A Steam Engine for Consciousness

Consciousness is a problem that is so difficult to comprehend that even its definition is disputed. But we don’t have to engage in semantic debates to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge that stands before us. Generally speaking, the problem of consciousness can be divided into two separate categories: one “easy” and one “hard”.

The Easy Problem of Consciousness

Philosopher David Chalmbers defined the easy problems of consciousness as problems that are concerned with behavior and the mechanistic analysis of neural processes that accompany behavior. This includes, for example, how sensory data is processed in the brain, how sensory data influences behavior and language, the neural basis of thought and emotion, and so on. These are problems that can be analyzed through "structures and functions".

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

By contrast, Chalmers defined the hard problems of consciousness as problems relating to why and how those neural processes are accompanied by experience. For example, why are certain brain processes accompanied by this particular sensory experience rather than another? In other words, the hard problem is the problem of explaining why certain neural mechanisms are accompanied by conscious experience.