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On the other hand it is not ontologically an absolute independent and separate substance. So, in that sense I do not argue for a Cartesian substance dualism, but a duality. I claim this would also constitute a coherent description. Does an exclusive disjunction bring us forward? This brings us to the central thesis of this article. What does David Chalmers have in mind with 'physical'?

Though the 'ladder of explanation' accepts the 'legitimate' position of the biological, Chalmers seems to largely avoid using the term biological. For Chalmers the nature of consciousness does not allow for any biological, chemical, or physical explanation. I interpret this as an exclusive or strong disjunction: If we take two disjuncts alternatives in a strong or exclusive sense, say the physical brain or consciousness, the meaning is not 'at least one' but 'at least one and at most one'; it is one of the two, but not both Copi An inclusive or weak disjunction on the other hand is true in case one or the other or both disjuncts are true; only if both disjuncts are false the inclusive disjunction is false; if at least one of the disjuncts is true, the whole disjunction can be true; in an exclusive disjunction at least one of the disjuncts are true, but not both Copi An exclusive or strong disjunction claims 'either This is my interpretation of Chalmers's views of his opus magnus, The conscious mind as well as more recent articles.

I conclude that the strong disjunction follows from his view that the physical world is causally closed. This world includes the brain. Chalmers does not himself apply the term exclusive disjunction. He may even disagree with it. It is my interpretation and conclusion. For Chalmers consciousness' uniqueness is so exclusive that any physical explanation is excluded. There can be only one unique consciousness explanation but not both. In my view an inclusive disjunction is more appropriate.


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Since it evolved from the physical biological brain, both apply: A weak or inclusive disjunction allows for the difference between the two as well as the novel of consciousness. Consciousness is indeed something novel and unique, but not absolute. This links up with being causally closed. Causally closed means that the physical world is causally self-sufficient:.

Introduction to the Philosophical Study of the Mind

Physical events can have only physical explanations, and consciousness is not physical, so consciousness plays no explanatory role whatsoever In each case the effect was a physical event and therefore must have an entirely physical explanation. Though consciousness exists, it plays no role either in the explanation or of anything else. Searle Chalmers argues that for every physical event there is a physical sufficient cause; conscious experience is not entailed by the physical properties although they may depend lawfully on those properties.

Philosophy of mind

Consciousness is a feature of this world over and above the physical features of this world - phenomenal properties are ontologically independent of physical properties. On the one hand the physical cannot causally impact upon consciousness and can also not explain it. On the other hand this new feature of the world, consciousness, has epistemological implications for Chalmers namely that as the phenomenal it is explanatory irrelevant and superfluous to everything physical that happens in the world and the explanation of human behaviour Chalmers The physical world is causally closed.

Consciousness for Chalmers is not part of the physical world. Chalmers's property dualism invokes fundamentally new features of the world. It follows from the disjunction I mentioned, that this new is neither biological, nor physical. Chalmers is mistaken on this. Consciousness is indeed something novel, sui generis, but why push it so far towards an exclusive disjunction? This is an unfortunate conclusion by Chalmers, because this leaves consciousness as something impotent, and it comes very near to epiphenomenalism.

Epiphenomenalism claims that consciousness has its origin in the physical brain, caused by it, but consciousness can have no causal impact on it whatsoever. It is like a puff of smoke from a motor car's exhaust. In his argumentation Chalmers does not mention, let alone take into account, the difference between physics and biology. Chalmers however, by importing the exclusive disjunction, claims unlike Searle that consciousness is a phenomenal state and, unlike psychological ones, is not defined by a causal role that it may play.

Therefore he sees an explanatory gap between a functional and physical realm on the one hand and phenomenal consciousness itself on the other Chalmers Both Searle and Chalmers accept the ontological irreducibility of consciousness, but the consequences they deduce are not the same. Unlike Chalmers, Searle does not apply the exclusive disjunction and claims that irreducibility by itself is not a proof of property dualism. From the strong disjunction, follows Chalmers's strange distinction between consciousness and awareness: The term consciousness refers to experience, qualia, or phenomenal experience.

Awareness he suggests should refer to phenomena associated with consciousness, such as the ability to discriminate, categorise and react to environmental stimuli, the integration of information by a cognitive system, and so on Chalmers Both Searle and Velmans disagree with Chalmers. Awareness for Chalmers can be given account of in causal functional terms while not so with consciousness. One problem with this is that without any consciousness at all, there is no possibility of awareness or any psychological reality Searle Velmans thinks Chalmers's choice of the term 'awareness' for information processing functions is unfortunate.

In common usage, the terms 'consciousness', 'awareness' and 'experience' are often interchangeable as are the terms 'conscious awareness' and 'conscious experience'. The ability to discriminate, categorise and react to environmental stimuli, the integration of information in a cognitive system, and the ability of a system to access its own internal states, can be accounted for in principle by information-processing terms which make no reference to consciousness or awareness Velmans , 4.

Chalmers's strong disjunction, explains why he distinguishes between the 'easy' and 'hard' problems of consciousness. Some are easier to explain than others; the easy problems are those that seem directly susceptible to the standard method of cognitive science, whereby a phenomenon is examined in terms of computational or neural mechanisms.

The hard problems are those that seem to resist those methods. The easy problems of consciousness include those of explaining the following phenomena, for example, the focus of attention, the ability to discriminate, categorise, and react to environmental stimuli, the reportability of mental states Chalmers , 2. All of them are straightforwardly vulnerable to explanation in terms of computational or neural mechanisms Chalmers The hard problem of consciousness is phenomenal consciousness itself:.

It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner feeling at all? It seems objectively insane that it should, and yet it does.

Velmans rightly disagrees: Many of the 'easy' problems of consciousness listed by Chalmers Velmans does not exclude functionality from the phenomenal and he does not use the term 'awareness' used by Chalmers. Exclusive disjunction and naturalism. Causality as seen above, implies that one set of biological or whatever facts can determine or cause other sets of facts such as consciousness, but need not be identical to it.

Chalmers says biological properties can naturally supervene physical properties; yet the high-level properties are something over and above the basic lower level properties.

What is it

Ockham's razor tells us that in explanation we should not multiply things or entities without necessity. We must apply parsimony. Is consciousness such an unnecessary multiplication? Chalmers thinks that it is plausible that consciousness arises from a physical basis, even though it is not entailed by that basis. Very well, but this is somewhat inconsistent with his strong disjunction because it is difficult to see how he can maintain an exclusive disjunction, but at the same time declare that it arises from a physical basis which is causally closed.

Like Searle, Chalmers argues that this arising does not imply a Cartesian separate substance. Yet, in my view, his strong disjunction gives the impression of moving very near to a Cartesian metaphysical substance dualism. Chalmers is however right that there are varieties of dualisms. Unlike a dualism, a duality does not claim that the consciousness is totally separate from the brain or the biological, but is connected to it; in fact, it is even biological itself.

It is thus distinct and different from the physical, but not separate as a substance; caused by it, but not reducible and identical to it. Saying that, Searle argues that consciousness is a natural biological phenomenon and is as much part of our biological life as digestion, growth or photosynthesis.

This implies naturalism. It makes good sense. Indeed something new is emerging; consciousness and brains are both biological, but not the same. Compare the morning and evening stars. They are two aspects of the same thing, namely the planet Venus - no one is going to be a dualist about Venus. H 2 O causes liquidity, but no one is a dualist about liquidity Chalmers Consciousness is a natural biological phenomenon. Lower-level micro processes in the brain cause it and it is therefore a feature of the brain at the higher macro levels.

This in my view is biological naturalism but not materialism. As we saw, according to Chalmers, the phenomenal or consciousness is not caused by physical processes. However, Chalmers says consciousness can arise from the physical. If it is not causal, what is 'arising' then? Chalmers however, admits that: 'There is good reason to believe that there is a lawful relationship between physical processes and conscious experience, and any lawful relationship must be supported by fundamental law.

This claim points to the exclusive disjunction. This physical substrate must still be discovered and new fundamental features and supervenient laws are needed Chalmers Chalmers calls this view naturalistic dualism. I have a problem with how Chalmers can call it naturalism if he strongly disjuncts consciousness from the physical-biological and implies that laws at the level of consciousness may not be naturalistic.

That all natural laws need not be physical when consciousness has already arisen cannot be ruled out in principle. However, its existence has not been confirmed and as he suggested himself, in fact not even discovered. Not operating with an exclusive disjunction in mind, Searle avoids Chalmers's version of dualism, and argues that brains causally give rise to consciousness by means of their quite specific, though still imperfectly understood, neurobiological structures and functions:. We do not know the details of how brains do it, but we know that they have some powers to get us over the threshold of consciousness.

That much causal power must be possessed by any successful artefact. Searle , Our brains are carbon-based.

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An artificial brain for Searle, using another medium, say silicon chips, must at least equal the brain's threshold capacity to cause consciousness. From this Searle, and I think wrongly, deduces that the kind of brain, say with a silicon base, is explanatory out of the question Searle It is surely empirically unlikely that an artificial brain will give rise to consciousness.

But can it be ruled out? Further, I think Searle does not take fully into account that the proponents of silicon or other alternatives to carbon, understands this within a natural biological context. Like Searle, Chalmers rightly claims that naturalism is not necessarily materialism.