If not, what form of consciousness is being considered? See Chalmers, 1996, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Does proto-consciousness exist? Does consciousness arise from combination of proto-consciousness? Does the Combination Problem contribute to the Hard Problem?

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    No. The hard problem is specific to physicalism, not to humans. Any form that displays "phenomenal" properties (arguably) incompatible with physical explanations would be a problem. But physicalists will reject any hypothetical ascription of such properties as fanciful, so only cases where first hand reports are available matter to them. At present, those only come from humans, so the combination problem does not arise for physicalists. Or rather, the hard problem is their "combination problem" - to explain how elements of unconscious matter combine to display consciousness.
    – Conifold
    Nov 6 at 11:42

2 Answers 2


The combination problem is what - in the context of panpsychism - would give an answer to the "hard problem".

Wikipedia: In the philosophy of mind, panpsychism is the view that the mind or a mindlike aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. It is also described as a theory that "the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe.

Since consciousness is - and perhaps cannot be - strictly defined, in the context of the "hard problem", panpsychism and the combination problem it (consciousness) is considered (by some) even for things like electrons.

To my understanding the "hard problem" is a term highlighting the fact that the materialistic "point of view" of science seems unable to "solve the problem" of consciousness, so what are we missing here?

  • I agree. It seems to me that the hard problem only applies to physicalism - how do neurological changes relate to qualia? Panpsychism renders this question redundant.
    – Meanach
    Nov 6 at 13:20

Does the hard problem of consciousness apply only to human consciousness?

The problem is known to humans because humans have consciousness but also because they are able (if just barely) to articulate what the problem consists in. Presumably, pigs and whales and bats can't do that yet, and we cannot ask them.

Still, it is simply much more plausible that any animal with a brain has consciousness than not, even if it is more, possibly much more, limited than it is in our case.

The Hard problem is only the problem of subjective experience and of the quality of this experience. A second problem is of what we experience, and this is solved by the idea that the contents of our mind is a function of neurological processes and of perception data. Not exactly easy but definitely not as hard as the other problem.

Consciousness may mean two very different things: First, an organism is said to be conscious of its environment if it has a perception allowing it to navigate this environment successfully. All animals with a brain are clearly conscious in this sense.

Second, consciousness may be the subjective experience of the contents of our own mind in terms of qualia. For example, we may be conscious of pain, redness, fear, hunger etc. The only empirical evidence we have personally is that other people, and animals with a brain, possess consciousness in the first sense. The only entity which we know has consciousness in the second sense is ourselves.

Does proto-consciousness exist?

Animals with only a few neurons are able to navigate their environment on the basis of the data they acquire through their perception system. This is consciousness in the first sense.

The only entity which we know has consciousness in the second sense is ourselves.

Does consciousness arise from combination of proto-consciousness?

There is no substantial difference between the first-sense consciousness that we have and the one that mollusc and worms have.

Whether they also have consciousness in the second sense is anyone guess because we cannot ask them yet.

Does the Combination Problem contribute to the Hard Problem?

No. The Hard problem is just the seemingly inexplicable quality of subjective experience. How do you explain the subjective quality of redness or pain in the physical terms of the material universe?

  • Just as a supportive source: Plessner made extensive efforts (including reference to many biological experiments) to say that indeed, consciousness should be acribed to all animals that possess a central nervous system in which their body in relation to their environment is represented neurally (ie. as soon as they have a brain).
    – Philip Klöcking
    Nov 6 at 13:05
  • To clarify, my question is about consideration of consciousness, not necessarily by humans.
    – Meanach
    Nov 6 at 13:15
  • @Meanach "not necessarily by humans" See my edit. Nov 7 at 10:39
  • @Speakpigeon Thanks. I have proposed three levels of the state under consideration - awareness, sentience, and consciousness. Whether qualia are inexplicable remains to be seen.
    – Meanach
    Nov 7 at 11:03

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