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Institute of Advanced Study

The Mystery of the Mystery of Consciousness

Abstract

This paper takes up what has been called the ‘hard problem of consciousness’: how can we account for the presence of consciousness in the universe as described by physics? The problem can seem not simply hard but utterly hopeless. One possibility is that the problem is of our own making. We begin with various assumptions that yield a space of possible answers, none of which carries conviction. Two assumptions are identified and shown to be optional. When these are replaced by plausible alternatives the hard problem becomes, if not immediately amenable to solution, at least less hopeless.

Insights Paper