Wednesday, November 16, 2016

#321 / The Hard Problem

The same day I saw the movie Arrival, I went to a performance of Tom Stoppard's newest play, The Hard Problem, performed by the American Conservatory Theatre. That's a play worth seeing, though  if you want to see it you will have to hunt it down somewhere else, since the last ACT performance was a matinee on November 13th. Incidentally, Santa Cruz Shakespeare's Artistic Director, Mike Ryan, had a major part in the ACT production. Click here for a review

If you want to get into the "hard problem" as a matter of philosophy, and it does seem to be a problem worth thinking about, you can click this link or the other "hard problem" link, above. 

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the "hard problem" challenge "arises because it does not seem that the qualitative and subjective aspects of conscious experience—how consciousness “feels” and the fact that it is directly “for me”—fit into a physicalist ontology." 

In other words, "it appears that even a complete specification of a creature in physical terms leaves unanswered the question of whether or not the creature is conscious. And it seems that we can easily conceive of creatures just like us physically and functionally that nonetheless lack consciousness. This indicates that a physical explanation of consciousness is fundamentally incomplete: it leaves out what it is like to be the subject, for the subject. There seems to be an unbridgeable explanatory gap between the physical world and consciousness. All these factors make the hard problem hard."

The nature of the questions being explored in both Arrival and The Hard Problem are, in fact, or so it seems to me, somewhat related. I'm still thinking about that!

Here's one thought: If it cannot be demonstrated how physical reality creates consciousness (and consciousness, of course, includes that consciousness of time that Einstein thought was a persistent "illusion"), then maybe we should assault the "hard problem" from the opposite flank.

Maybe physical reality doesn't create consciousness. 

Maybe consciousness creates physical reality.

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