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Part 23 of Mind-Body Philosophy Series Showing at Meditation Center

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By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents part 23 or the 24-part Great Courses series, Mind-Body Philosophy, entitled “Consciousness and the Explanatory Gap,” at 5:30pm on Thursday, June 14.

This lecture deals with the hard problem of consciousness, also called the “explanatory gap.” Suppose we discover a certain pattern and configuration in the brain that produces consciousness. We’d still want to know why. What about the pattern gives us subjective experience? How can a physical brain possibly produce consciousness?

David Chalmers is given credit for pressing this hard problem. He offers a list of questions he thinks are well within reach of our contemporary brain sciences to answer, such as the difference between being awake and asleep. These questions about brain functions are the “easy” problems. The hard problem is not a question of function but of experience. Why does the brain in any particular state, functioning in any particular way, result in conscious experience?

Patricia and Paul Churchland claim no real issue has been defined. They say the clear road ahead is to keep working on the neurobiology of mental phenomena in general. As that scientific work proceeds, we’ll find there is no explanatory gap at all.

Daniel Dennett is another who thinks there is no real problem. He argues that when we really pay attention to this thing called subjective experience, we’ll find there’s much less to explain than we thought. He believes a complex of different cognitive functions can explain much more than we tend to think.

David Chalmers says it will take a radical change in our physics knowledge to solve the hard problem. There are fundamental aspects of our world that demand more than anything current physics can handle. Subjective experience is a prime example. Consciousness should be recognized as a fundamental aspect of the universe, on par with concepts like mass and space-time. Our theory of consciousness will look more like a new physics than an expanded biology.

Galen Strawson argues that we have to recognize that consciousness is an aspect of the physical world. Experiential consciousness must be part of every aspect of the physical world. “Do you mean that rocks, ocean waves, and atoms are conscious?” one might ask. The answer has to be yes, or at least: “in some sense, yes.”

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook Patrick Grim has provided his students with invaluable insights into issues of philosophy, artificial intelligence, and theoretical biology. Professor Grim was awarded the university’s presidential and chancellor’s awards for teaching excellence and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


Video Presentation

Mind-Body Philosophy Part 23: “Consciousness and the Explanatory Gap”

Thu, Jun 14, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejón Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted

044 415 156 1950




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