Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

A Further Problem of the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

A Further Problem of the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Article excerpt

Abstract

There is a prevalent assumption that the fact that a mental experience has a phenomenal property is an ontological fact and that the problem of explaining the phenomenal property of a mental experience is an epistemological problem. Contrary to this assumption, the paper argues that the claim that mental experience gives rise to phenomenal property is an assertion about the world, which is yet to be adequately justified. Justifying this assertion is identified as the further problem of the hard problem of consciousness. This shows that assertions about phenomenal properties of mental experiences are wholly epistemological. Hence, the problem of explaining phenomenal properties of a mental state is not a metaphysical problem, and what is considered a hard problem of consciousness is due to human reasoning process rather than an ontological process.

Key words; Consciousness, what is it like to be, phenomenal property, mental experience, raw feels, qualia.

Introduction

This paper elucidates the hard problem of consciousness. There is a prevalent assumption that the fact that a mental experience has a phenomenal property is an ontological fact and that the problem of explaining the phenomenal property of a mental experience is an epistemological problem. Contrary to this assumption, the paper argues that the fact about phenomenal properties of mental experiences is wholly epistemological. Hence, the problem of explaining phenomenal properties of a mental state is not a metaphysical problem, and what is considered a hard problem of consciousness is due to human reasoning process rather than an ontological process.

When I see a rose, there are some light-rays emitting from my eyes in the direction of the rose, producing an image in my retina. The visual systems are psychological properties that caused me to see the rose, and these psychological properties are explained by the cognitive sciences. Apart from these, there is the feel of seeing a rose; the Svhat it is like to' see a rose. So, seeing a rose is one thing, the feel of seeing the rose is another. Again, if I smiled, there are physiological activities (categorized as the psychological properties) that took place that explained the event. Moreover, there is a feel of smiling; the Svhat it is like to smile'. The mental experience of seeing a rose and smiling are perceptual and physiological processes, which are explainable in cognitive sciences through the paradigms of visual and physiological sciences. However, there is a problem explaining what it feels like to see a rose and what it feels like to smile, which are the phenomenal properties of the mental experiences of seeing a rose and of smiling. The need to explain the phenomenal properties of mental experiences is described as the hard problem of consciousness.

The Easy and the Hard Problems of Consciousness

David Chalmers distinguished between two aspects of the mind. These are the psychological aspect and the phenomenal aspect. 1 In the psychological aspect, the mind is the internal mechanism or system which serves as the causal and explanatory basis of human actions, experiences, thoughts, beliefs, actions, etc. In this respect, mental states are those states of the mind that are causally responsible for behaviour, experiences, thoughts, beliefs, actions, etc and through which they are explained. Moreover, in the psychological aspect, the mind is construed as, and is understood in terms of, what it does. This, however, did not reveal the nature of the mind and its states. Rather, the cognitive science' account of the mind, which is the psychological aspect, reveals what the mind does, and not what the mind is. On the phenomenal aspect, the mind is conceived not as what causes or explains experience, but as the experience itself. This experience is qualified as conscious experience, phenomenal consciousness or qualia. Conscious experiences are the properties of our mental states. …

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