The Hard Problem Isn’t Getting any Easier: Thoughts on Chalmers’ “Meta-Problem”

Philosophia 49:495-506 (2020)
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Abstract

Chalmers’ meta-problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining “problem reports”; i.e. reports to the effect that phenomenal consciousness has the various features that give rise to the hard problem. Chalmers suggests that solving the meta-problem will likely “shed significant light on the hard problem.” Against this, I argue that work on the meta-problem will likely fail to make the hard problem any easier. For each of the main stances on the hard problem can provide an account of problem reports, and we have no way of deciding which of these accounts gives the correct explanation of an individual’s problem reports without presupposing a stance on the hard problem. We thus cannot determine which of the available solutions to the meta-problem is correct without having already solved the hard problem.

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Ben White
Oakland University

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