The hard problem of consciousness is stated as- 'why objective, mechanical processing can give rise to subjective experiences.'

If we assume the universe to be a Turing machine, it appears to me that we are basically asking why some of the bits on the tape of some Turing machine also come along with a subjective experience, evidence for which exists in at least one case, one's own.

So, it appears that we are asking why we, as entities with subjective experiences, exist.

Is this correct?

  • 1
    No. The question why we have qualia has nothing to do with the question why we exist. We could have existed without qualia, or something else could have existed with them. And we cannot assume that the universe is a Turing machine because Turing machines are abstractions that have neither physical properties nor qualia. It would have to be, at least, some physically realized enhancement of them with extra powers.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 10:59
  • Well you could, in a bit different phrasing, say what you're saying and then say the question is nonsensical, but that would be assuming the conclusion. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 13:55
  • @Conifold If the universe contains at least one Turing machine, doesn't that make it a Turing machine? Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 15:13
  • 1
    I think this is partially correct. When a person dies, we say they ceased to exist. What is the mitigating factor here... it is the permanent end of "subjective experience" If I cease to have any experience, I'm either asleep or dead. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 15:41
  • If you're asking how the asking subject exists, the thing which doesn't exist without qualia, and in a sense only has qualia, then yes. The hard problem asks how qualia arise.
    – J Kusin
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 4:15

1 Answer 1


No, it is not asking why we exist. We could exist without consciousness, just as many people (excepting panpsychists) suppose rocks, water, teabags and so on exist without consciousness. The hard problem of consciousness is to explain how phenomenal consciousness (including qualia) comes about from, or is facilitated by, material processes in the brain.

  • Depends on if "we" refers to the body or to the subject of experience. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 15:42
  • 1
    I agree with @AmeetSharma 's comment. By my own existence, I did not mean the existence of my physical state. I meant the existence of my sense of existence itself that I am experiencing, along with qualia and other things. So, you seem to be saying that the question is not as to why I (as this entity which has these subjective experiences) exist. The question is how it emerges from the physical world. But I am not so sure about that. Chalmers seems to be posing it as a why question rather than a how question. For eg. see Wikipedia or the definition I quoted in my question.
    – Prem
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 5:44
  • 4
    @prem with the greatest of respect, you should have made that clear in your question. Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 5:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .