• Wheatley
    1.3k
    The so-called "hard problem" of consciousness was introduced by philosopher David Chalmers. Chalmers basically divides the problem of explaining consciousness into two parts: hard problem, and "easy" problem. The easy problem is discovering all the biological and physical mechanisms of consciousness, while the hard problem concerns explaining the subjective first-person quality of being conscious.

    Chalmers is a well known dualist when it comes to the philosophy of mind, and I suspect that his framing of consciousness into two problems is a manifestation of property-dualism. The mental properties of the mind corresponds to the hard problem, while the physical properties of the mind correspond to the easy problem. My question is if dualism isn't correct, would there be a need for two problems of consciousness? I don't think so.

    Must we insist that explaining consciousness at a mechanistic level any easier than explaining the subjective first-person experience aspects of consciousness? My hunch is that the so-called easy problem of consciousness at a mechanistic level is equally as difficult as the so-called hard problem at the subjective level. They might even be the same problem.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.9k
    I am firmly anti-dualism and I find a usefulness for Chalmers’ distinction.

    However I do think the answer to the “hard problem” proper is trivial, and all the actual hard work is in answering the “easy problem”. And that the substantive question of why we have the specific kind of first-person experience that we have, rather than the trivial question of why we have any first-person experience at all, is bound up in the “easy problem” as well, because experience and behavior are inseparably linked.
  • Marchesk
    4.2k
    because experience and behavior are inseparably linked.Pfhorrest

    Do you think this is the case with meditation, inner dialog, imagination, hallucination and dreaming?
  • deletedusercb
    1.7k
    Must we insist that explaining consciousness at a mechanistic level any easier than explaining the subjective first-person experience aspects of consciousness? My hunch is that the so-called easy problem of consciousness at a mechanistic level is equally as difficult as the so-called hard problem at the subjective level.Wheatley
    The easy problem is actually a lot of problems, explaining all sorts of cognitive stuff/behaviors/responses. It might actually be harder to complete. But it is different from the hard problem (so far). But in the end perhaps a non-dualist explanation will be arrived at. I think we can distinguish between the two problem types without assuming that they need different ontologies. I mean, perhaps they need different ontologies, perhaps not.

    One solution that is a monism is a kind of panpsychism. Perhaps all matter has an experiential facet. The various cognitive abilities and functions depend on the complexity and structure of the matter, but at some base level there is interiority in all matter. So, consciousness is not some exception, but rather a facet of matter and there is no need for dualism. (I am not suggesting this as the solution to be critiqued and defended per se, but rather just to say a solution could be monist)
  • Pfhorrest
    3.9k
    Do you think this is the case with meditation, inner dialog, imagination, hallucination and dreaming?Marchesk

    Yes, because by "behavior" I'm not speaking only of gross motor functions, but all of the stuff that our physical bodies do, including subtler internal behaviors. The particulars of our experiences -- including mediation, inner dialog, imagination, hallucination, dreaming, etc -- correspond to particular things our brains do.

    One solution that is a monism is a kind of panpsychism. Perhaps all matter has an experiential facet. The various cognitive abilities and functions depend on the complexity and structure of the matter, but at some base level there is interiority in all matter. So, consciousness is not some exception, but rather a facet of matter and there is no need for dualism.Coben

    Exactly this.
  • bongo fury
    822
    Oh, an experiential facet. I see.
  • TheMadFool
    8.4k
    My question is if dualism isn't correct, would there be a need for two problems of consciousness?Wheatley

    I can see where you're coming from. The fact of the matter is that Dualism implies and is implied by The Hard Problem Of Consciousness. It's, in logical terms, a double implication or a biconditional: Dualism <--> The Hard Problem Of Consciousness.. Another way of expressing this biconditional relationship would be Dualism is true if and only if there's The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

    Suppose D = Dualism and H = The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

    D <--> H = (D --> H) & (H --> D)

    We know, for certain, that D --> H (This is why you're saying dualism presupposes the hard problem of consciousness and you're correct). When we assume dualism, the hard problem of consciousness is true. However, we can't prove dualism with D --> H. All we can do with the statement D --> H is to falsify dualism when ~H is true using modus tollens.

    However, we can prove dualism using the other half of the biconditional relationship viz. H --> D and applying modus ponens. If The Hard Problem Of Consciousness is true then Dualism must be true and that's what David Chalmer's is up to.

    My two cents...
  • Mr Bee
    387
    Chalmers isn't assuming anything more than just the first person subjective element of experience. Unless you disagree with the existence of such a thing (quite possible if you're an eliminativist), then that shouldn't be objectionable. It certainly isn't trying to sneak dualism into the mix (it doesn't even mention the terms "mental" or "physical"). If you think this is explainable within a physicalist picture then you're more than free to offer it up.
  • Mww
    2k
    My hunch is that the so-called easy problem of consciousness at a mechanistic level is equally as difficult as the so-called hard problem at the subjective level. They might even be the same problem.Wheatley

    Interesting read here, in that they may be kindasorta equally difficult problems, but they are certainly not the same problem: http://cogprints.org/1617/1/harnad00.mind.humphrey.html
  • Philosophim
    529
    However I do think the answer to the “hard problem” proper is trivial, and all the actual hard work is in answering the “easy problem”. And that the substantive question of why we have the specific kind of first-person experience that we have, rather than the trivial question of why we have any first-person experience at all, is bound up in the “easy problem” as well, because experience and behavior are inseparably linked.Pfhorrest

    Just had to agree with Pfhorrest on this one.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.9k
    Must we insist that explaining consciousness at a mechanistic level any easier than explaining the subjective first-person experience aspects of consciousness? My hunch is that the so-called easy problem of consciousness at a mechanistic level is equally as difficult as the so-called hard problem at the subjective level. They might even be the same problem.Wheatley

    The hard problem for dualism is to explain how these two opposing substances (material vs. immaterial) interact. Essentially dualism creates the problem by asserting that there are two opposing substances.

    It arises as a result of thinking that you see both the world as it truly is and that you see your mind as it truly is. How they both appear is irreconcilable if you actually believe that how you see to world and mind is actually how they actually are.
  • Joshs
    948
    A non-dualist explanation has been arrived at, taking various various forms, but as far as I know by only a handful of writers, which includes Heidegger, Derrida, George Kelly, Eugene Gendlin, Husserl and Merleau-Pontus. I might put constructivists like Piaget and Von Glasersfeld on this list also.

    For all of them subject and object are not causally related entities but merely poles of interaction. They derive material causation from a more primary form
    of motivation(Being, intending, construing).

    Close behind this group, and eminently more satisfying than Chalmers,would be pragmatists like Dewey and Rorty, post-structuraliats following Nietzsche, 4Ea enaxtivists like Gallagher, Ratcliffe and Fuchs, auto-poietic models from Varela and Thompson, and constructivist hermeneteutics following Gadamer.
  • Joshs
    948
    Unless a discourse is able to derive physical causation as an abstracted modification of a more primary hermeneutic process, it fill fail to come to grips with the origin of the hard problem, as your link demonstrates. Starting from causative relations between objects and then trying to explain consciousness on top of this IS the problem
  • Mww
    2k
    Starting from causative relations between objects and then trying to explain consciousness on top of this IS the problemJoshs

    Yeah, I’m fine with that brief. Personally, I would then ask, if science solves the hard problem by relating the physical mechanisms of brain to the metaphysical mechanisms of subjectivism......what has really been accomplished? I rather think no one will care, except the scientists.
  • Joshs
    948
    It will have accomplished a vast amount. A huge range of behavioral phenomena, cognitive as well as affective , are now badly understood due to the lingering reductive bias among psychologists . For just a few examples of what can be gained by abandonment of reductionism, look at the research by Gallagher, Ratcliffe and Zahavi on schizophrenia, autism, empathy, depression, grief, ptsd,
  • Joshs
    948
    Chalmers retains core reductionist assumptions in his approach.

    From Zahavi:

    “ Chalmers’s discussion of the hard problem has identified and labeled an aspect of consciousness that
    cannot be ignored. However, his way of defining and distinguishing the hard problem from the easy problems
    seems in many ways indebted to the very reductionism that he is out to oppose. If one thinks that cognition and
    intentionality is basically a matter of information processing and causal co-variation that could in principle just as
    well go on in a mindless computer–or to use Chalmers’ own favored example, in an experienceless zombie–
    then one is left with the impression that all that is really distinctive about consciousness is its qualitative or
    phenomenal aspect. But this seems to suggest that with the exception of some evanescent qualia everything
    about consciousness including intentionality can be explained in reductive (computational or neural) terms; and
    in this case, epiphenomenalism threatens.
    To put it differently, Chalmers’s distinction between the hard and the easy problems of consciousness
    shares a common feature with many other recent analytical attempts to defend consciousness against the
    onslaught of reductionism: They all grant far too much to the other side. Reductionism has typicallyproceeded
    with a classical divide and rule strategy. There are basically two sides to consciousness: Intentionality and
    phenomenality. We don’t currently know how to reduce the latter aspect, so let us separate the two sides, and
    concentrate on the first. If we then succeed in explaining intentionality reductively, the aspect of phenomenality
    cannot be all that significant. Many non-reductive materialists have uncritically adopted the very same strategy.
    They have marginalized subjectivity by identifying it with epiphenomenal qualia and have then claimed that it is
    this aspect which eludes reductionism.
    But is this partition really acceptable, are we really dealing with two separate problems, or is experience
    and intentionality on the contrary intimately connected? Is it really possible to investigate intentionality properly
    without taking experience, the first-person perspective, semantics, etc., into account? And vice versa, is it
    possible to understand the nature of subjectivity and experience if we ignore intentionality. Or do we not then run
    the risk of reinstating a Cartesian subject-world dualism that ignores everything captured by the phrase “being-
    in-the-world.” (Intentionality and phenomenality
    A phenomenological take on the hard problem)
  • Mww
    2k


    Ehhhh.....none of that interests me.
  • Garth
    112
    How can the "easy" problem explain anything without partially explaining the "hard" problem? Even separating these two problems suggests that the aspect of consciousness which is "hard" to explain has no function for the workings of the brain or human behavior generally. The very notion separating these two isn't just a resort to dualism but a resort to the kind of dualism in which the "mental" element is ultimately irrelevant.
  • creativesoul
    9.5k
    All conscious experience is meaningful to the creature having the experience. Consciousness is the ability to attribute meaning. The 'hard problem' of consciousness is simply that there has yet to have been an acceptable theory of meaning or mind that is capable of taking proper account how meaning is first attributed and continues to grow and evolve thereafter. "Proper" here indicating amenability to an evolutionary timeline and scientific peer reviewed study.

    The frameworks themselves are incapable of taking account of that which consists of both external and internal things, and the correlations drawn between such things... and that is how consciousness emerges and evolves. The subject/object and physical/mental dichotomies are both used by folk guilty of taking a whole, arbitrarily dissecting it and then pondering over the dissection, without ever realizing that consciousness consists of both, and more

    Ce la vie.
  • Gnomon
    1.2k
    My hunch is that the so-called easy problem of consciousness at a mechanistic level is equally as difficult as the so-called hard problem at the subjective level. They might even be the same problem.Wheatley
    The "easy" answer to the problem of Life, Consciousness, & Everything is Dualistic, hence too complex to be a final answer, a singular solution. All physical mechanical change requires are least two elements : Energy (causation) and Matter (malleable stuff). But the only answer to the "hard" problem is Monistic.

    The absolute monistic answer goes all the way back to the beginning of everything. Some call that perfect singular solution "God". But I call it "BEING" : the power to be. All else stems from that indispensable root cause. Hence, the potential for emergence of Life & Consciousness must originate in the First Cause : BEING. You can't prove the existence of the power to exist, except as a Logical Necessity. It's that simple. :smile:
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    Must we insist that explaining consciousness at a mechanistic level any easier than explaining the subjective first-person experience aspects of consciousness? My hunch is that the so-called easy problem of consciousness at a mechanistic level is equally as difficult as the so-called hard problem at the subjective level. They might even be the same problem.Wheatley
    The "easy problem" is easy because it entails describing certain mental activity as mechanisic/algorithmic processes. It's true we can't map that into neurological activity (so it's still "hard" in that sense), but it's "easy" in the sense that mechanisic/algorithmic processes are consistent with physicalism.

    The "hard problem" is hard because it entails mental activity that isn't describable mechanistically. Is that fatal? I don't think so, but it does mean we need to account for these mental functions in some novel way.
  • Wayfarer
    11k
    Chalmers isn't assuming anything more than just the first person subjective element of experience. Unless you disagree with the existence of such a thing (quite possible if you're an eliminativist), then that shouldn't be objectionable. It certainly isn't trying to sneak dualism into the mix (it doesn't even mention the terms "mental" or "physical").Mr Bee

    Wouldn't be too sure about that. In his original Facing Up to the Hard Problem, he says:

    by taking experience as fundamental, there is a sense in which this approach does not tell us why there is experience in the first place. But this is the same for any fundamental theory. Nothing in physics tells us why there is matter in the first place, but we do not count this against theories of matter. Certain features of the world need to be taken as fundamental by any scientific theory. A theory of matter can still explain all sorts of facts about matter, by showing how they are consequences of the basic laws. The same goes for a theory of experience.

    This position qualifies as a variety of dualism, as it postulates basic properties over and above the properties invoked by physics. But it is an innocent version of dualism, entirely compatible with the scientific view of the world.
    — David Chalmers

    Also

    I resisted mind-body dualism for a long time, but I have now come to the point where I accept it, not just as the only tenable view but as a satisfying view in its own right. It is always possible that I am confused, or that there is a new and radical possibility that I have overlooked; but I can comfortably say that I think dualism is very likely true. I have also raised the possibility of a kind of panpsychism. Like mind-body dualism, this is initially counterintuitive, but the counterintuitiveness disappears with time. I am unsure whether the view is true or false, but it is at least intellectually appealing, and on reflection it is not too crazy to be acceptable.

    (David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind (1996), p.357)
  • Mr Bee
    387
    Chalmer's obviously a dualist. That's not what I'm denying. I'm denying that he's somehow assuming it or sneaking it in his explication of the hard problem. There are solutions to the hard problem that do not take dualism to be true.
  • Wayfarer
    11k
    Well, not according to Chalmers.

    What’s the big issue with dualism? Why’s it such a boo word?
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    Must we insist that explaining consciousness at a mechanistic level [is] any easier than explaining the subjective first-person experience aspects of consciousness?Wheatley

    In reviewing all the other responses, I don't believe this will be very popular, but perhaps, after Kant and after Wittgenstein, we can let go of the need for the "subjective" or "consciousness" or "experience". The personal, secret, suppressed, etc., occupy the same place in our world and language, except one. Philosophy has never been able to do without an internal, unique, special quality for me (e.g., my "thoughts", my "being", my "existence"), say, among other goals, to fulfill the desire to be unknowable or to have my expressions fixed to something certain or controllable ("intention" "meaning" "perception").

    All conscious experience is meaningful to the creature having the experience. Consciousness is the ability to attribute meaning.creativesoul

    All(?) "conscious experience" is meaningful? We are unavoidably pierced through with "our experience"? constantly bombarded with meaning? How can we differentiate from the mundane, unmeaningful? Perhaps this is just to hold the keys to the castle--we have "meaning" and then we "attribute" it. That picture certainly makes it easy to ensure meaning, or wiggle out, or avoid our answerability to others for our expressions. Perhaps it is sufficient that something is meaningful enough to us that we say something, take a stand, disagree, etc.--and in this sense: be, exist--and simply leave it that our language (along with the world) works apart from (and before) any need for some hidden, private, mental process. Perhaps we are simply not as special as we would like to imagine.
  • Marchesk
    4.2k
    What’s the big issue with dualism? Why’s it such a boo word?Wayfarer

    Apparently, Descartes ruined it for everybody else. Also, there seems to be this fear that any non-material conclusion leads to woo. Which is bad, because we should have a nice, tidy empirical explanation for everything. Or something.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.9k
    Yeah, I’m fine with that brief. Personally, I would then ask, if science solves the hard problem by relating the physical mechanisms of brain to the metaphysical mechanisms of subjectivism......what has really been accomplished? I rather think no one will care, except the scientists.Mww
    So you are no longer interested in the subject if it no longer resides in the domain of philisophy and becomes part of the domain of science. I can understand this. Unsolved mysteries are interesting to philosophers. Solved mysteries are no longer interesting to philosophers but are interesting to scientists. :cool:

    However, we should be careful not to allow our interest in keeping it a mystery prevent us from solving the problem. The answers were never guaranteed to be interesting to everyone for every goal that they may have.
  • Mww
    2k
    we should be careful not to allow our interest in keeping it a mystery prevent us from solving the problem.Harry Hindu

    To keep some mysteries a secret is the same as pervasive skepticism over the possibility of relieving ourselves of ignorance of their objects. So, yes, good philosophy’s interest should not contain an over-abundance of dogmatic skepticism.
  • Tom1352
    16
    Surely they are different kinds of problem. The solution to the easy problem is at least in principle discoverable empirically i.e. there is a possible answer to explaining the biological and chemical mechanisms of consciousness even if we may never know it. Materialists assert that there is no reason to go beyond a physical explanation even though we are currently ignorant of exactly how a physical mind and physical body interact. However the harder problem presents a question that is in principle impossible to answer i.e. how does a non-physical substance (property etc.) interact with a physical object? And this presents further difficulties in how a non-physical mind would 'fix' onto a physical body etc. How difficult they are to answer is an entirely different question, my understanding is that the easy problem is a matter for empirical investigation whereas the harder problem would require a different means of enquiry.
  • bert1
    610
    Apparently, Descartes ruined it for everybody else. Also, there seems to be this fear that any non-material conclusion leads to woo. Which is bad, because we should have a nice, tidy empirical explanation for everything. Or something.Marchesk

    Strawson argues that Descartes was not a substance dualist at all, but a kind of property dualist. I'm not a Descartes scholar so I can't comment on that, but I'm not convinced there are any genuine substance dualists at all. Even people who believe in souls and spirit etc do not, when pushed, typically say these things are made from a separate substance, as they will want to say that these things clearly interact with regular physical bodies, so they can't, ultimately, be utterly different in substance from matter. Either matter is reducible to spirit, or spirit to matter, or both reducible to some third thing, or both are irreducible properties of one substance. Everyone is a monist it seems to me.
  • bert1
    610
    What’s the big issue with dualism? Why’s it such a boo word?Wayfarer

    Charitably, it's a boo word for a good reason: the interaction problem is rightly considered fatal to substance dualism.

    Less charitably, some think that dualists (substance or property? Unspecified?) necessarily believe silly spooky things that every sensible grown up non-magical thinker knows don't exist.

    I don't think there are actually any substance dualists. I haven't met any at least. Maybe there are some on the forum, I don't know.
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