WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS? THE HARD PROBLEM
Philosophers have a way with words; and David Chalmers is no exception. In the abstract to his paper “Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness”, he says:“Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in the science of the mind. There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain. All sorts of mental phenomena have yielded to scientific investigation in recent years, but consciousness has stubbornly resisted. Many have tried to explain it, but the explanations always seem to fall short of the target. Some have been led to suppose that the problem is intractable, and that no good explanation can be given.”
He goes on to say: “To make progress on the problem of consciousness, we have to confront it directly.” In the paper, he attempts to “isolate the hard part of the problem”, separating it from the easier parts to deal with, like visual perception and brain function, and then attempts to explain why consciousness is so difficult to describe definitively. He critiques the use of the normal reductive methods of science as an approach to understanding consciousness, arguing that reductive methods, i.e. reducing the object of analysis to its constituent parts, cannot touch the hardest part of the problem. He proposes that “Once this failure is recognized, the door to further progress is opened.” In the second half of the paper, he argues that if we progress to a “nonreductive explanation, a naturalistic account of consciousness can be given.” Finally, he proposes “a nonreductive theory based on principles of structural coherence and organizational invariance and a double-aspect view of information.”
Wikipedia defines the problem as follows:
“The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors and tastes. The philosopher David Chalmers, who introduced the term "hard problem" of consciousness, contrasts this with the "easy problems" of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc. Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set, and he argues that the problem of experience will "persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained”.
WHY IS CONSCIOUSNESS SO HARD TO EXPLAIN?
The only thing we experience directly is our own consciousness. Everything else is experienced indirectly through the reduction valves of our physical senses. Our eyes and optic nerves, e.g., filter out all but a very small fraction of the radiant energy flooding the universe, and the brain constructs images that we mistakenly take for reality itself. This is why, for the most part, science employs reductive methods. It is far easier to find ways to study the mechanisms by which we perceive reality than to find a way to study reality itself.
If we take the “easy” way of reductionist science, we confuse consciousness with what it does, and equate consciousness with awareness. When we do this, as some philosophers, and most scientists do, we confuse our conceptual models, based on the images created in our brains, with reality, and become unaware that there even is a hard problem. Awareness is a function of the brain, consciousness is not. We become aware of things by drawing distinctions in what we perceive to be separate from ourselves. Awareness is only possible if there is a real self, capable of drawing the distinction between itself and other things.
WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS?
Consciousness is that which is experienced directly. Consciousness is aware of its self, and self is experienced as existing “in here”, while objects are conceived of as existing “out there”. So the primary distinction that gives rise to awareness is the distinction of self from other, and thus consciousness is not awareness, consciousness is that which draws distinctions, and awareness is the experience of those distinctions. Consciousness has to exist prior to awareness. But awareness leads to the desire to express the self’s experiences of reality, which leads to language, mathematics and science. But modern mainstream science, ignoring the hard problem, has left consciousness out of the equations, resulting in a fragmented understanding of reality. The Calculus of Distinctions, a logical reality prior to conventional mathematics, puts consciousness into the equations, and reconnects science with reality.
WHAT IS THE CALCULUS OF DISTINCTIONS?
Just as consciousness has to exist prior to awareness, a proto-math has to exist prior to applied mathematics. That proto-math is the Calculus of Distinctions, reflecting the underlying logic of consciousness, which is that which experiences inner reality and outer reality. I have written extensively about the Calculus of Distinctions, but few are interested in learning about it because it completely overturns the conventional wisdom of materialistic science.