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Critical Examination of David Chalmers’ Hard Problem of Consciousness

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Dubbed by David Chalmers as one of the greatest mysteries of existence, consciousness is a topic that has become a debatable issue among professionals of both neurology and psychology. Contradicting theories are raised by both parties as they argue whether consciousness is purely a translation of neuron responses or perhaps it is wholly innate and unconnected to the laws of physics. In ‘The Puzzle of Conscious Experience’, Chalmers argues that consciousness does not necessarily relate to a physical brain, and neuroscience is not enough to provide an explanation to its emergence. He regards questions that associate with objective cognitive behaviours as ‘The Easy Problems’. On the other hand, he proposes a problematic dilemma on the relationship of consciousness with physicalism. Chalmers’s doubt interrogates how a physical brain produces non-physical experiences. This question is considered as ‘The Hard Problem’, which no scientific clarification has successfully fitted as a solution. It opposes a universal rule that any existence should be able to be reduced to the fundamental features of physics. Chalmers then argues that consciousness should be included in ‘a true theory of everything’, and proposes an argument as such:

P1: If an entity cannot be derived from physical laws, it should be added as a new fundamental component.

P2: The existence of consciousness cannot be derived from physical laws.

C: The existence of consciousness should be added as a new fundamental component.

The above argument is valid, as the truth of its premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. However, it is unsound, as the verification of P2 is uncertain. Chalmers assumes that ‘The Hard Problem’ is unsolvable by anything physical; yet, this fact is not confirmed by any existing theories of consciousness. Crick and Koch provide great reasoning of how neuroscience might be able to provide a rationale for why conscious experience exists.

Australian philosopher Frank Jackson suggests an experiment of Mary, the Colour Scientist, who knows everything about colour knowledge but lives in a black-and-white room and has never perceived a vision of colour. Nevertheless, she has zero experience of seeing red. While this represents the distinction between cerebral processes and consciousness, Crick and Koch debunk this by suggesting that comprehension of colour perception is insufficient to account for an actual encounter to colour. Thus, Mary seems like she is learning something new, with the justification that theoretical knowledge needs to be interpreted by the neural representation of visual experience for Mary to be familiar with a colour. This idea creates new hope for advocates of reductionism.

Nevertheless, nothing has been considered as the ultimatum; thus, Chalmers’s belief that scientific explanation only gives answers for ‘The Easy Problem’ is still put into consideration. Chalmers proposes the introduction of new psychophysical laws to eradicate the complications of consciousness. His first idea of a fundamental psychophysical law connects awareness to consciousness, such that the presence of consciousness is dependent on the presence of awareness. His final notion relates consciousness to information states in the brain, which appear as two different appearances of the same thing, that is physical processes and experience. However, there is a limited catalogue of data to support his proposition; thus, his argument remains as speculation with no achieved truth. 

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Critical Examination Of David Chalmers’ Hard Problem Of Consciousness. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from
“Critical Examination Of David Chalmers’ Hard Problem Of Consciousness.” GradesFixer, 09 Jun. 2021,
Critical Examination Of David Chalmers’ Hard Problem Of Consciousness. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Oct. 2021].
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