Sunday, March 8, 2015

Review of David Chalmers' The Conscious Mind

In The Conscious Mind, David Chalmers systematically examines the philosophical puzzle of consciousness. Chalmers comes through as an exceptionally well-read theorist in the philosophy of mind; he's also gifted at explaining complex concepts in a reasonably transparent way. His overall thesis in the work is that consciousness is best explained through a variety of property dualism: specifically, he argues for a position very similar (if not identical) to the philosophical position called epiphenomenalism. Briefly, this position holds that consciousness is a property or feature of the world over and above all the physical facts, but also that consciousness is causally irrelevant to the physical world.

Here, in Chalmers' words, we can see his claim to a form of dualism--that consciousness is in some sense "beyond" the physical:
"Consciousness is a feature of the world over and above the physical features of the world. This is not to say it is a separate 'substance'; the issue of what it would take to constitute a dualism of substances seems quite unclear to me. All we know is that there are properties of individuals in this world--the phenomenal properties--that are ontologically independent of physical properties" (p.125, Chalmers' italics).