Lecture 1 - The Problem

Lecture 1 - The Problem

Philosophical approaches

  • Only sensations exist (Berkeley) Mind

  • Only matter exists (materialism) Body/Matter

    • Identity (brain=mind)

    • Functionalism (brain states=mental states)

More abstract

  • Epiphenomenalism

    • All that matter is matter, the conscious experience exists but for no reason (epiphenomenon) Mind ← Body/matter

    • Panpsychism, everything = consciousness. MiBody/Matter

    • Dualism (Descartes), mind and brain have impact on each other. They interact. D: the mind= electricity, body is organized in terms of hydrologic processes. Translation at pineal gland. Mind → Body/Matter

    • A category mistake? (Ryle): mind as process. (Showing university: library, canteen, etc., but where is the university?) No contradiction, just a different way to look at the same thing.

→ No one wants to be a dualist scientifically, but personally we all are… I’ts just so natural to us “I try not to smoke, but my body just wants it” (see Hume, Buddha)


Interesting links between philosophical background and psychology,

Different periods of psychological thinking:

  • Introspection Mind → Body/Matter

All they had was the mind, they knew they had a brain but that was very abstract. They couldn't investigate it. “The mind is limited”

  • Psychophysics Mind ← Body/Matter

Try to relate physics to psycho: how to relate matter to mind.

  • Behaviorism Body/Matter

Ignore the mind, it’s not scientifically trackable so don’t try to understand it

  • Cognitive revolution Mind

Humans are like a computer.

  • Cognitive neuroscience, embodied cognition, functionalism Mind Body/Matter=two sides of the same coin. → both are the same, the one gives more information about the other.

Movements that are counter-counter-revolutionary.

→ (implicit) functionalism: mental states identified by their functional role, not their phenomenal quality; allows attributing states to computers, robots, animals.

The state in the brain that corresponds to happiness: the state in the brain is just as much your happiness as the feeling of you being happy. So it doesn’t mean that the phenomenal experience of being happy is an illusion or wrong, but if the brain state that corresponds to your happy is as happy as the feeling, then the happiness is not restricted to this fundamental experience. (Don’t worry, he says we’ll get back to this over and over again).


Your consciousness is not my consciousness, so I can not study your consciousness.

The problem: qualia and subjectivity

Frank Jackson: “Epiphenomenal Qualia” (1982)

→ Mary, the color scientist (a thought experiment)

  • Studies the world through B/W screen in B/W room.

She can retrieve any information she wants, but everything is B/W. She is a color scientist.

  • What happens if she leaves the room?

She learns something new OR yeah, sure this is what red looks like (‘cause she knows everything)


She learns something new

  • Qualia must exist

  • Physicialism must be false

→ eoiphenomenalism?

There is a difference, but the difference is extra.

→ dualism?

Two different me’s?

  • Qualia: the thing that is added by being exposed to the real red. Something we experience when we’re exposed to red for the first time, whatever that is: that’s qualia.


Yes, I knew red would look like this

  • Physical/physiological description is complete

→ Materialism

It’s sufficient to capture the essence something, there is nothing added. Nothing else is needed.

→ Functionalism

There is a one-to-one (or not so one-to-one) mapping, between physical and mental BUT both are the same thing.


The problem: Are zombies possible?

Todd Moody: “Coversations with zombies” (1994)

→ Imagine a perfect zombie copy of yourself but…

  • No trace of consciousness

  • No “it’s like being me”, no qualia

Could these people exist?

Sure, why not?

  • So consciousness is an unimportant extra? = epiphenomenalism

Never, this is impossible to imagine!

  • So no creature like you could exist without consciousness? Why not?


David Chalmers

Heart problems can not be resolved ever. Some people say they can solve it.


  1. Hard problem cannot be solved


  1. Try solving (dualism; quantum physics)

They say thing we don’t understand, and then they say “now it’s solved” and no one understands how they came there.

  1. Tackle easy problems

We will certainly try to do that & try to account for a number of things that are scientifically tracktable that we can address. It addresses most of the things and what is left is relatively academic.

  1. No hard problem (Churchland; Denett)

We made it up. We might talk about it the wrong way and thereby create problems.


What does consciousness do for us?

Donders (1868): Press the key when you see a light. In order to react to something, we need to sense it. We have to recognize it, we have to know it is a light. Then we have to think about pressing the key.

A-reaction, because it was the first reaction he investigated.

B-reaction, a left and a right stimulus (left and right light) → requires more cognitive work. People need to discriminate the stimuli.

Sensory & motor time=a

Discrimination time: b-a

C-reaction (1:19)

Choice time = b-c


Unconscious Processing?

Subliminal Priming: Primes that cannot be seen facilitate word processing.

Nuse OR bread befor ‘doctor’ → reaction time nurse-doctor is faster.

Contributions, Comments & Kudos

Add new contribution

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Blog of michelleKe
Access level of this page
  • Public
  • WorldSupporters only
  • JoHo members
  • Private
Selected Categories