David Chalmers

David Chalmers ( born April 20, 1966 in Sydney, Australia) is an Australian philosopher. His main areas of work are in the field of philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. He is considered one of the most important representatives of the ( property ) dualism.


Chalmers studied mathematics at the Universities of Adelaide, where he began the study in 1983 and 1986 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, and in Oxford ( 1987-88 ). In 1989 he went to Indiana University. Here he worked on Douglas Hofstadter's Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition, and received in 1993 a PhD ( Ph.D.) in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. His doctoral work culminated in his widely acclaimed and much-quoted book, The Conscious Mind ( 1996). From 1993 to 1995 he was a McDonnell Fellow in philosophy, neuroscience and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. Then he taught philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz ( 1995-98 ) and at the University of Arizona in Tucson ( 1999-2004). At the Australian National University in Canberra, he is a professor and director of the Center for Consciousness active since 2004. Since September 2009, he also spends part of the year at New York University. In 2013 he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The hard problem of consciousness

David Chalmers in 1995 coined the expression "the difficult problem of consciousness " (the hard problem- of consciousness ). By this he means the question of why there ever experience levels - or qualia - are. Why does it hurt as if I stab me with a needle in the finger? We understand some of the internal processes that take place in such a situation: From our finger signals are sent to the brain, there find complex manufacturing processes instead. With the help of imaging techniques, we can even find out which processes in the brain when we experience pain in the finger. Only, as Chalmers, we still have not the slightest idea why it is doing hurts! Why not pass all of these processes, without compromising even a spark of consciousness arises? This is the hard problem of consciousness and also the classic qualia problem as it was formulated by Thomas Nagel, Frank Cameron Jackson and Joseph Levine.

The difficult problem is Chalmers compared to a "simple" ( the easy trouble of consciousness ) problem. This simple problem involves all the psychic phenomena that do not depend directly on the question of the content of experience and the Qualia. So about learning, memory, thinking or problem solving. There are those issues where the neuro- and cognitive science research is making a lot of progress. Well Chalmers wants to say not with his somewhat provocative talk of a " simple problem" that the results of these studies are trivial. Only in comparison to the question of the experiential content is simple problems, as they can be solved by means of functionalist methods. The natural sciences ( and with them the neurosciences) use these kinds of explanatory models that work with structures, functions and comparisons. These methods fail (so far) when it comes to an "objective" or universally valid scientific explanation of qualia. Consequently, we know very coarse, such as a statement of learning might look like, but we have not the slightest idea how an explanation of our experiences might look like.

The adoption of the " hard problems " is rejected by some materialists. One of the most vehement opponents Chalmers here is Daniel Dennett, according to which qualia can be by means of a " hetero- phenomenology " objectively explain, whereas Dennett would thus " define away " only the problem but not solve in reality, according to Chalmers.

Classification of positions in the philosophy of mind

In his 2002 article Consciousness and Its Place in Nature Chalmers developed a classification of various possible from his point of view positions in the philosophy of mind. As a distinctive feature in particular the materialist positions he chooses the type of response to the " hard problem of consciousness ". Chalmers discussed at least seven key positions:

Type -A materialism

The type -A materialist claims that there are between phenomenal and physical facts do not divide. In its radical form, it denies the existence of consciousness altogether and tends to completely functionalist or behavioristic interpretation of consciousness concept. In less radical forms, it admits a low epistemic ( related to knowledge ) gap, but argues that these would be easy to close. Chalmers argues against the type -A materialism that this deny the obvious. It analyzes the arguments put forward by the type -A materialist in order to be entitled to do so. He comes to the conclusion that none of these arguments to be entitled to deny entirely the existence of phenomenal facts: " This claim is not supported by arguments, but by observations of a particular kind together with the refutation of counterarguments. " Chalmers therefore rejects the type - A from materialism.

Type -B materialism

The type -B materialism admits an epistemic gap between the physical and the phenomenal, but denies that one may infer from it a metaphysical divide. With this position into account the difficulties epistemological worn without having to leave a materialist position. Chalmers shows first that the concerns expressed by type -B materialists analogies to other scientific advances are not valid, such as the identity of water and H2O, or of genes and DNA. Their identity was ultimately closed by empirical means, what according to Chalmers, however, is not possible for the difficult problem of consciousness. It shows that all of the above analogies have a purely empirical gap, but not an epistemic gap. Thus, there is no reason to believe that our knowledge progress will bridge this gap one day. The type -B materialist can respond to this argument by raising the epistemic gap to a fundamental principle of nature. Chalmers however, this is not valid, arguing as follows: Fundamental principles, as they are postulated as in physics (eg gravity ), all concern the relationship between different entities or properties. Instead, the type -B materialist tries to raise the identity of the physical and the phenomenal to the rank of a fundamental principle, a procedure for which there is no other independent according to Chalmers example. The argument put forward by Chalmers further analysis of the type -B materialism is complex and ultimately leads to the rejection of this position.

Type -C materialism

The type -C materialist also confesses to an epistemic gap, but claims that gap was for us either today or for all future does not close because of our cognitive limitations. Although phenomenal truths could in principle be derived from physical truths, present or due to fundamental limitations, however, we were not able to do so. Chalmers first shows that the type -C materialism often as a variant of type -A materialism occurs by ultimately the existence of phenomenal consciousness merely denies, without providing good arguments. The position one day let be attributed consciousness to physical principles, Chalmers occurs as follows contrary: Physical descriptions are always descriptions of structure and dynamics. From such descriptions only other descriptions of the structure and dynamics are always derived. Phenomenal consciousness has nothing to do with properties such as size, shape, position and movement, thus nothing to do with structure and dynamics. What progress are always achieved with regard to our knowledge of the physical, they can therefore not explain, unless they relate consciousness in their statements a consciousness. This is done in part already by some authors of the quantum theory. However, for these authors leave the ground of materialism and ultimately represent a type -D dualism or a type -F monism. The type -C materialism is thus also rejected by Chalmers.

Type -Q materialism

Chalmers describes another form of materialism, which is represented in particular by followers of the philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine (hence " type -Q "). This position would reject the distinction made ​​above the materialistic items, since it rejects about the distinction between conceptual and empirical truth. Chalmers argues that this position must ultimately provide an answer to the difficult problem of consciousness, which emerges as a materialism of types A to C. Chalmers concludes by stating for the treatment of the materialist positions that he sees no other alternative to defend materialism. Since all positions described for him are not durable, materialism must accordingly be wrong according to Chalmers. As a result, Chalmers address possible alternatives to materialism.

Type -D dualism

The type -D dualism assumes that the (micro) physical area is not causally closed. The Phenomenal is inversely causally effective against the physical world. The most popular variant of the type -D dualism is a substance dualism, as represented him Descartes (hence "Type - D"). Even forms of property dualism may fall under the type -D, so far as the phenomenal properties are considered as causally efficacious. Chalmers is included in the result to the standard objections to dualism. One of these arguments criticized the fact that an interaction between the two postulated substances do not constitute proof. Chalmers argues, however, that the physics of such evidence does not provide for other fundamental interactions. So say for example, Newtonian physics, that a causal interaction in the form of gravity exists, but does not explain further how gravity WOULD - the effect is simply assumed. Another standard argument against dualism consists in the causal closure of the physical. The dualism stand in contradiction to this, and thus also in contradiction to science. Chalmers counters this argument in several ways. First, he notes that the physics is scope for the adoption of further basal fundamental forces leave will be accepted from those currently four. He then argues that in particular leave room for an interactionist interpretation of the non- deterministic aspects of quantum physics. He concluded the discussion by noting: ". Summary, one can say that the standard objection against interactionism has little clout of interactionism is at least a possibility worth exploring it further "

Type -E dualism

The type -E dualism sees the physical and the phenomenal as metaphysically different, however, considered this in contrast to the type -D dualism the phenomenal as causal effect. This is therefore this position is called epiphenomenalism (hence "Type E"). The type -E dualism escapes the standard counter-argument for dualism, recognizing the causal unity of the physical. This is done by disclosure of the mental causation and thus the price of the intuition that our phenomenal perceptions (eg the perception of a red traffic light) are the cause of our actions ( braking of the vehicle ). Chalmers leads against this intuition including David Hume in the field, has shown that the appearance of causality arise from the mere succession of events and thus the intuition can be wrong if necessary. A more complex argument against epiphenomenalism considered the relationship between consciousness and its representations, such as those in the statement " I have confidence " is expressed. This statement can be made by a conscious beings according to the epiphenomenalism diminished, they would be purely physical causes. Chalmers argues that the conviction to have awareness and hence the statement " I have confidence " to meet, does not have to be necessary due to awareness. The awareness konstituiere only this conviction. Chalmers assesses the type -E dualism finally as a " coherent theory without fatal difficulties ", which is, however, at the same time very elegant and counterintuitive.

Type -F monism

Under the Type -F monism Chalmers summarizes a number of positions, which have in common that phenomenal or protophänomenale properties are considered " intrinsic nature" of physical reality ( Neutral monism, panpsychism ). It performs this position back to a discussion of the physics of Bertrand Russell. In The Analysis of Matter Russell argues that the physics though statements about the relationships of various entities is true, however, says nothing about the internal properties of these entities. The type -F monism now simply adds the physical theory a theory of intrinsic nature added without asking about the causal unity of the physical or the structure of physical theory in question. In this way, Chalmers form, " (proto ) phenomenal properties [ ... ] the last categorical basis of all physical causation. " He notes that the type -F monism has similarities with both the materialism as well as with dualism: " The Letter by the type -F monism is materialistic, while in spirit is a dualistic theory. " One of the main objections to the type -F monism is the first formulated by William James combination problem: It is currently unclear how a higher-level consciousness like that of a human is to be built from countless protophänomenalen units of consciousness. Chalmers states: ". I think it is here by far the biggest problem of the type -F monism Whether it can be solved or not, is at present an open question. "

Property dualism

The diagnosis of the difficult problem of consciousness has led to a position property dualism called Chalmers. Such a position rejects materialism, but also differs strongly from the classical dualism. The classical dualism was based on two substances - matter and spirit - while the Eigenschaftsdualist recognizes only one substance, namely the matter. The Eigenschaftsdualist however, is fixed to the fact that not all properties are physical properties. Concretely, this means at Chalmers: Man has in addition to the physical properties (such as mass or shape ) is also a kind of non-physical properties (namely, experience levels, or qualia ).

The path from the difficult problem of consciousness to the thesis of property dualism is quite rocky and is at a high theoretical level. The basic idea can nevertheless make it clear: Chalmers assumes that materialism is set to reductive explanations. This means that the experiential content in principle on the basic physical properties must be reducible - if materialism is true. Such a reduction is according to Chalmers, however, a moment of necessity requires that connects the basic physical characteristics and higher level characteristics to each other. This need is not given in the case of experience salary. Accordingly, it is - possible a priori that there are zombies - in philosophical thought experiment. Zombies make this an exact (!) Physical copy of an ordinary man is, with the only significant difference is that they have no (!) Consciousness. Since the existence of a zombie is a priori possible, the need addressed, which presupposes materialism, not mandatory. So materialism is false. This argument can only be truly understood when it is clear what is meant by "need". Just tried this Chalmers explain and - following on from Saul Aaron Kripke - to be provided by the so-called Two-dimensional semantics on a sound basis.

Necessity, supervenience and reduction

The terms need to supervenience and reduction are closely interrelated. Let's start with supervenience: A property A supervenes if and only on the properties B, if there can be no change in A without B is changed. An example: There can be no change in the biological properties without thereby also result in changes of chemical properties.

Mostly such Supervenienzbeziehungen are no coincidence, and so the need comes into play. A can of necessity on B supervene because about B caused by natural laws A. Chalmers speaks of natural supervenience. But A can supervene also need about B because BA implies logically or conceptually. Chalmers speaks of logical supervenience.

Chalmers thesis now is that only the logical supervenience is sufficient for reductions. A can only be reduced to B when A logically or conceptually from B follows. More specifically: a higher level property can only be reduced to physical properties (and so integrated in a materialistic world view ), if from the existence of the physical properties of the higher-level property follows logically or conceptually.

We can now better understand Chalmers argument against materialism. Chalmers says that almost all properties supervene logically on the physical properties and thus are reductively explainable. A classic example is the reduction of water. Water can be reduced to H2O, because the properties of water from the properties of the H2O molecules are logical and conceptually derived using the basic laws of nature. Now, however, suggests such a derivability at a man's property failed: From the biological properties of the people can not derive the logical- conceptual experience levels. So suggests the logical supervenience fails, so fails the reduction, so experience levels can not be integrated in a materialistic world view. But there are levels of experience. So materialism is false.