David Chalmers: Wikis

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David John Chalmers
Full name David John Chalmers
Born 20 April 1966
Australia
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic
Main interests Philosophy of mind
Consciousness
Notable ideas Hard problem of consciousness; property dualism; neutral monism; extended mind; two-dimensional semantics

David John Chalmers (born 20 April 1966) is an Australian philosopher specializing in the area of philosophy of mind. He is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University.

Contents

Background

Chalmers was born and raised in Australia, and since 2004 has been Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Centre for Consciousness, and an ARC Federation Fellow at the Australian National University. From an early age, he excelled at mathematics, eventually completing his undergraduate education at the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science. He then briefly studied at Lincoln College at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar before studying for his PhD at Indiana University Bloomington under Douglas Hofstadter. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program directed by Andy Clark at Washington University in St. Louis from 1993 to 1995, and his first professorship was at UC Santa Cruz, from August 1995 to December 1998. Chalmers was subsequently appointed Professor of Philosophy (1999-2004) and, later, Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies (2002-2004) at the University of Arizona, sponsor of the Toward a Science of Consciousness conference where he made his legendary "debut" in 1994.

Chalmers' book, The Conscious Mind (1996), is widely considered (by both advocates and opponents) to be an essential work on consciousness and its relation to the mind-body problem in philosophy of mind.[1] In the book, Chalmers argues that all forms of physicalism (whether reductive or non-reductive) that have dominated modern philosophy and science fail to account for the existence (that is, presence in reality) of consciousness itself. He proposes an alternative dualistic view he calls naturalistic dualism (but which might also be characterized by more traditional formulations such as property dualism, neutral monism, or double-aspect theory). The book was described by The Sunday Times as "one of the best science books of the year".[2]

Work

Chalmers is best known for his formulation of the notion of a hard problem of consciousness in both his book and in the paper "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" (originally published in The Journal of Consciousness Studies, 1995). He makes the distinction between "easy" problems of consciousness, such as explaining object discrimination or verbal reports, and the single hard problem, which could be stated "why does the feeling which accompanies awareness of sensory information exist at all?" The essential difference between the (cognitive) easy problems and the (phenomenal) hard problem is that the former are at least theoretically answerable via the standard strategy in philosophy of mind: functionalism. Chalmers argues for an "explanatory gap" from the objective to the subjective, and criticizes physical explanations of mental experience, making him a dualist in an era that has been dominated by materialism.

In support of this, Chalmers is famous for his commitment to the logical (though, importantly, not physical) possibility of philosophical zombies, although he was not the first to propose the thought experiment. These zombies, unlike the zombie of popular fiction, are complete physical duplicates of human beings, lacking only qualitative experience. Chalmers argues that since such zombies are conceivable to us, they must therefore be logically possible. Since they are logically possible, then qualia and sentience are not fully explained by physical properties alone. Instead, Chalmers argues that consciousness is a fundamental property ontologically autonomous of any known (or even possible) physical properties, and that there may be lawlike rules which he terms "psychophysical laws" that determine which physical systems are associated with which types of qualia. However, he rejects Cartesian-style interactive dualism in which the mind has the power to alter the behavior of the brain, suggesting instead that the physical world is "causally closed" so that physical events only have physical causes, so that for example human behavior could be explained entirely in terms of the functions of the physical brain. He further speculates that all information-bearing systems may be conscious, leading him to entertain the possibility of conscious thermostats and a qualified panpsychism he calls panprotopsychism. Though Chalmers maintains a formal agnosticism on the issue, even conceding the viability of panpsychism places him at odds with the majority of his contemporaries.

After the publication of Chalmers' landmark paper, more than twenty papers in response were published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. These papers (by Daniel Dennett, Colin McGinn, Francisco Varela, Francis Crick, and Roger Penrose among others) were collected and published in the book Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem. John Searle fiercely critiqued Chalmers's views in The New York Review of Books.[3]

Chalmers, with Andy Clark, has written The Extended Mind, an article about the borders of the mind [4]

Miscellaneous

On his web site, David Chalmers has compiled a large bibliography on the philosophy of mind and related fields with close to 18000 annotated entries topically organized.

Chalmers appears in The Matrix video documentary "The Roots of the Matrix" and presents a novel take on a large part of the traditionally skeptical "brain in a vat" hypothesis. He maintains that this hypothesis is not, contrary to common philosophical opinion, a skeptical hypothesis.

He serves on the editorial board of the journals Philo, Consciousness and Cognition, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and Psyche.

Notes

  1. ^ http://consc.net/book/reviews.html
  2. ^ The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1996), paperback edition, back cover.
  3. ^ Searle's review of The Conscious Mind 6 March 1997 (subscription required)
    Chalmers' response to Searle and Searle's reply 15 May 1997 (free access)
  4. ^ http://consc.net/papers/extended.html.

Bibliography

A partial list of publications by Chalmers:

  • The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1996). Oxford University Press. hardcover: ISBN 0-19-511789-1, paperback: ISBN 0-19-510553-2
  • Toward a Science of Consciousness III: The Third Tucson Discussions and Debates (1999). Stuart R. Hameroff, Alfred W. Kaszniak and David J. Chalmers (Editors). The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-58181-7
  • Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (2002). (Editor). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514581-X or ISBN 0-19-514580-1

See also

External links

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Simple English

David Chalmers was born in 1966. He has lived in Australia all of his life.

Since 2004 he has been a professor of philosophy at the Australian National University. Chalmers was a leading philosopher before he was 30 years old.[who?]

People[who?] think of him to be one of the best leaders in the study of the philosophy of mind and consciousness.

He has challenged other philosophers to solve the "Hard Problem of consciousness". This is the problem of explaining the relationship between physical and mental states. For example the brain has a physical way of processing information and this makes an experience, a mental state.

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