The book is an extended study of the problem of consciousness. After setting up the problem, I argue that reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible , and that if one takes consciousness seriously, one has to go beyond a strict materialist framework. In the second half of the book, I move toward a positive theory of consciousness with fundamental laws linking the physical and the experiential in a systematic way. Finally, I use the ideas and arguments developed earlier to defend (...) a form of strong artificial intelligence and to analyze some problems in the foundations of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? The question invites two standard replies. Some accept the demarcations of skin and skull, and say that what is outside the body is outside the mind. Others are impressed by arguments suggesting that the meaning of our words "just ain't in the head", and hold that this externalism about meaning carries over into an externalism about mind. We propose to pursue a third position. We advocate a very different (...) sort of externalism: an _active externalism_, based on the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes. (shrink)
What are the philosophical views of contemporary professional philosophers? We surveyed many professional philosophers in order to help determine their views on 30 central philosophical issues. This article documents the results. It also reveals correlations among philosophical views and between these views and factors such as age, gender, and nationality. A factor analysis suggests that an individual's views on these issues factor into a few underlying components that predict much of the variation in those views. The results of a metasurvey (...) also suggest that many of the results of the survey are surprising: philosophers as a whole have quite inaccurate beliefs about the distribution of philosophical views in the profession. (shrink)
Inspired by Rudolf Carnap's Der Logische Aufbau Der Welt, David J. Chalmers argues that the world can be constructed from a few basic elements. He develops a scrutability thesis saying that all truths about the world can be derived from basic truths and ideal reasoning. This thesis leads to many philosophical consequences: a broadly Fregean approach to meaning, an internalist approach to the contents of thought, and a reply to W. V. Quine's arguments against the analytic and the a priori. (...) Chalmers also uses scrutability to analyze the unity of science, to defend a conceptual approach to metaphysics, and to mount a structuralist response to skepticism. Based on the 2010 John Locke lectures, Constructing the World opens up debate on central philosophical issues involving language, consciousness, knowledge, and reality. This major work by a leading philosopher will appeal to philosophers in all areas. This entry contains uncorrected proofs of front matter, chapter 1, and first excursus. (shrink)
To make progress on the problem of consciousness, we have to confront it directly. In this paper, I first isolate the truly hard part of the problem, separating it from more tractable parts and giving an account of why it is so difficult to explain. I critique some recent work that uses reductive methods to address consciousness, and argue that such methods inevitably fail to come to grips with the hardest part of the problem. Once this failure is recognized, the (...) door to further progress is opened. In the second half of the paper, I argue that if we move to a new kind of nonreductive explanation, a naturalistic account of consciousness can be given. I put forward my own candidate for such an account: a nonreductive theory based on principles of structural coherence and organizational invariance, and a double-aspect theory of information. (shrink)
Does consciousness collapse the quantum wave function? This idea was taken seriously by John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner but is now widely dismissed. We develop the idea by combining a mathematical theory of consciousness (integrated information theory) with an account of quantum collapse dynamics (continuous spontaneous localization). Simple versions of the theory are falsified by the quantum Zeno effect, but more complex versions remain compatible with empirical evidence. In principle, versions of the theory can be tested by experiments with (...) quantum computers. The upshot is not that consciousness-collapse interpretations are clearly correct, but that there is a research program here worth exploring. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
There is a long tradition in philosophy of using a priori methods to draw conclusions about what is possible and what is necessary, and often in turn to draw conclusions about matters of substantive metaphysics. Arguments like this typically have three steps: first an epistemic claim , from there to a modal claim , and from there to a metaphysical claim.
The philosophical interest of verbal disputes is twofold. First, they play a key role in philosophical method. Many philosophical disagreements are at least partly verbal, and almost every philosophical dispute has been diagnosed as verbal at some point. Here we can see the diagnosis of verbal disputes as a tool for philosophical progress. Second, they are interesting as a subject matter for first-order philosophy. Reflection on the existence and nature of verbal disputes can reveal something about the nature of concepts, (...) language, and meaning. In this article I first characterize verbal disputes, spell out a method for isolating and resolving them, and draw out conclusions for philosophical methodology. I then use the framework to draw out consequences in first-order philosophy. In particular, I argue that the analysis of verbal disputes can be used to support the existence of a distinctive sort of primitive concept and that it can be used to reconstruct a version of an analytic/synthetic distinction, where both are characterized in dialectical terms alone. (shrink)
I present an argument for panpsychism: the thesis that everything is conscious, or at least that fundamental physical entities are conscious. The argument takes a Hegelian dialectical form. Panpsychism emerges as a synthesis of the thesis of materalism and the antithesis of dualism. In particular, the key premises of the causal argument for materialism and the conceivability argument for dualism are all accommodated by a certain version of panpsychism. This synthesis has its own antithesis in turn: panprotopsychism, the thesis that (...) fundamental physical entities are protoconscious, also accommodates the key premises. Panpsychism and panprotopsychism are synthesized under Russellian monism, and then face an antithesis, the combination problem. The question of whether there is a new synthesis remains open. (shrink)
A leading philosopher takes a mind-bending journey through virtual worlds, illuminating the nature of reality and our place within it. Virtual reality is genuine reality; that's the central thesis of Reality+. In a highly original work of "technophilosophy," David J. Chalmers gives a compelling analysis of our technological future. He argues that virtual worlds are not second-class worlds, and that we can live a meaningful life in virtual reality. We may even be in a virtual world already. Along the way, (...) Chalmers conducts a grand tour of big ideas in philosophy and science. He uses virtual reality technology to offer a new perspective on long-established philosophical questions. How do we know that there's an external world? Is there a god? What is the nature of reality? What's the relation between mind and body? How can we lead a good life? All of these questions are illuminated or transformed by Chalmers' mind-bending analysis. Studded with illustrations that bring philosophical issues to life, Reality+ is a major statement that will shape discussion of philosophy, science, and technology for years to come. (shrink)
Is conceptual analysis required for reductive explanation? If there is no a priori entailment from microphysical truths to phenomenal truths, does reductive explanation of the phenomenal fail? We say yes . Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker say no.
Consciousness and intentionality are perhaps the two central phenomena in the philosophy of mind. Human beings are conscious beings: there is something it is like to be us. Human beings are intentional beings: we represent what is going on in the world.Correspondingly, our specific mental states, such as perceptions and thoughts, very often have a phenomenal character: there is something it is like to be in them. And these mental states very often have intentional content: they serve to represent the (...) world. On the face of it, consciousness and intentionality are intimately connected. Our most important conscious mental states are intentional states: conscious experiences often inform us about the state of the world. And our most important intentional mental states are conscious states: there is often something it is like to represent the external world. It is natural to think that a satisfactory account of consciousness must respect its intentional structure, and that a satisfactory account of intentionality must respect its phenomenological character.With this in mind, it is surprising that in the last few decades, the philosophical study of consciousness and intentionality has often proceeded in two independent streams. This wasnot always the case. In the work of philosophers from Descartes and Locke to Brentano and Husserl, consciousness and intentionality were typically analyzed in a single package. But in the second half of the twentieth century, the dominant tendency was to concentrate on onetopic or the other, and to offer quite separate analyses of the two. On this approach, the connections between consciousness and intentionality receded into the background.In the last few years, this has begun to change. The interface between consciousness and intentionality has received increasing attention on a number of fronts. This attention has focused on such topics as the representational content of perceptual experience, the higherorder representation of conscious states, and the phenomenology of thinking. Two distinct philosophical groups have begun to emerge. One group focuses on ways in which consciousness might be grounded in intentionality. The other group focuses on ways in which intentionality might be grounded in consciousness. (shrink)
Consciousness fits uneasily into our conception of the natural world. On the most common conception of nature, the natural world is the physical world. But on the most common conception of consciousness, it is not easy to see how it could be part of the physical world. So it seems that to find a place for consciousness within the natural order, we must either revise our conception of consciousness, or revise our conception of nature. In twentieth-century philosophy, this dilemma is (...) posed most acutely in C. D. Broad’s The Mind and its Place in Nature . The phenomena of mind, for Broad, are the phenomena of consciousness. The central problem is that of locating mind with respect to the physical world. Broad’s exhaustive discussion of the problem culminates in a taxonomy of seventeen different views of the mental-physical relation.1 On Broad’s taxonomy, a view might see the mental as nonexistent , as reducible, as emergent, or as a basic property of a substance . The physical might be seen in one of the same four ways. So a four-by-four matrix of views results. At the end, three views are left standing: those on which mentality is an emergent characteristic of either a physical substance or a neutral substance, where in the latter case, the physical might be either emergent or delusive. (shrink)
In the Garden of Eden, we had unmediated contact with the world. We were directly acquainted with objects in the world and with their properties. Objects were simply presented to us without causal mediation, and properties were revealed to us in their true intrinsic glory.
Experiences and beliefs are different sorts of mental states, and are often taken to belong to very different domains. Experiences are paradigmatically phenomenal, characterized by what it is like to have them. Beliefs are paradigmatically intentional, characterized by their propositional content. But there are a number of crucial points where these domains intersect. One central locus of intersection arises from the existence of phenomenal beliefs: beliefs that are about experiences.
Why is two-dimensional semantics important? One can think of it as the most recent act in a drama involving three of the central concepts of philosophy: meaning, reason, and modality. First, Kant linked reason and modality, by suggesting that what is necessary is knowable a priori, and vice versa. Second, Frege linked reason and meaning, by proposing an aspect of meaning (sense) that is constitutively tied to cognitive signi?cance. Third, Carnap linked meaning and modality, by proposing an aspect of meaning (...) (intension) that is constitutively tied to possibility and necessity. (shrink)
The basic question of ontology is “What exists?”. The basic question of metaontology is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no. (Compare: The basic question of ethics is “What is right?”. The basic question of metaethics is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ethics? Here moral realists say yes, and moral anti-realists say no.) For example, the ontologist may ask: Do numbers exist? The Platonist (...) says yes, and the nominalist says no. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether numbers exist? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Likewise, the ontologist may ask: Given two distinct entities, when does a mereological sum of those entities exist? The universalist says always, while the nihilist says never. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether the mereological sum of two distinct entities exists? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Ontological realism is often traced to Quine (1948), who held that we can determine what exists by seeing which entities are endorsed by our best scientiﬁc theory of the world. In recent years, the practice of ontology has often presupposed an ever-stronger ontological realism, and strong versions of ontological realism have received explicit statements by Fine (this volume), Sider (2001; this volume), van Inwagen (1998; this volume), and others. (shrink)
What happens when machines become more intelligent than humans? One view is that this event will be followed by an explosion to ever-greater levels of intelligence, as each generation of machines creates more intelligent machines in turn. This intelligence explosion is now often known as the “singularity”. The basic argument here was set out by the statistician I.J. Good in his 1965 article “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine”: Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far (...) surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion”, and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make. The key idea is that a machine that is more intelligent than humans will be better than humans at designing machines. So it will be capable of designing a machine more intelligent than the most intelligent machine that humans can design. So if it is itself designed by humans, it will be capable of designing a machine more intelligent than itself. By similar reasoning, this next machine will also be capable of designing a machine more intelligent than itself. If every machine in turn does what it is capable of, we should expect a sequence of ever more intelligent machines. This intelligence explosion is sometimes combined with another idea, which we might call the “speed explosion”. The argument for a speed explosion starts from the familiar observation that computer processing speed doubles at regular intervals. Suppose that speed doubles every two years and will do so indefinitely. Now suppose that we have human-level artificial intelligence 1 designing new processors. Then faster processing will lead to faster designers and an ever-faster design cycle, leading to a limit point soon afterwards. The argument for a speed explosion was set out by the artificial intelligence researcher Ray Solomonoff in his 1985 article “The Time Scale of Artificial Intelligence”.1 Eliezer Yudkowsky gives a succinct version of the argument in his 1996 article “Staring at the Singularity”: “Computing speed doubles every two subjective years of work.. (shrink)
I argue that virtual reality is a sort of genuine reality. In particular, I argue for virtual digitalism, on which virtual objects are real digital objects, and against virtual fictionalism, on which virtual objects are fictional objects. I also argue that perception in virtual reality need not be illusory, and that life in virtual worlds can have roughly the same sort of value as life in non-virtual worlds.
A number of popular arguments for dualism start from a premise about an epistemic gap between physical truths about truths about consciousness, and infer an ontological gap between physical processes and consciousness. Arguments of this sort include the conceivability argument, the knowledge argument, the explanatory-gap argument, and the property dualism argument. Such arguments are often resisted on the grounds that epistemic premises do not entail ontological conclusion. My view is that one can legitimately infer ontological conclusions from epistemic premises, if (...) one is very careful about how one reasons. To do so, the best way is to reason first from epistemic premises to modal conclusions , and from there to ontological conclusions. Here, the crucial issue is the link between the epistemic and modal domains. How can one reason from theses about what is knowable or conceivable to theses about what is necessary or possible? To bridge the epistemic and modal domains, the framework of two-dimensional semantics can play a central role. I have used this framework in earlier work to mount an argument against materialism. Here, I want to revisit the argument, laying it out in a more explicit and careful form, and responding to a number of objections. In what follows I will concentrate mostly on the conceivability argument. I think that very similar considerations apply to the other arguments mentioned above, however. In the final section of the paper, I show how this analysis might yield a unified treatment of a number of anti-materialist arguments. (shrink)
Conceptual engineering is the design, implementation, and evaluation of concepts. Conceptual engineering includes or should include de novo conceptual engineering (designing a new concept) as well as conceptual re-engineering (fixing an old concept). It should also include heteronymous (different-word) as well as homonymous (same-word) conceptual engineering. I discuss the importance and the difficulty of these sorts of conceptual engineering in philosophy and elsewhere.
A natural way to think about epistemic possibility is as follows. When it is epistemically possible (for a subject) that p, there is an epistemically possible scenario (for that subject) in which p. The epistemic scenarios together constitute epistemic space. It is surprisingly difficult to make the intuitive picture precise. What sort of possibilities are we dealing with here? In particular, what is a scenario? And what is the relationship between scenarios and items of knowledge and belief? This chapter tries (...) to make sense of epistemic space. It explores different ways of making sense of scenarios and of their relationship to thought and language. It discusses some issues that arise and outlines some applications to the analysis of the content of thought and the meaning of language. (shrink)
When I say ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’, I seem to express a proposition. And when I say ‘Joan believes that Hesperus is Phosphorus’, I seem to ascribe to Joan an attitude to the same proposition. But what are propositions? And what is involved in ascribing propositional attitudes?
The term ‘emergence’ often causesconfusion in science and philosophy, as it is used to express at leasttwo quite different concepts. We can label these concepts _strong_ _emergence_ and _weak emergence_. Both of these concepts are important, but it is vital to keep them separate.
Computation is central to the foundations of modern cognitive science, but its role is controversial. Questions about computation abound: What is it for a physical system to implement a computation? Is computation sufficient for thought? What is the role of computation in a theory of cognition? What is the relation between different sorts of computational theory, such as connectionism and symbolic computation? In this paper I develop a systematic framework that addresses all of these questions. Justifying the role of computation (...) requires analysis of implementation, the nexus between abstract computations and concrete physical systems. I give such an analysis, based on the idea that a system implements a computation if the causal structure of the system mirrors the formal structure of the computation. This account can be used to justify the central commitments of artificial intelligence and computational cognitive science: the thesis of computational sufficiency, which holds that the right kind of computational structure suffices for the possession of a mind, and the thesis of computational explanation, which holds that computation provides a general framework for the explanation of cognitive processes. The theses are consequences of the facts that (a) computation can specify general patterns of causal organization, and (b) mentality is an organizational invariant, rooted in such patterns. Along the way I answer various challenges to the computationalist position, such as those put forward by Searle. I close by advocating a kind of minimal computationalism, compatible with a very wide variety of empirical approaches to the mind. This allows computation to serve as a true foundation for cognitive science. (shrink)
[[This paper appears in my anthology _Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings_ (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 608-633. It is a heavily revised version of a paper first written in 1994 and revised in 1995. Sections 1, 7, 8, and 10 are similar to the old version, but the other sections are quite different. Because the old version has been widely cited, I have made it available (in its 1995 version) at http://consc.net/papers/content95.html.
Hilary Putnam has argued that computational functionalism cannot serve as a foundation for the study of the mind, as every ordinary open physical system implements every finite-state automaton. I argue that Putnam's argument fails, but that it points out the need for a better understanding of the bridge between the theory of computation and the theory of physical systems: the relation of implementation. It also raises questions about the class of automata that can serve as a basis for understanding the (...) mind. I develop an account of implementation, linked to an appropriate class of automata, such that the requirement that a system implement a given automaton places a very strong constraint on the system. This clears the way for computation to play a central role in the analysis of mind. (shrink)
Confronted with the apparent explanatory gap between physical processes and consciousness, there are many possible reactions. Some deny that any explanatory gap exists at all. Some hold that there is an explanatory gap for now, but that it will eventually be closed. Some hold that the explanatory gap corresponds to an ontological gap in nature.
Two-dimensional approaches to semantics, broadly understood, recognize two "dimensions" of the meaning or content of linguistic items. On these approaches, expressions and their utterances are associated with two different sorts of semantic values, which play different explanatory roles. Typically, one semantic value is associated with reference and ordinary truth-conditions, while the other is associated with the way that reference and truth-conditions depend on the external world. The second sort of semantic value is often held to play a distinctive role in (...) analyzing matters of cognitive significance and/or context-dependence. (shrink)
The search for neural correlates of consciousness (or NCCs) is arguably the cornerstone in the recent resurgence of the science of consciousness. The search poses many difficult empirical problems, but it seems to be tractable in principle, and some ingenious studies in recent years have led to considerable progress. A number of proposals have been put forward concerning the nature and location of neural correlates of consciousness. A few of these include.
The Matrix presents a version of an old philosophical fable: the brain in a vat. A disembodied brain is floating in a vat, inside a scientist’s laboratory. The scientist has arranged that the brain will be stimulated with the same sort of inputs that a normal embodied brain receives. To do this, the brain is connected to a giant computer simulation of a world. The simulation determines which inputs the brain receives. When the brain produces outputs, these are fed back (...) into the simulation. The internal state of the brain is just like that of a normal brain, despite the fact that it lacks a body. From the brain’s point of view, things seem very much as they seem to you and me. (shrink)
At any given time, a subject has a multiplicity of conscious experiences. A subject might simultaneously have visual experiences of a red book and a green tree, auditory experiences of birds singing, bodily sensations of a faint hunger and a sharp pain in the shoulder, the emotional experience of a certain melancholy, while having a stream of conscious thoughts about the nature of reality. These experiences are distinct from each other: a subject could experience the red book without the singing (...) birds, and could experience the singing birds without the red book. But at the same time, the experiences seem to be tied together in a deep way. They seem to be unified, by being aspects of a single encompassing state of consciousness. (shrink)
This appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59:473-93, as a response to four papers in a symposium on my book The Conscious Mind . Most of it should be comprehensible without having read the papers in question. This paper is for an audience of philosophers and so is relatively technical. It will probably also help to have read some of the book. The papers I’m responding to are: Chris Hill & Brian McLaughlin, There are fewer things in reality than are (...) dreamt of in Chalmers’ philosophy Brian Loar, David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind Sydney Shoemaker, On David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind Stephen Yablo, Concepts and consciousness Contents. (shrink)
In Philosophy Without Intuitions, Herman Cappelen focuses on the metaphilosophical thesis he calls Centrality: contemporary analytic philosophers rely on intuitions as evidence for philosophical theories. Using linguistic and textual analysis, he argues that Centrality is false. He also suggests that because most philosophers accept Centrality, they have mistaken beliefs about their own methods.To put my own views on the table: I do not have a large theoretical stake in the status of intuitions, but unreflectively I find it fairly obvious that (...) many philosophers, including myself, appeal to intuitions. Cappelen’s arguments make a provocative challenge to this unreflective background conception. So it is interesting to work through the arguments to see what they might and might not show.In what follows I aim to articulate a minimal notion of intuition that captures something of the core everyday philosophical usage of the term, and that captures the sense .. (shrink)
What is the mind? Is consciousness a process in the brain? How do our minds represent the world? Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings is a grand tour of writings on these and other perplexing questions about the nature of the mind. The most comprehensive collection of its kind, the book includes sixty-three selections that range from the classical contributions of Descartes to the leading edge of contemporary debates. Extensive sections cover foundational issues, the nature of consciousness, and the (...) nature of mental content. Three of the selections are published here for the first time, while many other articles have been revised especially for this volume. Each section opens with an introduction by the editor. Philosophy of Mind is suitable for students at all levels and also for general readers. (shrink)
Cartesian arguments for global skepticism about the external world start from the premise that we cannot know that we are not in a Cartesian scenario such as an evil-demon scenario, and infer that because most of our empirical beliefs are false in such a scenario, these beliefs do not constitute knowledge. Veridicalist responses to global skepticism respond that arguments fail because in Cartesian scenarios, many or most of our empirical beliefs are true. Some veridicalist responses have been motivated using verificationism, (...) externalism, and coherentism. I argue that a more powerful veridicalist response to global skepticism can be motivated by structuralism, on which physical entities are understood as those that play a certain structural role. I develop the structuralist response and address objections. (shrink)
The objects of credence are the entities to which credences are assigned for the purposes of a successful theory of credence. I use cases akin to Frege's puzzle to argue against referentialism about credence : the view that objects of credence are determined by the objects and properties at which one's credence is directed. I go on to develop a non-referential account of the objects of credence in terms of sets of epistemically possible scenarios.