When I was 21 I got a scholarship to study philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I arrived with my mountain bike and a passion for German existentialism, lived with five lesbians and their eight cats and convinced the university to let me do their graduate course instead of the undergraduate stream. They relented and I signed up for Philosophy of the Universe with an Australian mathematician, David Chalmers.
That was 1995.
I’ve now just learned that the year prior Chalmers, a lecturer who supported me through a bunch of things at the time, had shaken up philosophy – existential and beyond – by presenting the world with what is known as The Hard Problem. This article by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian tells the story and dives in deeply to the dilemma Chalmers posed and the controversy that’s pivoted from it since.
Chalmers presented the idea that there are many quandaries to do with the human brain and experience, but most are easy problems and, with time, we’ll no doubt solve them, much as we did the true surface of the earth.
The hard problem – what makes us conscious, or what is consciousness – is possibly one we will never “solve” as our brains might just not be capable of it. Actually, my memory of things was that he didn’t declare the unsolveability of