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Western Philosophy
Contemporary philosophy,
Name: David John Chalmers
Birth: April 20, 1966
School/tradition: Analytic philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of mind
Notable ideas
hard problem of consciousness
Influences Influenced
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David John Chalmers (April 20, 1966 -) is a leading philosopher in the area of philosophy of mind. He is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University.


Before he moved to the Australian National University in 2004, Chalmers was Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona and prior to Arizona he taught at UC Santa Cruz. He was educated at the University of Adelaide and then briefly at Lincoln College, Oxford in the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar before studying for his PhD at Indiana University Bloomington under Douglas Hofstadter. He was a post-doctoral fellow in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program (Andy Clark, Director) at Washington University in St. Louis (1993-1995).

He is the author of the book The Conscious Mind (1996), which discusses consciousness, arguing that reductive explanations describing consciousness in terms of physical processes do not hold. The book was described by The Sunday Times as "one of the best science books of the year".


He is best known for his articulation of the hard problem of consciousness in both his book and in the paper "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" (originally published in The Journal of Consciousness Studies, 1995). He makes the distinction between easy problems of consciousness (which are, amongst others, things like finding neural correlates of sensation) and the hard problem, which could be stated "why does awareness of sensory information exist at all?" A main focus of his study is the distinction between brain biology and mental experience (known as qualia). He argues that there is an explanatory gap between these two systems, and criticizes physical explanations of mental experience, making him one of the few remaining dualists left in the philosophy world. In his argument (as it appears in his book The Conscious Mind) he creates a hypothetical philosophical zombie, which is the same as a normal person, but is missing qualia or sentience. After the publication of this paper, about 25 papers were published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies in response to the hard problem. These papers (by Daniel Dennett, Colin McGinn, Francisco Varela, Francis Crick, and Roger Penrose amongst others) were collected and published in the book Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem.

Chalmers along with Andy Clark wrote a popular article about the borders of the mind called the Extended Mind.

He is also one of the best known philosophers today advocating a viewpoint that is sympathetic with panpsychism (although he does not actively defend it).


David Chalmers has compiled what could be the largest bibliography on the philosophy of mind and related fields with close to 8000 annotated entries topically organized.

Chalmers has given talks on The Matrix, and presents a novel take on a large part of the traditionally skeptical "brain in a vat" hypothesis. He maintains that this hypothesis is not, contrary to common philosophical opinion, a skeptical hypothesis.

He serves on the editorial board of the journals Consciousness and Cognition, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and Psyche.

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