David ChalmersDavid Chalmers is a philosopher of mind whose characterization of consciousness as "the hard problem" has set a very high bar for understanding the mind. He says that "the problem of quantum mechanics is almost as hard as the problem of consciousness." Chalmers describes his position as a naturalistic dualism. He doubts that consciousness can be explained by physical theories, because consciousness is itself not physical. We agree, because all experiences are recorded and reproduced as immaterial information - in both conscious and unconscious playback. But information, while not material, is embodied in the physical. It is a property of the material world. Chalmers says that the failure of supervenience implies that materialism - as a monistic theory of the complete contents of the world, that there is "nothing but" matter, and that the world is "causally closed," for example - is "false." We agree with this and believe that the reductionist arguments of Jaegwon Kim can be shown wrong.
Chalmers suggests that the dualistic (non-physical) element might be information. Indeed it might. With this idea too, information philosophy completely agrees. Mind/body is a property dualism Chalmers says that a "fundamental theory of consciousness" might be based on information. He says that "physical realization is the most common way to think about information embedded in the world, but it is not the only way information can be found. We can also find information realized in our phenomenology." He is quite correct. Information is neither matter nor energy. It needs matter to be embedded temporarily in the brain. And it needs energy to be communicated. Phenomenal experiences transmitted to us as visual perceptions, for example, consist of information that is pure radiant energy. The pure (mental) information content in one brain can be transmitted to other brains, by converting it to energy for communication; other brains can then embody the same information (perhaps with significant differences in the details) for use by other minds (the "multiply realizable" software in different brains' hardware). Chalmers comes very close to our view of the mind as information. He describes his fundamental theory as a "double-aspect principle."
The treatment of information brings out a crucial link between the physical and the phenomenal: whenever we find an information space realized phenomenally, we find the same information space realized physically...It is natural to suppose that this double life of information spaces corresponds to a duality at a deep level. We might even suggest that this double realization is the key to the fundamental connection between physical processes and conscious experience. We need some sort of construct to make the link, and information seems as good a construct as any. It may be that principles concerning the double realization of information could be fleshed out into a system of basic laws connecting the physical and phenomenal domains. We might put this by suggesting as a basic principle that information (in the actual world) has two aspects, a physical and a phenomenal aspect. Wherever there is a phenomenal state, it realizes an information state, an information state that is also realized in the cognitive system of the brain. Conversely, for at least some physically realized information spaces, whenever an information state in that space is realized physically, it is also realized phenomenally... Information seems to be a simple and straightforward construct that is well suited for this sort of connection, and which may hold the promise of yielding a set of laws that are simple and comprehensive. If such a set of laws could be achieved, then we might truly have a fundamental theory of consciousness. It may just be...that there is a way of seeing information itself as fundamental.In his conclusions, Chalmers declares himself to be a mind-body dualist.
I resisted mind-body dualism for a long time, but I have now come to the point where I accept it, not just as the only tenable view but as a satisfying view in its own right. It is always possible that I am confused, or that there is a new and radical possibility that I have overlooked; but I can comfortably say that I think dualism is very likely true. I have also raised the possibility of a kind of panpsychism. Like mind-body dualism, this is initially counterintuitive, but the counterintuitiveness disappears with time. I am unsure whether the view is true or false, but it is at least intellectually appealing, and on reflection it is not too crazy to be acceptable.In recent years, Chalmers has explored panpsychism, the thesis that some fundamental entities have mental states. Thomas Nagel and Galen Strawson have also examined panpsychism. Since information is a universal property of matter, it "goes all the way down," so the basis of mentality - information - is present in the simplest physical structures.