Origins of the Qualitative Aspects of Consciousness: Evolutionary Answers to Chalmers' Hard Problem

In Liz Stillwaggon Swan (ed.), Origins of mind. New York: Springer. pp. 259--269 (2012)
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According to David Chalmers, the hard problem of consciousness consists of explaining how and why qualitative experience arises from physical states. Moreover, Chalmers argues that materialist and reductive explanations of mentality are incapable of addressing the hard problem. In this chapter, I suggest that Chalmers’ hard problem can be usefully distinguished into a ‘how question’ and ‘why question,’ and I argue that evolutionary biology has the resources to address the question of why qualitative experience arises from brain states. From this perspective, I discuss the different kinds of evolutionary explanations (e.g., adaptationist, exaptationist, spandrel) that can explain the origins of the qualitative aspects of various conscious states. This argument is intended to clarify which parts of Chalmers’ hard problem are amenable to scientific analysis.

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Jonathan Y. Tsou
University of Texas at Dallas


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