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Consciousness as a Fundamental

Chalmers constructs a theory in which consciousness is a nonphysical fundamental, in contrast to physical fundamentals such as force, mass, and electric charge. Fundamentals such as mass and electric charge are basic explanatory properties that help explain reality. Electric charge is part of the physical fabric of the universe, with relations to atomic energy levels, magnetic fields, and covalent molecular bonds. If experiential consciousness is a nonphysical fundamental, then how does it help to explain reality? Being nonphysical, consciousness has nothing to do with causally explaining the physical world. For Chalmers, it is conceivable that any physical process can occur without consciousness, so consciousness has to be something additional to physical reality.

Consciousness cannot have any causal effect on what happens in the physical world and vice versa. He calls his view naturalistic dualism. Chalmers doesn’t share Descartes’s view that consciousness is a property of soul substance; nevertheless, he suggests that consciousness is a nonphysical feature of reality.

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