The Hard Problem of Consciousness from a Bio-Psychological Perspective

Philosophy Study 7 (11):579-594 (2017)
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Chalmers introduced the hard problem of consciousness as a profound gap between experience and physical concepts. Philosophical theories were based on different interpretations concerning the qualia/concept gap, such as interactive dualism (Descartes), as well as mono aspect or dual aspect monism. From a bio-psychological perspective, the gap can be explained by the different activity of two mental functions realizing a mental representation of extra-mental reality. The function of elementary sensation requires active sense organs, which create an uninterrupted physical chain from extra-mental reality to the brain and reflect the present. The function of categorizing reflection no longer needs sense organs, so that the physical chain to extra-mental reality is interrupted and now reflects the past. Whereas elementary sensation is an open system, categorizing reflection remains a closed system, separated from extra-mental reality. This creates the potentiality/reality gap, since prediction from the closed to the open system remains always uncertain. Elementary sensation is associated to specific qualia for each sense organ. Chalmers also attributed qualia to thoughts, with more neutral thought qualia. Thus at the qualia level, there is also an important gap, but now between specific sense qualia and neutral thought qualia. Since all physical concepts are simultaneously linked to neutral thought qualia, the hard problem might be explained by a qualia/qualia gap instead of a qualia/concept gap. The mental function of categorizing reflection induces the change from sense qualia to thought qualia by a categorization process. The specific sense qualia mosaic of an apple is reduced to physical concepts with neutral qualia by progressive categorization first to fruit, then to food, to chemicals and finally to calories. This might explain the gap felt in the hard problem, since specific sense qualia are completely different from neutral thought qualia, so that the hard problem could already be encountered at the qualia level. Since the gap of the hard problem is due to the interaction of different mental functions, it is compatible with a philosophical monism.


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