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Physics, machines, and the hard problem

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The ‘hard problem’ of the origin of phenomenal consciousness in a physical universe is aggravated by a simplistic and uncritical concept of the physical realm which still predominates in much discussion of the subject. David Chalmers is correct in claiming that phenomenal experience is logically independent of a physical description of the world, but his proposal for a ‘natural supervenience’ of experience on a physical substrate is misguided. His statements about machine consciousness and the role of information are especially compromised. A careful analysis of physical concepts indicates that the hard problem as originally proposed is insoluble but also fortunately based on misconceptions. Modern physics suggests a more sophisticated and richer ontology which will be essential for a deeper understanding of our rapidly growing knowledge of psychology and neuroscience.

Keywords: Quantum mechanics; consciousness; dynamics; mechanism; physicalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Indiana University Cyclotron Facility, 2401 Milo B. Sampson Lane, Bloomington, IN 47408, USA.

Publication date: 1996-05-01

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