The Unending Quest to Explain Consciousness

Michael Robbins at Bookforum:

THE HARD PROBLEM, DAVID CHALMERS CALLS IT: Why are the physical processes of the brain “accompanied by an experienced inner life?” How and why is there something it is like to be you and me, in Thomas Nagel’s formulation? I’ve been reading around in the field of consciousness studies for over two decades—Chalmers, Nagel, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Jerry Fodor, Ned Block, Frank Jackson, Paul and Patricia Churchland, Alva Noë, Susan Blackmore—and the main thing I’ve learned is that no one has the slightest idea. Not that the field lacks for confident pronouncements to the contrary.

Briefly stated, the problem is that the world appears to contain two very different kinds of stuff—mind and body, for which Descartes posited two substances, res cogitans and res extensa. The mind is not physical, not extended in space. The body and everything else are made of physical substance and located in space. Substance dualism is out of fashion these days, but some philosophers (including Chalmers) are property dualists, who believe consciousness is an emergent property, a kind of ghostly accompaniment to physical reality.

more here.