David Chalmers Consciousness

Having finished Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, it was a toss-up between more Dennett or David Chalmers (or something completely different like Barbara Tuchman, still unread).

Chalmers name-drops an impressive list of acknowledgments, but is brave enough to point out that Hofstadter (his original mentor) and Dennett largely disagree with him. I think he overhypes the exciting mysetry angle, but he is right to distinguish the hard problem (the subjective “quality” of consciousness) from the easy problem (the physical “causality” of senses and actions), and in doing so admits to preserving an unfashionable duality. OK by me.

Lingusitically it gets tough because all the words are overloaded in this space. I actually believe his choice of phenomenal for the former and psychlogical for the latter seems somewhat perverse to me, but he explains his choice of terms. With similar caveats I would choose “mental ” and “causal”, but clearly previous use of the word mental is too overloaded for Chalmers to accept.

I’m going to have to read more to understand precisely how “qualia” are distinguished from immediate experience, but despite previously believing I disagreed with qualia, the parallel’s with Pirsig, Barfield, Peirce and Northrop are almost tangible. Now that is exciting, as is the use of quality and the root of qualia (phenomenal quality). Sadly none of those references makes it to Chalmers’ bibliography – but nothing new there – there is an academic mainstream that insulates itself from what it sees as non-academics. Still, we’re after quality, not fame here.

[Post Note : One thing I do agree with Chalmers on, that I forgot to mention, is the idea of consciousness being just some kind of “illusion” is not very helpful, in fact it’s a cop-out. Probably the point at which Dennett disagrees with him ?]

7 thoughts on “David Chalmers Consciousness”

  1. just a quick comment. Russell talks about personal experience and public experience, public being removed from the immediate experience. Could this be similiar to the difference between “qualia” and immediate experience? It seems to me the whole question is about whether what you experience is what I experience and if we do see or experience the same thing then what? It would seem to me that the filters of our personal past would inevitably change that immediate experience so that by the time the thing goes public it is an entirely subjective view.

    not profound, admittedly, but I need to try to make sense of all of this by putting it into my own words.

  2. Not profound ?!?! You jest Alice.

    That, with a few variations is about all that’s kept philosophy going for the last 150 years.

    It’s expressed many different ways, but one quote I’ve used is from Owen Barfield who pointed out that just about all philosophy since Kant has been about subject-object interaction and how much of this is objective (public) or subjective (private).

    Chalmers is no different in that respect. His “qualia” are meant to help – but I’m not really there yet.

  3. actually I think, in Russsell’s view, it’s the private which is objective because that is the immediate experience. It’s when it tries to get explained that it changes, no????

  4. OK fair enough, I did say Chalmers’ choice of labels was non-intuitive too. What it’s called is immaterial, provided we recognise the distinctions between the concepts.

    The words in this space, so close to the immediate reality of all of us, are highly overloaded with ambiguous meanings. Even “immediate” depends which side you’re looking from I find – closest to the “out there” or closest to the “in here”.

  5. as far as not being profound…I am aware of the debate and the millions of words and ideas which have been spent on the issue. I was refering to my meager effort to explain it simply.

  6. I know, you know, I know, you know, etc …

    But you underestimate your own summary of the situation. Complicated story doesn’t equal profound. More the opposite I find.

    The fog is mainly linguistic, as you illustrated.

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