biological ones -- is part of the hard problem: biology explains their functions, but not how/why they are felt functions rather than just functions). Nor are emotions the only things we feel; we feel pain, we feel hot/cold, we feel hunger, we feel the texture of the table, and it feels like something to see red, to hear a shrill sound, to taste ice cream, to move, to understand what "resssenti" means in French, and to mean feeling rather than just doing when one says the word "feeling." The hard problem is explaining (causally) how and why (some) internal states of (some) systems are felt functional states, rather than just functional states. harnad (talk) Stevan Harnad 19:55, 6 October 2011 (UTC)
It does become somthing of a semantic and linguistic problem. "Feeling" in English could mean anything from a sensation to an emotion to an opinion. Let me propose:
The hard problem of consciousness is a label used to describe the current intractability of explaining the apparent tangibility of the experience of sensations, emotions and consciousness. This is contrasted with the less difficult questions of how the brain processes those experiences biologically and raises the issue of how does a mechanistic process create feelings.
Is that a good starting point or does it muddy the waters? I would like to see a very carefully worded introducon that will be sensible to a layman and be fair to all credible points of view on the topic. Obotlig (talk) 02:41, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
I can only repeat: I did not write, nor do I own the current introductory paragraph. But I think it does a good, straightforward job of stating what the hard problem is. I think your proposed substitution -- "...the current intractability of explaining the apparent tangibility..." -- makes it far less clear.
(And although I think "feeling" is the right word [rather than "qualitative phenomenal experiences"] for the reasons I've stated, "feeling" is not the word used in the existing text. So although I disagree with you that "feeling" would present a linguistic problem (being in a conscious states just means that it feels like something to be in that state), since "feeling" is not used in the current text, our disagreement is moot. I do not think that your suggested phrase "the experience of sensations, emotions and consciousness" is a better substitute for the present "qualitative phenomenal experiences". It is even more bloated; and in trying to list the instances of consciousness, it lists consciousness itself, as if consciousness were itself one of the instances of what it is that consciousness is! I would say that if you cannot find anything better than the present "qualitative phenomenal experiences" [yech!] then it is better to just let it stand as is.) harnad (talk) Stevan Harnad 13:06, 7 October 2011 (UTC) Stevan Harnad 02:04, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
I think we are again confronted with semantic, phenomenological and epistemological coflicts where your perspective as an expert in the topic is coloring what you feel would be a clear and neutral phrasing of this alleged "hard problem". Indeed the perception of consciousness is one of the experiences in question and this tautology, paradox, circular thinking or whathaveyou is one of the things which some might claim are creating your impression of a hard problem, and the difficulty of how to word what precisely the problem is. None of consciousness, experience or feeling are proper synonyms and my desire to qualify one with another is for good reason. At any rate, a native English speaker of average intelligence and knowledge should be able to comprehend the statement of the problem. Or there is a fundamental problem with the problem as formulated, if you will pardon some humor. Yes, I must insist that the very impression of consciousness is a subcategory of "apparently tangible experience" and conscioussness cannot be re-used as the label of the category it is necessarily a member of. Obotlig (talk) 04:13, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
For expert and non-expert alike, the "hard problem of consciousness" is the "hard problem of consciousness". If you have a "hard problem of X," and you try to convey what is meant by "X," you cannot say "What is meant by "X" is A, B and X". That doesn't work for either expert or non-expert. It just confuses, with circularity. But that is exactly what you are doing when you propose to improve on the present definition (not mine) by saying that the problem of explaining "consciousness" is the problem of explaining "the experience of sensations, emotions and consciousness."
It is also beginning to sound -- please forgive me if I'm wrong -- as if the reason you are dissatisfied with the way the problem is stated in the introductory paragraph is because you have a theory of your own of what the hard problem is, and whether it's a problem at all. In that case, I suggest you abstain completely from trying to change the introductory statement of the problem, because that is supposed to be theory-neutral.
(That's the reason I myself did not tamper with the introduction, not injecting into it what [according to what happens to be my own theory on this] consciousness really is, which is the fact that we feel anything at all, whether emotion, or pain or sensation or meaning: any state it feels like anything at all to be in. So I did not try to swap "feeling" for the bloated phrase "qualitative phenomenal experiences" in the opening sentence (even though "qualitative," "phenomenal" and "experienced" all just mean "feels like something" in ordinary English) as it stood. Nor did I try to substitute "feeling" for the stand-alone use of "experience" at the end of the intro paragraph, even though "experience" is still ambiguous as to whether the experience is felt or unfelt [and hence unconscious!] ("the equipment has not yet experienced an electric storm," "the robot has no experience with moving objects"). However, I think most people, expert and inexpert, quite naturally assume that "experience" means felt experience, so not much harm done leaving that word -- even though it of course conceals the hard problem latent within the word "experience" itself, namely, how to explain the difference between felt and unfelt experience: why isn't all "experience" unfelt?) harnad (talk) Stevan Harnad 16:02, 8 October 2011 (UTC)Stevan Harnad 17:34, 8 October 2011 (UTC)


Certainly there's vandalism going on here..Berdaulat (talk) 08:17, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

Isaac Newton wrote in a letter to Henry Oldenburg:

to determine by what modes or actions light produceth in our minds the phantasm of colour is not so easie.[1]

T.H. Huxley remarked:

how it is that any thing so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djin when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.[2]

Actually those quotes are found as-is in the references.Ordinary reader (talk) 04:03, 15 January 2014 (UTC)


Recent Developments?[edit]

Does anyone know of any recent developments, ideas, publishings, etc. pertaining to the subject of the hard problem of consciousness? (talk) 06:37, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

Recent developments lean toward "biological evolution induces involution" and sustaining life on Earth... [1] (talk) 20:24, 14 December 2013 (UTC)arnold
The most recent I know of that I'd bother reading is one by David Chalmers:
Overview - The Character of Consciousness
Pub. Date: September 30, 2010 Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA Sold By: Barnes & Noble Format: NOOK Book, 0pp Sales Rank: 291,347 Series: Philosophy of Mind Series File Size: 2.4 MBISBN-13: 9780199826612ISBN: 0199826617
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, David Chalmers 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.
Bill Wvbailey (talk) 19:38, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
This book has an extensive bibliography pp. 569-585 with cited papers as latea as 2009. There are also significant footnotes with references. The most significant chapters may be 5 and 6. CH 5 is a rewrite of Chalmers' chapter in his 2002 compilation; this chapter is necessary for his CH 6 (arguments against materialism). Chalmers seems entranced with Schrodinger's wave equation and "the collapse of the wave function" (cf his "interactionism" aka "Type D dualism"; extensive discussion of this appeared in his 2002). (The reader hopes he took the 3 years of college physics courses necessary to converse intelligently about this stuff.) CH 6 is indeed "technical", as he warns the reader in his Introduction (cf p. xviii); this page also offers a nice 1 paragraph synopsis of his categorizations that he fleshes out in CH 5:
  • Type-A materialism (denies the epistemic gap)
  • Type-B materialism (accepts the epistemic gap but denies the ontological gap)
  • Type-C materialism (there's a deep epistemic gap that "will be closed in the limit")
  • Type-D dualism (D for Descartes, "interactionism" -- the consciousness of the observer interats with the world and collapses the world's wave function(s) into a single state)
  • Type-E dualism (Epiphenomenalism)
  • Type-F monism (Russeliian monism, or panprotopsychism)
Chalmers states that the first three should be rejected (and attempts to do so in CH 6), and he can't find fatal flaws in the last three, and his "own loyalties are failry evely spread among these three views, depending on the dayof the week) (Chalmers 2010:xviii).
There must be a finder's fee paid for creating new -isms. And, as is always the case with philosophy, the reader has to dig around to find out e.g. exactly what Chalmers means by "ontological gap", "epistemological gap", etc etc. The index is useful. Bill Wvbailey (talk) 16:01, 15 February 2012 (UTC)


  1. ^ Chardin-Vemadsky-Noosphere

The mind as a distributed function[edit]

MachineElf, in this edit you changed the following paragraph: --

"Several questions about consciousness must be resolved in order to acquire a full understanding of it. These questions include, but are not limited to, whether being conscious could be wholly described in physical terms, such as the aggregation of neural processes in the brain. Notice that such a description is not restricted to the activity of the unassisted brain (for example, consciousness could be dependent in part upon processing by external devices like a computer or even an iPhone.[R 1]) The physical plant also need not be restricted to one brain, but could be a combination of multiple brains in communication."[R 2]
  1. ^ Andy Clark (2008). Supersizing the Mind : Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford University Press. p. ix. ISBN 0195333217. 
  2. ^ Carl Ratner (2011). Macro Cultural Psychology: A Political Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 0199706298. 

to this:

"Several questions about consciousness must be resolved in order to acquire a full understanding of it. These questions include, but are not limited to, whether being conscious could be wholly described in physical terms, such as the aggregation of neural processes in the brain."

Your in-line edit comment was: spillover from Talk:Free will‎‎ and Talk:Mind–body problem‎‎. These extensive sources contain commentary pertinent to those articles, but they contain as well these particular points very pertinent to this article. If you wish, quotations can be provided directly related to the mind-body problem. Can you explain your reasoning why this content is not relevant here? Brews ohare (talk) 04:26, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

No Brews, I reverted your addition, my edit summary was "WP:BRD spillover from Talk:Free will‎‎ and Talk:Mind–body problem" and your sources don't suggest that the hard problem of consciousness extends to smart phones and zeitgeists.—Machine Elf 1735 04:57, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Agree it is a misinterpretation of Clark's idea of scaffolding at one level, and another example of article hopping by an editor who cannot gain consensus for his material ----Snowded TALK 06:04, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
You two provide no argument or evidence for misinterpretation of either Clark or Ratner. It appears that your resistance to including these sources is not based upon substance. Brews ohare (talk) 15:01, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Based on (i) knowledge of the texts and (ii) knowledge that you do not listen when things are explained to you so there is no point in bothering ----Snowded TALK 15:16, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

A bald assertion that you have a knowledge of these texts is not reassuring, Snowded.

The introduction to the WP article suggests that an understanding of 'consciousness' is pertinent to understanding the 'hard problem of consciousness'. It goes on to ask "whether being conscious could be wholly described in physical terms, such as the aggregation of neural processes in the brain." The WP paragraph is about consciousness and its relation to physical plant, and so the idea that the physical plant is not confined to the brain, nor to any individual brain, is entirely within topic. The cited sources support that view, although you dispute that. Whether the 'hard problem' is affected by the nature of 'mind' is something that the WP article brings up, but that is not the focus of this paragraph, and IMO, something the WP article doesn't deal with, even though it broaches the subject.

It seems likely that our experience of things like the color 'red' are influenced by our cultural matrix, our minds, like Eskimos are said to be aware of many kinds of snow that we do not register. But that is another issue with this article, which lacks a proper framing of the topic. Brews ohare (talk) 17:37, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Whether you accept the claim or not does not concern me Brews. The point is that there is no point whatsoever in engaging with you on the talk page as you consistently ignore other editors, rejecting anything that does not support your original edits. That means that as far as several editors are concerned you have lost credibility and are unlikely to get any response over above the minim required by Wikipedia protocol ----Snowded TALK 17:43, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
I haven't 'consistently ignored' you Snowded. I have consistently asked you to provide some rationale for your actions and some source to support your views. That request so far has proved beyond your interests. Brews ohare (talk)
So far as the physical plant underlying consciousness is concerned, the two sources directly address the point of its extended nature. To quote Clark: "We will argue that beliefs can be constituted partly by environment...If so, the mind extends into the world."(p. 226) Chalmers' introductory remarks involving the iPhone say exactly the same thing. The idea that mind involves multiple brains is the entire thrust of Ratner's book, described by him as about "the manner in which cultural factors organize psychology" (p. vii) and that "Culture is in our mind, and ultimately is our mind since it is the mechanism of our subjectivity" (p. 6).
So, Snowded, in my opinion, your lack of any intention to come to grips with these sources or these issues has been laid bare, and your underlying motivations lie elsewhere. Brews ohare (talk) 18:15, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Read some more Brews, I can't be bothered teaching you. A quick clue, look at the material objects and cognitive archaeology literature for more support for your iPhone point and try and get your mind around Clark's use of 'scaffolding'. In wikipedia terms however this is primary sources and synthesis at best ----Snowded TALK 20:44, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
So this being the hard problem... do iPhones come with qualia or is there an app for that? What do philosophical andoids dream of?—Machine Elf 1735 02:56, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
I suppose,MachineElf, that this is facetious reductio ad absurdum, but to avoid making this talk page a farce, I'll reply. The iPhone affects one' s qualia by altering one's perceptions. Perhaps you can understand how that could happen, perhaps not? Brews ohare (talk) 03:09, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
Brews, unless you're snorting your iPhone, you're now just arguing that people can see it... how is that not trolling?—Machine Elf 1735 03:45, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
Let's get back to sources - Chalmers says that if Clark is right, Chalmers' iPhone is part of his mind. Now we can argue what sources say about how one's mind is part of the 'hard problem of consciousness'. Are you up for that? Brews ohare (talk) 05:05, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
Chalmers' foreword has some remarks on this topic, discussing 'extended consciousness' and an 'extended physical basis for consciousness'. Ratner goes further, relying a lot on D. Gentner's work. A few philosophers write about the connection between language and qualia, one connection of the extended mind to qualia. Brews ohare (talk) 05:15, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
And Chambers argument has been rejected by many. As I say you need to look at the Cognitive Archeology literature (Malaforis is one of the more progressive thinkers here) on the way that the physical self is changed by tools and by culture in relatively short timescales. Then you need to reread Clark on scaffolding and you will get closer to what he means. This is huge and emerging field in both science and Philosophy and its not suitable for other than a side mention on this article. For a start you can't even explain it without starting with the rejection of Cartesian concepts of mind-body separation which also changes the argument on free will and so on. At the moment most of the material here is in primary sources hence its inclusion in Wikipedia is problematic ----Snowded TALK 07:30, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
Chambers is not advancing an argument but a possibility. If there are pros and cons about this suggestion, both can be presented.
Snowded, your suggestion to look at Malafouris turns up this. I have no problem doing the heavy lifting here if you want to lay out an outline of how this should work.
Your view of what role primary sources should play in WP is very conservative in my opinion. It would suggest, for example, that the article on Dark matter or Faster-than-light shouldn't be on WP, but there they are. When it comes to sub-sections in established articles, WP criteria are much less excluding. There is no problem, IMO, in presenting such material so long as it is not presented as the gospel, and is based upon published work. I see no problem in presenting a summary of Malafouris, in particular, so far as it is relevant here. In the case of philosophy, a caution that an opinion is not gospel is hardly necessary because no two philosophers agree about anything. Brews ohare (talk) 16:27, 19 March 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Brews I gave you those references to show why this subject is much wider than your proposals imply. They were also given in the hope that you would see this is a rapidly developing and changing theory and controversial. In those areas we need developed secondary sources to inform our choices. It is not me being conservative, it is wikipedia. I could write a summary of Malaforis tomorrow having read (and taught) his material but it would be original research. So read it for enjoyment and interest but search out secondary sources. Even then it is dubious if this is the article for this. ----Snowded TALK 17:34, 19 March 2014 (UTC)

Snowded: You misread WP:OR. It says, in part, "The prohibition against OR means that all material added to articles must be attributable to a reliable published source"
Now Malafouris' book is a reliable published source, and pertinent to this topic. You may view it as a primary or as a secondary source. It does provide the author's own thinking, partly based upon ideas taken from other sources. I take your comment "this is a rapidly developing and changing theory and controversial" as your personal definition of a topic that is OR, but I believe WP means by OR the intrusion of a WP editor's own views, not the reporting of views published by reputable presses and professional authors with academic credentials. "Unless restricted by another policy, primary sources that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia; but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them." I do not believe that "with care" means "under no circumstances"; rather it is a caution that it is easy to slip into synthesis not found in the sources, or into statement of a WP editor's personal interpretation. Any rejection of a presentation of this material is therefore not to be based upon the controversial nature of the subject, but upon any misrepresentation of the sources, for example, by failing to note there is controversy surrounding the subject, or by ignoring some aspects of the subject that should come up. Brews ohare (talk) 19:23, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
Also, you mention that you doubt the pertinence of this material to the 'hard problem'. That is a separate issue, of course. But the question of the malleability of qualia based upon cultural context is certainly pertinent, and possibly Malafouris addresses this issue. I'm sure some authors can be found who do so. Brews ohare (talk) 19:28, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
We have been through this before Brews and on the OR discussion board as I remember it and you did not get support. The issue is simple it is about selection and possible bias as a result. To illustrate it in another area. I have expertise in narrative as a research method, originality as well in having creating the first distributed ethnographic technique and toolset. However I cannot use my own papers to insert that material into a summary article. However I have now written the entry on the subject for the Sage Encyclopaedia of Action Research and that has been though a peer review process. It is thus a secondary source and I can now use that summary level material in the article in question. Now some careful summary of the material could be useful without a clear secondary source (although we have one I think might be useful) but that is very different from your simply picking one aspect at random and inserting a series of quotes. As I said we have been through this too many times now, You need to accept this or no progress is going to be made. ----Snowded TALK 20:14, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
I'll take this to WP:OR for review and clarification. Brews ohare (talk) 21:54, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
Here is a link to this presentation. Please add to the discussion. Brews ohare (talk) 22:11, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
The result of this discussion is a clear description of the policy by Jc3s5h opposing your views on OR, a waffle by North8000, and some digressions about quotations by others. I'd say at a minimum that any attempt to have Malafouris thrown out on the basis of WP:OR would fail. Brews ohare (talk) 16:15, 24 March 2014 (UTC)
And Arnoutf and JohnBlackborne both opposed you, if you are going to make claims try and make them accurate ----Snowded TALK 17:17, 24 March 2014 (UTC)
Blackburne's comments, that articles "should be based upon secondary sources" and consequently there are "few uses for primary sources", were shown by direct quotations from policy made by Jc3s5h to be contrary to WP:OR. Blackburne followed by Arnoutf then digress to talk about the use of quotations. A side issue. Brews ohare (talk) 18:34, 24 March 2014 (UTC)
I forgot, anyone who disagrees with Brews is misguided, obstructive, not interested in content etc. etc. My apologies ----Snowded TALK 18:42, 24 March 2014 (UTC)
Well, perhaps not anyone, but the set is not empty. Brews ohare (talk) 20:14, 24 March 2014 (UTC)

Another source on extended mind[edit]

As a further indication that the topic of 'extended mind' should be included here we also have: The Peripheral Mind, particularly Chapter 6 "Mind extended"

"I will begin with a much discussed hypothesis, the extended-mind hypothesis...that the mind and its cognitive states and processes could be extended beyond the bounds of the body." "The first claim is that certain cognitive processes transcend the body-environment boundary so these are or should be considered as extended cognitive processes. The second claim is that certain cognitive states can also be considered extended in the above sense."

This source has an extended discussion of qualia and their connection to this issue.

Brews ohare (talk) 20:11, 24 March 2014 (UTC)

More google searches Brews - I've already pointed you to a secondary source that summarises the various "E's if you want to look at an entry on this subject, although I am not sure that this article which is very specific in its subject is appropriate for an extended discussion ----Snowded TALK 04:30, 25 March 2014 (UTC)

Pardon my naivety but...[edit]

... how is this concept of 'Hard problem of consciousness' different to 'Mind-body problem'? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pooipedia (talkcontribs) 14:03, 10 April 2015 (UTC)

Article misstates what its subject is, starting with the first sentence[edit]

To define the "hard problem of consciousness" this article misstates what it is in the first sentence. And uses as a reference for that first sentence a paper that neither quotes nor mentions David Chalmers, nor even uses the phrase "hard problem" anywhere at all.

This would be a good time for someone who actually knows something about this article's subject to rewrite it.

The first sentence as written actually mixes together one major aspect of the "hard problem" with one that is not. I'll leave it to experts to make the correction.Daqu (talk) 03:41, 16 April 2015 (UTC)

This article may fool people into thinking the "hard problem" is real[edit]

I think there needs to be a more clearly defined delineation between pages about legitimate cognitive neuroscience and general philosophy of mind. The so-called "hard problem of consciousness" isn't a legitimate concern with cognitive neuroscientists, and in fact is a term used almost exclusively among philosophers like Chalmers, those explaining why he is wrong, and some interested laypeople who have unfortunately been misled about the actual importance of Chalmers "hard problem" in the field of neuroscience. I wrote a reply in another talk page which is relevant here so I'll copy and re-post it here:

"There are a few reasons why the "hard problem" isn't given any thought or taken seriously by cognitive neuroscientists, the first being that it's based on an informal logical fallacy called "an argument from personal incredulity" or "argument from ignorance". Secondly, although Chalmers et al claim they aren't dualists, at it's core the "hard problem" is essentially based on a rejection of scientific materialism. Most importantly though, the "hard problem" just plain doesn't exist. The fact is - Chalmers' "easy problems" are all there is to the mind, they're the real hard problems. There are a huge number of studies, and a mass of evidence, pointing to actual neural correlates of consciousness, and suggesting various signatures of consciousness. Stanislas Dehaene and his team's work is a good example of this. My point is, once Chalmers' "easy problems" are solved, his so-called "hard problem" will be more clearly seen as non-existent. Actual researchers and scientists in the field already know this..."

So basically, I think there needs to be a more clearly worded account of all this somewhere in the article. Perhaps something along the lines of "this is a fringe philosophical belief" or "the majority of those working in the field of cognitive neuroscience do not consider the 'hard problem' to exist". Because lately, it seems there are too many laypeople who hear about this "hard problem of consciousness", then come to this wiki page and after reading a bit, consider themselves informed enough to argue that "obviously, consciousness can never be simulated", or "obviously, consciousness is more than simply cells" or any number of the ill-informed beliefs that end up in the forums of cognitive science websites, the comments of popular science articles, or even worse, in the psych 101 term papers of college freshmen. Bzzzing (talk) 18:12, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

Some interesting points. Though I fear that you have not fully grasped the nature of the hard problem. It certainly exists - i.e. it's an genuine puzzle. But being seemingly unsolvable it does attract crackpots - thus whilst being a real enough problem some of the things written about it certainly could be described as 'pseudoscience'. As for neurologists or psychologists, the hard problem presumably doesn't exist for them because it is not a practical problem in doing their job - one might almost say it's 'above their pay grade'.

All the outward manifestations of consciousness could in principle be 'simulated' by a sufficiently sophisticated computer program, but there is not the slightest reason to suppose that such a program would or could replicate true consciousness i.e. create the internal, subjective, experience of being: that's the phenomenon which remains unexplained and is the 'hard problem'. Cassandra — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cassandrathesceptic (talkcontribs) 10:15, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

Excised passages[edit]

I removed the following sentence from the section Deflationary accounts because it came at the end of a paragraph that summarizes a 2012 paper by Carruthers and Schier as if Chalmers were responding to Carruthers and Schier, but the statement by Chalmers was written in 1996. Therefore it seems like original research to conclude this paragraph as if Chalmers is responding to Carruthers and Schier (also, it's not clear to me how relevant this 1996 quote from Chalmers is to the 2012 paper by Carruthers and Schier):

Contrary to this line of argument, Chalmers says: "Some may be led to deny the possibility [of zombies] in order to make some theory come out right, but the justification of such theories should ride on the question of possibility, rather than the other way round".[1]:96

I removed the following extensive passage from the section titled The source of illusion because it's not clear to me how this is related to the subject of the article (plus the reference from doesn't look like a reliable source):

One possible explanation is in evolutionary psychology. The innate structure of the human mind includes a variety of notions that are important from the evolutionary point of view, for example: food, a potential mate, a human baby, a corpse. Perception of objects associated with these notions is supposed to evoke a particular emotional response that guides human behavior towards survival and reproductive success.[2] It is hypothesized that the class of such salient objects include personhood. A body of circumstantial evidence indicates that recognition of personhood in an object facilitates emotional responses which are our moral intuitions. In other words, the brain's ability to recognize personhood in an object and subsequent emotional reactions to this object and the current circumstances are how our morality was implemented in the brain by the evolutionary tendencies that favored cooperation between unrelated individuals as well as other social attributes.

The notion of personhood is activated when a subject perceives another individual or when their brain performs introspection. That is, other individuals as well as the subject themself are classified by the subject as persons based on some evolutionarily determined characteristics. At the same time, contemplating brain tissue does not activate the personhood recognition system, because brain tissue lacks the characteristics the personhood detection system was designed for. As a result, the subject does not classify brain tissue as a person. As the two types of stimuli evoke different emotional responses in the subject, they have difficulty with establishing identity between them. Therefore, the subject refuses to accept that their thoughts are a product of the material brain: their thoughts activate the personhood recognition system, meanwhile a picture of their brain tissue does not. This dissonance is detected by neurons in their brain which make the subject say: "My subjective experience cannot be explained by reductionism."[3]


  1. ^ David J. Chalmers (1996). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  2. ^ Pascal Boyer (2001). Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. Basic Books. ISBN 0465006965. 
  3. ^ The mind-body problem and the hard problem of consciousness explained