Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence
Profile of a young man with mental activity
Profile of a young man with mental activity brain and consciousness, with the cosmos as a brain. The scientific concept. The brain and creativity

Consciousness Is Two Hard Problems, Not One

Psychology prof Gregg Henriques argues, consciousness “plays by a different set of rules than the language game of science”

Gregg Henriques, professor of psychology at James Madison University, sees the The Hard Problem of consciousness as two separate problems:

One problem is the “ontological problem” of how it might be possible to engineer the felt experience of being. The other is the “epistemological problem” of directly knowing another’s primary experience.

Gregg Henriques, “There Are Two Hard Problems of Consciousness, Not One” at Psychology Today

So the first problem is, could we create a computer that, even though it is only a calculating machine and not a living being, is conscious due to a massive RAM?

Second, none of us really knows for sure that anyone (except oneself!) is conscious. That’s the p-zombie problem: The p-zombie (the philosopher’s zombie) is your co-worker. What if he actually isn’t conscious, just programmed to follow carefully designed routines. How would you know?

Henriques wants to ground the study of consciousness on a more realistic scientific footing than current claims that consciousness is an illusion or a material thing or that everything is conscious:

Currently, when I talk about this unique, particularly first-person domain, I use the language of the soul and spirit… In using these terms, I don’t mean a supernatural sense of an entity that will leave my body after death. Rather, I use them to talk about our unique selves from the first-person point of view. In this language system, my soul is my unique lifeworld and everyday trials and triumphs, whereas my spirit refers more to transcendental ethical concerns and how I might connect my life quest to them. My point here is that the soul/spirit defined this way plays by a different set of rules than the language game of science. I believe the differences between the language games or domains of science/behavior and of soul/spirit and morality/ethics are crucial for us to keep in mind as we hunt for a more consilient scientific humanistic philosophy that can guide humanity in the 21st century.

Gregg Henriques, “There Are Two Hard Problems of Consciousness, Not One” at Psychology Today

No matter what happens, he will, of course, spare himself much absurdity.


Further reading: The mind can’t be just a computer. Gödel demonstrated that fact and Turing tried to live with it.

and

We went back to visit Gödel, Escher, and Bach… Forty years after publication, how has a big explain-the-mind book withstood the test of time? (Walter Myers III)


Mind Matters News

Breaking and noteworthy news from the exciting world of natural and artificial intelligence at MindMatters.ai.

Consciousness Is Two Hard Problems, Not One