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Chalmers’s Theory of Consciousness

Leibniz and Chalmers face the problem of explaining how consciousness fits in with the rest of what we know about the world. How is it, for example, that changes in the physical world are systematically correlated with changes in our conscious experience if consciousness is not part of the physical world but is an entirely different kind of thing? Leibniz’s answer was that God made it so that our conscious experiences would be synchronized with the physical world. Chalmers’s answer is similar: leaving God out of the picture, he retains a version of psychophysical parallelism. In Chalmers’s view, there are systematic relations between phenomenal consciousness and the physical world, and we can discover psychophysical bridge laws that capture these relations.

Psychophysical bridge laws are not in conflict with our scientific conception of the physical universe:

These psychophysical principles will not interfere with physical laws, as it seems that physical laws already form a closed system. (Chalmers 1995a, p. 20)

Nevertheless, consciousness depends on physical processes:

A physical theory gives a theory of physical processes, and a psychophysical theory tells us how those processes give rise to experience. We know that experience depends on physical processes, but we also know that this dependence cannot be derived from physical laws alone. (Chalmers 1995a, p. 20)

In Chalmers’s view, physical processes give rise to conscious experiences. However, that they give rise to conscious experience seems to have nothing to do with causation, for he avoids this notion and adopts a dualist position.

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