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8/22/06


Mind Shadows      David Chalmers & The Hard Problem of Consciousness

Form is emptiness, emptiness form. (The Heart Sutra)

Existence occurs at the merger between form and emptiness. In Buddhism, this situation is expressed by the Heart Sutra. In Advaita, it is called Awareness. In either case, emptiness recognizes itself as what arises within it. Those are merely words but are the best language can do although the subject has no doubt of what they signify, the foundation of conscious life.

This realization goes to the core of "The Hard Problem of Consciousness," as termed by David Chalmers. (Among various explanations of it as a problem one is, Why do you have such a rich inner life?) Those who research and think about consciousness cannot truly understand the Hard Problem without this realization.

Daniel Dennett explains it all away by saying Chalmers' proposal is a non-problem. Dennett, though, is a proselytizer at base. He doesn't engage issues that do not fit his agenda. Instead, his strategy is often to downplay the opposition.

The realization of true issues surrounding The Hard Problem cannot occur without "experiential expertise." That is, it will remain inaccessible so long as there is insistence on a level playing field--tools, techniques, and concepts available to everybody engaged in consciousness philosophy and research.

One might argue that this experiential expertise does not fit the scientific model in that the solution cannot be assessed, falsified, or verified by a community of peers. That is not the case. The community of peers need not be a democracy--that is, a large pool of peers. The Special and General Theories of Relativity are still not profoundly understood by most physicists.

The discussions and debates about The Hard Problem of Consciousness will continue, but the real field of study is at hand, and those who don't see it are rather like the boy who proclaimed that the emperor had no clothes.

Like quantum theorists with the findings of people such as Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Bell, perhaps the consciousness community will eventually develop consensus that the standard concepts and techniques simply can not yield an answer to The Hard Problem. In the meantime, let us hope that a few will take an approach considered to be slumming by some of their peers.

I refer to an intensive skeptical search (not this, not that), probably lengthy, for who they are by using a Dzogchen Buddhist or Advaitan discipline--while separating wheat from the chaff of teachings until--as supposedly phrased by St Francis of Assisi--they find out that they are what is being looked for, and this realization takes over their lives, both as a contributing peer and as a private person. It is not spiritual. It is not religious. It simply is.

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