Hard, harder, hardest

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


In this paper, I discuss three problems of consciousness. The first two have been dubbed the “Hard Problem” and the “Harder Problem”. The third problem has received less attention and I will call it the “Hardest Problem”. The Hard Problem is a metaphysical and explanatory problem concerning the nature of conscious states. The Harder Problem is epistemological, and it concerns whether we can know, given physicalism, whether some creature physically different from us is conscious. The Hardest Problem is a problem about reference. Recently some philosophers-among them David Papineau-who advocate a physicalist approach to both the Hard and the Harder problem have called into question the commonsense assumption that phenomenal concepts-subjective concepts that we apply directly to experience-refer determinately (modulo vagueness) to real properties that can be instantiated in minds other than my own. The Hardest Problem is the problem of explaining how, given physicalism, this assumption could be true. In this paper, I explore how these three problems appear from the perspective of a physicalist approach to consciousness - the “phenomenal concept strategy” - based on Brian Loar’s account of phenomenal concepts. My contention is that this approach can go quite far in handling not just the first two problems but the Hardest Problem as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSensations, thoughts, Language
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Brian Loar
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781351017428
ISBN (Print)9781138497979
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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