Category Archives: David Chalmers

David Chalmers

When I was in graduate school, I recall hearing “One starts as a materialist, then one becomes a dualist, then a panpsychist, and one ends up as an idealist”. I don’t know where this comes from, but I think the idea was something like this. First, one is impressed by the successes of science, endorsing materialism about everything and so about the mind. Second, one is moved by problem of consciousness to see a gap between physics and consciousness, thereby endorsing dualism, where both matter and consciousness are fundamental. Third, one is moved by the inscrutability of matter to realize that science reveals at most the structure of matter and not its underlying nature, and to speculate that this nature may involve consciousness, thereby endorsing panpsychism. Fourth, one comes to think that there is little reason to believe in anything beyond consciousness and that the physical world is wholly constituted by consciousness, thereby endorsing idealism.

David Chalmers, ‘Idealism and the Mind-Body Problem’, in William Seager (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism, New York, 2018

David Chalmers

Not every method of creating human-level intelligence is an extendible method. For example, the currently standard method of creating human-level intelligence is biological reproduction. But biological reproduction is not obviously extendible. If we have better sex, for example, it does not follow that our babies will be geniuses.

David Chalmers, ‘The Singularity: A Philosophical Analaysis’, Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol. 17, nos. 9-10 (2010), p. 18

David Chalmers

If reconstructive uploading will eventually be possible, how can one ensure that it happens? There have been billions of humans in the history of the planet. It is not clear that our successors will want to reconstruct every person who ever lived, or even every person of whom there are records. So if one is interested in immortality, how can one maximize the chances of reconstruction? One might try keeping a bank account with compound interest to pay them for doing so, but it is hard to know whether our financial system will be relevant in the future, especially after an intelligence explosion.

My own strategy is to write about a future of artificial intelligence and about uploading. Perhaps this will encourage our successors to reconstruct me, if only to prove me wrong.

David Chalmers, ‘Uploading: A Philosophical Analysis’, in Russell Blackford & Damien Broderick (eds.), Intelligence Unbound: the Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds, Chichester, West Sussex, 2014, p. 116

David Chalmers

[T]he Everett interpretation is almost impossible to believe. It postulates that there is vastly more in the world than we are ever aware of. On this interpretation, the world is really in a giant superposition of states that have been evolving in different ways since the beginning of time, and we are experiencing only the smallest substate of the world. It also postulates that my future is not determinate: in a minute’s time, there will be a large number of minds that have an equal claim to count as me. A minute has passed since I wrote the last sentence; who is to know what all those other minds are doing now?

David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search for a Fundamental Theory, Oxford, 1996, p. 356

David Chalmers

When we observe external objects, we observe their structure and function; that’s all. Such observations give no reason to postulate any new class of properties, except insofar as they explain structure and function; so there can be no analogue of a ‘hard problem’ here. Even if further properties of these objects existed, we could have no access to them, as our external access is physically mediated: such properties would lie on the other side of an unbridgeable epistemic divide. Consciousness uniquely escapes these arguments by lying at the centre of our epistemic universe, rather than at a distance. In this case alone, we can have access to something other than structure and function.

David Chalmers, ‘Moving forward on the Problem of Consciousness’, Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol. 4, no. 1 (1997), p. 6

David Chalmers

Temperamentally, I am strongly inclined toward materialist reductive explanation, and I have no strong spiritual or religious inclinations. For a number of years, I hoped for a materialist theory; when I gave up on this hope, it was quite reluctantly. It eventually seemed plain to me that these conclusions were forced on anyone who wants to take consciousness seriously. Materialism is a beautiful and compelling view of the world, but to account for consciousness, we have to go beyond the resources it provides.

By now, I have grown almost happy with these conclusions. They do not seem to have any fearsome consequences, and they allow a way of thinking and theorizing about consciousness that seems more satisfactory in almost every way. And the expansion in the scientific worldview has had a positive effect, at least for me: it has made the universe seem a more interesting place.

David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, Oxford, 1996, p. xiv

David Chalmers

On the phenomenal concept, mind is characterized by the way it feels; on the psychological concept, mind is characterized by what it does. There should be no question of competition between these two notions of mind. Neither of them is the correct analysis of mind. They cover different phenomena, both of which are quite real.

David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, Oxford, 1996, p. 11