Chalmers, David

Dave is a leader in philosophy of mind and consciousness studies; he is professor of philosophy at Australian National University where he is director of the Centre for Consciousness. Dave is known for promoting appreciation of the "hard problem" of explaining subjective experience (what it feels like inside, called qualia), as opposed to the “easy problem” of explaining brain function (which in practice is not so easy). His book, The Conscious Mind, which changed the playing field, argues that consciousness is irreducible and may be fundamental in the universe. He is also interested in philosophical issues about meaning and possibility, and in the foundations of cognitive science and of physics. Here how Dave thinks about consciousness: “This project focuses on the how and why of subjective experience itself. It's the project of explaining the connection between physical processes in the brain and subjective experience: how is it that these processes yield consciousness at all? What are the basic principles that explain why the connection holds, and that account for experiences' specific nature? This may be the most difficult question when it comes to consciousness, and you may say ‘Well, this is one which we want to put off a little bit. It's not something which everybody needs to be working on right now, and it may take us fifty, a hundred, a hundred-and-fifty years.’ Nevertheless, I think one can look at the problem now and at least make certain inferences about the kind of work that is going to be required to get at this problem. One thing that we know right now is that certain standard methods, in and of themselves, don't provide a solution. Standard reductive explanation, in terms of structure and function, will explain to you more structure and function, but at the end of the day we're going to be left with the question of how this functioning supports subjective experience. At the very least, one will at the very least have to either transfigure the problem of consciousness into a different problem, to make it addressable, or expand the explanatory methods. I will look at the option which involves expanding the explanatory methods. Some people suggest that to get subjective experience into the picture, one needs some extra physical ingredient: maybe more physics, quantum mechanics, chaos theory. I think all these methods, in the end suffer from some very similar problems. They're well suited toward explaining structure and function, but they still only get you to more complex structure and dynamics. So it seems that more physics and more processing isn't enough to bridge the gap.”


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Can Religion Be Explained Without God?

Most people believe that God exists and religion is God’™s revelation. But some claim that religion needs nothing supernatural; that religion, without God, can flourish because personal psychology and group sociology drive religion.

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