Hitting The Hard Stuff
Does Analytic Philosophy of Mind Need Class-A Drugs?

1.0 Chalmers draws a distinction between the "hard" and the "easy" problems of consciousness. The hard problem is why consciousness exists at all. For the physical sciences are, if anything, almost too successful in their job. Everything that happens in the world seems wholly explicable in terms of mathematically well-described microphysical interactions. Our brains are made of the same stuff, and are described by the same fundamental regularities, as everything else. Consciousness, given fundamental physics, seems causally irrelevant to making things happen. Unless we're hopelessly confused in the way we conceive of the constituents of the physical world, then the very existence of a first-person phenomenology anywhere at all ought to be impossible. Given what we think we know about the nature of physical phenomena, then there isn't any room for subjectivity. Worse still, if the presumptive closed causal sufficiency of physics is granted, then consciousness shouldn't have the capacity to provoke us into asking questions about its own existence.

1.1 Yet herein lies a paradox. For The Conscious Mind, under a purely physical description, is also exactly the book a sophisticated philosophical zombie would write - given complete solutions to the relativistic quantum field equations we know and love. [Philosophical zombies, as Chalmers usefully reminds us elsewhere, shouldn't be confused with their clod-hopping Hollywood cousins; they instead enjoy a notional existence as insentient functional isomorphs to their conscious counterparts, "real people" such as you and me]. So in principle, the existence of Chalmers' book is only to be expected. It can be just "read off" the fundamental quantum mechanical equations describing our world. The solutions fall out of the equations without any need to invoke spooky stuff at all. Logically, the formalism could equally well describe, as far as we can tell, a wholly insentient universe. It's presently a mystery why it doesn't. Thus physical interactions, on the face of it, are sufficient to generate books purportedly addressing their own causal insufficiency. Bizarre.

1.2 Now I'm sceptical that Chalmers is really a zombie. My faith - dependent admittedly on a tenuous and still unnaturalised semantic realism - is instead that he's a person whose powerful self-awareness has inspired him to write a book that's literally "about" consciousness. So how could consciousness be explanatorily irrelevant? Yet my faith that he's a truly sentient being can't derive primarily from behavioural or neurophysiological data. For one's notional zombie counterpart, under some physical-cum-functional description or other, is himself in the habit of using his functional analogue of introspective analogy-spinning to draw functionally analogous conclusions about zombie-Chalmers. Likewise again, my faith in real D.C. sentience can't ultimately hinge on anything Chalmers' body has said or written either - although the published text is admirably consistent with such a hypothesis. Instead, a radically different sort of evidential base is needed to justify the claim. I'm going to argue that the intrinsic, self-intimating texture ["what it feels like"] of introspection [and not just its 'extrinsic' functional role in the informational economy of the organism] is pivotal in understanding both the existence and properties of the phenomenology of mind in the world. Fortunately - I like living dangerously - I am a practising introspectionist [Heedless sensation-seeking and painstaking experimentalism as practised in a future empirical science of mind are quite different; as indeed are soap-powders, one is told]. I admit to this defining characteristic of my working sense of self-identity even though - among scientists - introspection enjoys all the methodological kudos of auto-eroticism while inducing substantially greater guilt. If I weren't a hard-core introspectionist, and if I were a materialist to boot, I think I'd have to say that Chalmers was a zombie. He's a system which behaves, after all, in just the way a philosophically well-wrought zombie ought to behave, given the one big QM wave function posited by our best physical theory of the world.

1.3 As it is, one rather conveniently tends - when speculating about what if anything physics has omitted from its vision of Ultimate Reality - selectively to ignore the canons of formally sound inference. That way lies madness; or at least intellectual sterility. Instead, one recklessly generalises on the basis of a solitary known instance that there aren't any zombies dwelling outside the philosophical imagination. Yet whether zombies are non-existent or actually rule the earth, the single accessible counter-instance to the hypothesis of ubiquitous insentience should suffice by itself to refute materialism. Unless something akin to an all-pervasive cosmic mind-dust is inherently firing up the equations, then physics has left out an irreducible feature of the world from its otherwise omnipotent and omniscient formalism. Consciousness, Chalmers argues, is a property of the world which can't be given a reductive explanation. It is a natural phenomenon. Yet none of its Pandora's box of variants can be deduced from the world's micro-physical primitives. Once the disposition of those primitives and their interactions is specified, consciousness doesn't [and I'm here ignoring a chapterful of well-marshalled technicalities on how one set of facts can determine another set of facts] "logically supervene" on them. Consciousness does, however, naturally supervene - Chalmers doesn't give Theism or feel-good New Agery the time of day. He argues that because consciousness isn't logically entailed by its physical supervenience base, then materialism is false. Of course his zombie analogue might be systematically interpreted as claiming the same thing; and this zombie-Chalmers - if you're a meaning-externalist with a soft spot for subjunctive conditionals - would be wrong.

1.4 That's the hard problem and a lightning sketch of a few of its ramifications, notably what Chalmers aptly calls "the paradox of phenomenal judgement". Some of the "easy" problems might tax the intellects of double Nobel-laureates in their prime. Yet such "easy" neurocomputational challenges do tend to seem potentially tractable. These are the behavioural, functional, and broadly mechanistic aspects of mind whose twentieth century conflation with the hard problem of consciousness became something of a philosophical and cognitive-scientific art-form. For if one first lumps together some aspect of sentience with an aspect of insentience, proceeds deviously or naïvely to give them the same label, and then purportedly solves the mechanism responsible for the latter, then it is easy to persuade oneself one has explained the former. Even after one learns how the trick is done, it can still be fun to watch.

1.5 Chalmers' hard/easy distinction is important. Perhaps something like it is even essential for doing practical neuroscience as it is understood today. It is still, potentially, very misleading. I'll focus on two reasons why.

First, it tends, though not explicitly, to presuppose at least a recognisable descendant of a folk-realist story of perception. Perceptual direct realism assumes that one can access crude, medium-sized lumps of insentience, whether it's functionally organised or otherwise. Such mind-independent classical objects fancifully include other people's brains. These 'publicly accessible' brains and bodies serve as the objects of investigation in "easy" mechanistic neural problem-solving. Unfortunately, direct realism gives rise to wildly misconceived notions about cheesy wet neural tissues and the like. These gross and typically indistinguishable eyesores allegedly generate consciousness and 'the explanatory gap'. "Brains" as conceived by the perceptual direct realist, and many sorts of perceptual indirect realist, inspire the whole misbegotten mind/matter conundrum. By way of contrast, there is a huge convergence of quantum mechanical, neurosurgical, philosophical and psychedelic evidence that only an inferential realism about the posited mind-independent Multiverse is tenable. The very notion of 'perception' embodies a false epistemology. One can't literally get out of one's head - on acid or off it. Instead one has to rely on, and indeed one exemplifies, dynamical, (partly) environmentally-selected, connectionist simulations of distal macroscopic patterns in the local natural world. These patterns lie in a personally inaccessible mind-independent reality. That reality stretches way beyond the boundaries of the system one instantiates. The false assumption of direct waking access to a classical macroscopic world of insentient objects is an immensely adaptive piece of neuromythology bequeathed to us by evolution; and it dies hard. The idea that phenomenal tables, chairs and classical objects in general - including, crucially, the soggy grey brains of scientific mythology - are autobiographical constructs takes some getting used to, even as a hypothesis. So do some of its consequences; for example, that both people's dreaming- and waking- virtual worlds are described by the covertly indexical concepts of innumerable individual idiolects masquerading as public language i.e. "public" speech is really mentalese. Common-sense is nothing of the kind; or not around here, at any rate. I'm going to argue that the alleged asymmetry of epistemic access to private and notionally public arenas is a delusive but fitness-enhancing adaptation of Darwinian minds. For many purposes, of course, one cares - or wants to care - about whatever in the mind-independent world our dynamical simulations causally co-vary with (etc) - rather than the intrinsic properties of the medium of simulation itself. This approach won't work when investigating the nature of consciousness. In the Mythology of Neural Porridge below, I argue that if Schopenhauer's notorious World-Knot is to be unravelled, then both the unique classical macroscopic world of the direct realist and the matter-myth it spawns will have to be recognised as just ill-reified chunks of folk-psychology.

1.6 Second, there would be desperate difficulties to the hard/easy dichotomy even if something akin to direct perceptual realism were true. The "easy" problems of neural processing, behavioural discrimination, information integration and the like can themselves be thought about only via a cognitive medium whose properties exemplify part of the hard problem itself. The properties of the subtle - and tantalisingly elusive - phenomenology of cognition infect the hypothetical "propositional content" of everything we think we know. This includes thought-episodes notionally "about" the supposedly easy functional mechanisms of brain and behaviour - and the objective, third-person Scientific Image - which some of us trust we can more-or-less-in-principle understand. If we're utterly at sea, and not just faintly puzzled, about the nature of this medium itself, then we can't be confident that its linguiform structural variations can be used as neutral problem-solving tools to tackle 'easy' problems. So just how badly contaminated is the nominal vehicle of contentful thought?

1.7 We don't really know. Yet if one is brave or foolhardy enough to investigate, there is empirically-derived, experimentally-accessible evidence - and not just late-night Kantian lucubrations or after-hours bar-room chitchat - that the generic "medium" of our thoughts is radically shaping their intentional content as well. [Intentionality in philosophy-speak is the property of 'object-directedness' possessed indifferently by brains-in-vats and brains-in-skulls; but not IMO by (superficially) isomorphic non-organic robots]. The relevance if any of the intrinsic intentional quality possessed by one's thought - to its [notional(?)(!)] relational extrinsic content is moot. Yet - to walk with alcoholic insouciance right through an academic minefield - it is the varying intrinsic intentional content of one's occurrent thought-episodes - functionally-described or otherwise - together with their generic texture that exhausts one's conception of Reality. One's conception of Reality can't literally stretch to the personally inaccessible relational content one trusts some of one's thought-episodes enjoy - and to which all but solipsists subscribe. Change, not just the individual flavour, but the generic what-it's-likeness of thought, and you've generated a new virtual reality as well. And change it one can.

1.8 A bit of cautious empiricism (a.k.a. 'drug-abuse': the value-neutrality of science is a fiction to edify the children and divert the groundlings] suggests that a generic aspect of everyday thought is shaping the background assumptions of one's way of life via means which mundane awareness simply doesn't and can't suspect. If you chemically manipulate the nominal medium or vehicle of your thought, then you, it, and the intrinsic notional content of your thoughts take on namelessly alien properties. Aspects of awake thought which aren't explicitly represented within its workaday operations can eerily change or disappear too. These ineffable aspects of thought, one may infer if not feeling too shell-shocked, have been shaping one's implicit conception of Reality to a much greater degree than the focal and expressly named compositional variations one would more normally expect to argue about. "Difference is all the mind's input devices can detect, and difference is in a sense all the mind is there to consider and respond to" (Gregory Bateson). If there are deep, currently unfathomable presuppositions or background assumptions implicit in all our drug-naïve thought-episodes, then it's hard to see how they can be individuated or articulated within that state-specific medium itself. One can't very easily hop outside one's current mode of consciousness for a quick reality-check; or not by any obvious orthodox route.

1.9 So one may ask: just how strong is the evidence - if any - that the key facets and assumptions of our ideas on reality are explicitly represented within our conceptual scheme? In discounting the existence of what is normally unexpressed, and is perhaps currently inexpressible, just how confident can we be that we're not neglecting the defining features of our normal mode of existence?

1.10 A further question. Must good philosophy be methodologically self-conscious? No, I think, but it does help. Practising scientists may find meta-philosophical discussions bring a whiff of meta-verbiage about verbiage. Philosophy in-the-raw can be bad enough. Heaven help us when philosophy itself starts getting self-conscious. [Who knows, perhaps future mental-health professionals will diagnose some forms of philosophising as a mood-congruent hyper-cholinergic personality-disorder. Unusually, Chalmers himself seems a cheerily good-natured soul. QM again, I suppose.]

1.11 Sometimes admittedly it's hard to stifle a yawn at what one darkly suspects is mere authorial throat-clearing. Yet the methodological chasm separating the study of mind from all other scientific fields runs far deeper than it needs to. We carry enough cognitive handicaps as it is. The disastrous intellectual consequences of academia's self-denying ordinance on an experimentalist philosophy of mind don't just permeate all our belief-episodes and their notional content. The consequences also infect the dime-a-dozen macroscopic virtual worlds which naive realists and pre-Everett quantum mechanics misconstrue as mind-independent realities too. For folk-physics and folk-perception manage safely to palm off many of mind's properties onto what are only some of its specialised modules; though the thoroughness of the evacuation-process admittedly varies. On such a diagnosis, then consciousness is not some discrete puzzle which can be semantically or evidentially quarantined from the rest of our professed knowledge. Barring our quasi-magical unmediated access to the rest of the world, then simply varying - let alone explaining - its generic properties is likely to change our conception of everything else too.

1.12 Now in spite of its well-flagged pledge to treat consciousness seriously, The Conscious Mind itself belongs to the often rarefied scholarly genre known, mouth-wateringly enough, as analytic philosophy. Hence its author neither preaches nor practises the study of consciousness as an experimental discipline. Whether through prudence or principle, Chalmers' method of investigation doesn't include emulating Nature's intrepid chemical psychonauts - or at any rate not in any very high amplitude part of the Universal Wave Function.

1.13 Physicists, on the one hand, spend taxpayers' billions pushing their theories to the limit so as to learn from where they break down. Neuroscientists, likewise, find they discover most from abnormal, mutilated or systematically manipulated brains. By contrast, professional philosophers of mind don't explore what we might - using enemy idiom - describe as abnormal, mutilated or systematically manipulated consciousness much further than a bit of genteel pipe-puffing. In fact practitioners of the Oxonian branch traditionally haven't investigated its altered states much beyond the tipsiness induced by after-dinner port. The methodological shortcomings of the a priori approach to their subject-matter are at least as grave as those of its experimentalist rival. Yet this is a field where a conspicuous absence of first-hand experience is frequently taken as a badge of intellectual authority.

1.14 There is an irony to the gaping deficit in both the analytic and the - optimistically self-christened - cognitive-scientific literature. [I could of course be missing some real gems. I'm not one of the cloistered mandarinate myself. But with a few props on a dark night I could probably pass myself off as an analytic philosopher; and Chalmers' sure-footed on-line bibliography confirms one's suspicion that apriorism runs rampant in the discipline as a whole]. The irony is that the empirical method - though scarcely naive empiricism - is presently accorded a somewhat awe-struck deference by most of the big beasts of today's philosophical jungle. It's almost as if physics-envy has sapped the manhood of an otherwise worldly, truculent, and testosterone-driven bunch of Anglo-American alpha-male philosophers; and left in its place a bunch of chastened and neutered flag-wavers for the ideology of scientific materialism. For when it comes to empirically manipulating the lone accessible instance of consciousness which anyone has to go on, namely one's own, then one searches the received texts in vain for some glimmering of cognitive dissonance at the neglect of experiment. At the very least - if one's not going to take one's theories for an empirical test-drive - then one really needs to offer some compelling, albeit again presumably a priori, justification of the unique epistemic legitimacy of apriorism in one's professional area of expertise.

1.15 These strictures might better be levelled at materialist philosophers than Chalmers. In some ways, undoubtedly, The Conscious Mind is all the better for its author's abstinence from first-person experiment. Casual use of psychedelics rarely promotes clarity of exposition or penetrating analysis. Moreover no one who's tempted to try chemically-catalysed psychedelic paradigm-hopping can make an informed choice of what they're letting themselves in for. Afterwards, too, there's no guarantee that retired experimentalists will be wholly able, or indeed willing, to revert to a drug-naïve innocence as if nothing had changed. By the lights of medievals too, I suppose, the slippery slope symbolically begun with looking down Galileo's telescope has lead to ever-escalating levels of mind-rotting gibberish as well. The revolutionary implications of taking the experimental method really seriously can't be spelled out in advance - whether conducted in its first- or third- person guise. The effects of its application may sometimes last indefinitely - even if unsophisticated early efforts result in the functional equivalent of blowing up the school chemistry labs and being put out to grass. Even so, for better or worse, the state-dependence of memory is likely to leave most of psychedelia cognitively inaccessible, once again, even to its one-time initiates. Perhaps their post-experimental musings deserve to be listened to with the respect usually given to the philosophical reflections of retired scientists.

1.16 In consequence of traditional neglect, however, the significance of none of the outlandish and often incommensurable realms of mental life opened up by, say, the dissociative anaesthetics - such deceitfully anodyne labels - is tackled in The Conscious Mind. Someday, somehow, some sort of strategic meta-research program to encompass them all must be launched. Otherwise academic philosophy of mind as traditionally practised threatens to become part of a stagnating and degenerate research program. It's a tradition which presently shows no promise of yielding even a decent taxonomy of consciousness, let alone a framework of explanation. The integration of psychedelia into a some sort of unitary world-picture is vital if our trans-human successors are to have any kind of proper notion of What Is Reality - minus the embarrassed scare quotes - unless Reality itself is written off, lazily and amorally, as just another pipe-dream.

1.17 Systematic psychedelic research will demand a much higher order of methodological sophistication then anything found in the physical sciences today. For the incommensurability of paradigms, if the phrase hadn't been appropriated for the purposes of ridicule, is a notion much better fitted to different psycho-chemical modes of existence than for intra-modal scientific disputes. This is not least because changing the generic texture of thought (and all the other, notionally uncerebral sorts of experience) induces a global semantic shift of narrow content. There just doesn't seem to be any Olympian, God's-eye mode from which (one day!) the nature and peculiar state-specific semantic content of all the others modes can be impartially accessed and appraised. One can't rule out that such modes exist; but professed arguments that they do simply beg the question. And the meta-language to describe all the possible individual first-order languages which the state-space of alien modes could sustain is not currently in prospect.

1.18 The news gets worse. An extension of the experimental method is needed even more urgently in consciousness studies than in natural science [where top-rank mathematical physicists - superstringers, loop theorists and the like - have learned to regard it as a bit dated; especially when treated to the story-book sloganeering of earthier colleagues]. Even in one's everyday, chemically unenriched waking slumbers, sentience is unimaginably more diverse - intuitively, at any rate - than insentience. Some of the potential boundaries of the concept must be experimentally investigated even to delimit and classify what will need explaining. Lining up all one's intellectual targets instead so they can be knocked down with the same argumentative bowling ball is satisfyingly economical of time and effort. It may even work when one's target is refuting materialism - for the category of insentience apparently lends itself to easy generalisation across otherwise disparate objects. Yet for positive theorising rather than scholarly hatchet-work, a much more adventurous and ambitious strategy is required. The implicit claim of semantic privilege to a single mode of ordinary sentience - non-coincidentally one's own - and the recruitment of one ordinary "cognitive" mode to think about both " easy" and "hard" problems, begs answers to a host of questions we haven't empirically examined. Not even the most brilliant intellect working from within our parochial psycho-chemical ghetto can hope to apprehend the properties of alien state spaces of consciousness simply by hard thought in one narrow DNA-driven mind-set alone. It isn't psycho-physiologically possible. One might as well try mentally to hum a symphony to oneself in purple: the concepts and psycho-physical substrates are different.

1.19 This isn't to discount any essentialist working definition of consciousness as unviable. Intuitively, as Nagel has stressed, the single generic property of what-it's-likeness captures its minimal defining feature. Indeed, the radical panpsychist monism to be canvassed in this review will be tenable only if all modes of consciousness are, in a sense, variations on a single theme. Yet if, speaking loosely and elliptically, existence and mathematical what-it's-likeness are co-extensive [as I shall argue], then it's a very big and varied theme. Moreover speculations on potential common feature of all experience can induce a dangerous complacency. For what-it's-likeness - construed field-theoretically by the panpsychist as minimal and self-intimating rather than person-specific - is a variable which takes such a huge immensity and diversity of values that a single here-and-now frame-of-consciousness can't be confident it knows what it's supposedly generalising about.

1.20 This is because our weirdly familiar and subtle everyday "cognitive" modes of consciousness aren't innocent vehicles for conceptual thought. Some notion of the extent to which even so-called propositional thought is inseparable from the phenomenology of consciousness can be derived only by more-or-less systematically varying the properties of the generic medium in which it more-or-less serially occurs. A (very) motley bunch of Wittgensteinians, Fregeans and their camp-followers will chafe at this idiom. Doesn't it all amount to just so much psychologistic anecdotage? Who cares what one of my thoughts feels like - or anyone else's?

1.21 Well, the phenomenal texture of one's thoughts, and the phenomenal texture of the experiential manifold in which they're embedded, determines what one thinks the world is like. This is so independently of whatever role that texture may or may not possess in fixing any inaccessibly extrinsic 'relational' content which one's thought-episodes sometimes may, or may not, spirit into existence. Locating real, spatio-temporal episodes of thought within the causal structure of the world will be essential to any serious naturalising project. And since natural selection specialises in masterly con-jobs like teleology and function, then it's hard to be confident that simulating an autonomous abstract realm of disembodied "broad" meanings and logical inference isn't one of them. One just has to assume otherwise. In principle, after all, super-sophisticated civilisations of computational A-life could be evolved within our computers in which semantic properties are merely simulated rather than exemplified. In principle, perhaps, a truth-functional semantics could be computationally simulated by our future digital lifeforms far more tightly than is feasible with the putative relational content of our own broadly indeterminate meanings. Often, however, it's essential to award oneself a capacity for full-blown rather than virtual semantic realism, if only to avoid paradoxes of self-reference and semantic solipsism; but then a selective capacity for make-believe has always been a vital component of both mental health and intellectual progress.

1.22 As it is, my briefly entertaining the thought that, say, the moon is made of green cheese and my occurrent belief in the rough accuracy of Newton's inverse square law of gravity have a lot in common: introspectively, they're just minor shifts in one kind of state-specific cognitive tickle, regardless of their different relational status to the mind-independent world. The generic texture of that tickle shapes one's conception of reality irrespective of the systematic logico-inferential properties etc which its variations may or may not possess. "What's it like to have a thought?", however, is not a question which echoes through the groves of contemporary academe.

1.23 The significance of mutating the generic mode in which thinking is conducted is easily missed by the drug-naïve. 'What's-he-on-about?' it may be asked. For we won't be able to verbalise the phenomenology of what we find to someone who doesn't substantially share it. Establishing the psychoneural correlates of who shares what with whom involves a host of practical problems and controversial notions of type-type identities. The more radical and interesting the generic shift, the harder it is to say anything sensible about it. For now, at least, then Sapir-Whorf, anti-private language arguments plus do-it-yourself psychedelia equals cognitive catastrophe. It simply isn't possible ostensively to define for non-initiates the plethora of new semantic primitives for which new generic thought-media will ultimately call.

1.24 For what it's worth, in other psychochemical guises I do have my own limited in-house set of incommunicably novel semantic primitives. Yet in the absence of laboratory-controlled experiments in which other subjects undergo type-similar psychochemical cascades, then the private meanings and experiences of alien Daves remain vulnerable to well-rehearsed verificationist and beetle-in-the-box arguments; just like consciousness itself in fact. This sort of obstacle to progress, at least, is a reflection of the hidebound institutional structures of present-day science and academia; not a law of nature. In a happier post-HI age, co-ordinated and controlled research will begin in earnest. Simply syntactically combining the new primitives into the deliverances of a full-blown language, let alone harnessing its conceptual resources as part of a mature cultural tradition, may yet take millennia of exploration in modes of being which can now only fleetingly be glimpsed; and in some cases not glimpsed at all.

1.25 None of this should be misread as a plea for analytic philosophers and cognitive scientists to desert the scholasticism of the Academy for a reckless binge on psychedelic cocktails. Uninhibited use of today's psycho-toxic chemical agents is not, I think, a likely recipe for incisive and penetrating thought. Alexander Shulgin, not Timothy Leary or Terrence McKenna, serves as the role model for the cognoscenti - admittedly in a realm where, to be fair, the whole lot of us are only floundering stone-age dilettanti.

1.26 Moreover it's worth stressing there are indeed immense mental wastelands as well as intellectual treasure-troves waiting to be discovered in mental terra incognita. It's not a case of simple pharmacological shake-and-stir. Many presently-accessible drug-induced states of consciousness exhibit all the intellectual depth of 'Neighbours' and the edifying uplift of glue-sniffing. Not everyone, the uncharitable might claim, has the imagination even to have a bad trip. Further, some crude psychedelic agents induce post-synaptic psychochemical cascades which are too complex and unpredictable in their effects to allow fellow-trippers even the illusion of a shared mode of experience. Barring any consistency of behavioural responses or relative constancy of subjective psychophysical state induced, they are effectively off-limits to scientific research for the foreseeable future. Moreover a vast combinatorial explosion sets in. More radically still, whole topologies of mental weight-space may, I suspect, be completely and eternally untamable conceptually. Here truly there be monsters; and, flippancy aside, far worse.

1.27 Indeed, there is another danger here. By slipping into the sort of racy but comfortable academicisms best calculated to win a [wincing?] scholarly audience, then this plea to take naturalising the mind really seriously may deceive author and website visitor alike. This is because the states of mind fit for digesting "cognitive science" and analytic philosophy of mind, whether jazzed up a bit by a Golden House Sparrow or treated with due solemnity and traditional gravitas, are foreign and semantically blind to the raw wild hyper-weirdness of what I'm on about. There aren't any homely translation manuals or true multi-lingual, multi-paradigm adepts to hold one's hand along the way. As with consciousness itself, one is, ultimately, all on one's own. Surgically granting a blind man the gift of sight, to reach for the usual tired but serviceable sort of perceptual analogy, doesn't suddenly confer visual literacy or articulacy on the recipient. On the contrary, and even with all the advantages of a mature, pre-digested conceptual scheme presented him on a plate, the newly-sighted subject may struggle for years to make sense of his new universe of experience.

1.28 This sort of problem applies to the far more revolutionary, introspectively-intimated cognitive and affective analogues of sensory modes of consciousness opened up by psychedelia. Unfortunately, in such modes there is no mature canon of psychedelic theory to help enculture the experience. Understandably, the literature is mostly pretty dreadful. Lapsing again into more accessible sensory analogies, it's as if, say, one had to talk about sound in the language of olfaction: if one's audience were congenitally anosmic, then one's own intellectual and linguistic resources might be over-stretched too. When the new phenomena created are modes of introspective awareness which confer no new behavioral discriminative capacities, then a drug-naïve audience will probably find what one says even more vacuous.

1.29 Perhaps it's worth recalling initial scientific scepticism toward synesthesia. Natural synesthetes experience the transposition of sensory modalities more commonly associated with good acid. Synesthetes who report 'oblong tastes', 'coloured vowels', 'green odours', 'salty visions', and (in one case) 'technicolor orgasms' were once derided sooner than an Oxford voice could cry 'category mistake'. Moreover there are some incommensurable modes of altered introspective consciousness about which one can't even talk nonsense. In consequence of psychedelia's present ineffability, however, and of every ill-advised and culturally-refracted instance of drug-induced babbling born of hapless attempts to express the ineffable [such as? ed], there flourishes a robust but sloppy-minded verificationism among traditional apriorist philosophers of mind i.e. those that don't take psychedelic drugs. This allows them to dismiss altered states, insofar as they even get a look-in, with a breezy rhetorical flourish: Where's the beef? If all that psychedelia can deliver beyond New Age witterings is superficial generalities and woolly-minded generalisations, then why take it seriously? Let's get back to real work.

1.30 This response is far too glib; but then the village-verificationist is always with us. Normally we are protected from the uncharted dimensions of our ignorance of most forms of consciousness. So we've no way of knowing what we're missing. The hope that there are relatively 'easy' as well as hard problems of consciousness, which can be resolved within the neural and computational paradigms, covertly depends on our supposed enjoyment of a privileged vehicle within which the investigation can be conducted. So are there substantive grounds for claiming such psychic super-user status?

1.31 I'm still looking. Alas, the everyday waking consciousness of hunter-gatherer minds doesn't straightforwardly enjoy, whatever one may question-beggingly presuppose, Archimedean privileges to which all other generic modes of being must be subordinated. One can't explain what one can't even cognitively access. Grant, to take a toy example, that in two radically different generic modes of consciousness, the nominally same organism (e.g. a DP) can exert a similar capacity both behaviourally to manipulate its environment and pay lip service to the nominally type-identical QM physical formalism describing the world. Given that one occupies systematically co-varying alien states of consciousness, then what is it that these mutually more-or-less inaccessible virtual worlds both share? Their respective textures define what one thinks the world is like - both the virtual world simulation and the metaphysical Multiverse they're presumably all stuck in. Yet insofar as these modes are mutually accessible to 'memory' at all, they seem ineffably different. Evolutionary epistemology can't straightforwardly be used to underwrite one generic mode rather than the other; any more than it can be used to underwrite the supposedly mind-independent phenomenal greenness of grass when other types of what-it's-likeness could have done the same functional job. So which, if either - or any - mode of experience should be privileged? The introspective and semantic analogues to the problem of spectrum inversion are, I think, much more profound in their sceptical implications than its usual gaudy sensory puzzle-cases. They are certainly far harder to express.

1.32 But I can't prove this a priori. Until the state-enforced and Inquisitorial censorship of knowledge peculiar to outlawed states of consciousness is lifted, then overground academic researchers will be immersed, often without knowing it, within the often sterile and sometimes cosily common-sensical confines of one state-specific medium. Occupants of its impoverished semantic and evidential base need a dose of drastic - but not too drastic - simulated annealing if consciousness studies is not to run the danger of congealing into a stagnant if often shark-infested puddle of debate. Regrettably, an empirically-grounded strategy can be ethically and responsibly advocated only when the genetically-engineered substrates for happy tripping predicted by HI become ubiquitous. Only then can wholesale research begin. To my mind the moral urgency of HI wholly eclipses its beneficent intellectual spin-offs. Yet when the momentous phase-change to universal well-being occurs - whatever the time-scale - the epistemic pay-off will be awe-inspiring beyond our wildest imagination.

1.33 More immediately, the incongruous attitude to the empirical method is a vice which bedevils cognitive science and the armchair traditions of mainstream analytic philosophy of mind as a whole. Within this effectively pre-Galilean context - safe-surfing visitors to HedWeb expecting bland textual exegesis and good old-fashioned peer-reviewed commentary might do best to leave the site altogether - Chalmers is in total command of his material. One can only marvel at his enviable but wholly unobtrusive familiarity with the literature. Deplorably, one can find oneself relying on Chalmers rather than chasing up original texts. As far as I can tell he is, with few exceptions, a disconcertingly reliable guide.