The Hard Problem

‘The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive there is a whirr of information processing but also the subjective aspect.’ So said philosopher David Chalmers, and Tom Stoppard used the phrase as title for an excellent play. In my recent post on measurement, I tried to emphasise that measurement as opposed to mere triggered response cannot be performed by machines. There is also the vivid impact of singular experience. Consider ‘The this of sense cannot be reached by the word’ – Hegel. Also ‘There is something it is like to be a bat’ Thomas Nagel and wonderful James Joyce ‘The ineluctable modality of the visible.’ The following poem tries to say something fresh, although not original, about subjectivity.

SINGULARITY

It’s not that mind was a late arrival
in the house of physics,
it was there all along with the foundations,
never left, was just taken for granted.

Reality, the consensus became,
was what could be measured,
not simply an upshot that was noticed
but examples in an ordered array.

The WOW of a giant sequoia,
thisness brimming within me,
declines to an attraction in a brochure
with tourist tiny beside it.

Imagination doesn’t make comparisons, think: the people I love.

Each one is imperfectly perfect – each one able to delight and surprise.

Imagination doesn’t make comparisons,
think: the people I love.
Each one is imperfectly perfect -
each one able to delight and surprise.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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