From ‘The Puzzle of Conscious Experience’, by David Chalmers, in ‘Arguing About the Mind’ (2007), ed. Gertler and Shapiro


“It is widely believed that physics provides a complete catalogue of the universe’s fundamental features and laws. As physicist Steven Weinberg puts it in his 1992 book Dreams of a Final Theory, the goal of physics is a “theory of everything” from  which all there is known about the universe can be derived. But Weinberg concedes that there is a problem with consciousness. Despite the power of physical theory, the existence of consciousness does not seem to be derivable from physical laws. He defends physics by arguing that it might eventually explain what he calls the objective correlates of consciousness (that is, the neural correlates), but of course to do this is not to explain consciousness itself. If the existence of consciousness cannot be derived from physical laws, a theory of physics is not a true theory of everything. So a final theory of everything must contain an additional fundamental component.

Towards this end, I propose that conscious experience be considered a fundamental feature, irreducible to anything more basic. The idea may seem strange at first, but consistency seems to demand it […] If existing fundamental theories cannot encompass it, then something new is required.


I suggest that the primary psychophysical laws may centrally involve the concept of information […] Perhaps information, or at least some information, has two basic aspects: a physical one and an experiential one. This hypothesis has the status of a fundamental principle that might underlie the relation between physical process and experience.


Second, we might bite the bullet an allow that all information has an experiential aspect –  where there is complex information processing, there is complex experience, and where there is simple information processing, there is simple experience. […] This seems odd at first, but if experience is truly fundamental, we might expect it to be widespread […] Of course, such ideas may be all wrong.”

From ‘The Puzzle of Conscious Experience’, by David Chalmers, in ‘Arguing About the Mind’ (2007), ed. Gertler and Shapiro

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