CFP: Topoi: The Hard Problem of Consciousness

Submission deadline: February 28, 2014

Topic areas


Much work in the philosophy of consciousness begins with the premise that consciousness offers a uniquely Hard Problem. This premise can lead to radical speculative metaphysics such as pan-protopsychism (Chalmers) or epiphenomenal property dualism (early Jackson). It can also be used by researchers to justify ignoring advances in consciousness studies from other disciplines. However, not everyone agrees that consciousness poses a Hard Problem and instead offer explanations of consciousness in general (Clark, Dennett, Irvine, O'Brien and Opie, Prinz) or particular conscious experiences (G.Carruthers, de Vignemont, Frith and Hohwy). Given that the existence of a Hard Problem is controversial and that it is supposed to lead to radical metaphysical conclusions we would expect that advocates of the existence of a Hard Problem would have considerable arguments in favour of their view. Often, however, the nature of problem is treated as self-evident and not argued for, despite the controversy. In this issue we wish to ask what arguments, if any, can be put forward that consciousness really does pose a uniquely hard problem and how they fare in the face of conceptual and empirical scrutiny.

Additionally work in developing theories of consciousness has led to a proliferation of hypotheses regarding the nature of consciousness. These hypotheses are motivated by empirical discoveries in numerous fields such as attention (Prinz), psychophysics (Dennett, Clark) and delusions research or psychiatry more broadly (Frith and Hohwy). As these hypotheses are developed implications for how consciousness is to be characterised emerge.

These considerations suggest a variety of questions to be posed regarding the existence of a Hard Problem. Here are some (non-prescriptive examples):

Are there good a priori reasons to believe that consciousness offers a uniquely “Hard Problem” and so demands a radically different explanation to other mental phenomena?

Is the characterisation of consciousness as ‘Hard’ plausible in light of theoretical advances? If not how is the problem of consciousness to be characterised; i.e. what is the explanatory target of a theory of consciousness?

What do various empirical discoveries about consciousness tell us about the nature of the problem we are investigating? Is it plausible that consciousness poses a hard problem in light of discoveries in attention, psychophysics or any other research?

For this issue we are interested in papers which address the status of the Hard Problem as a characterisation of consciousness from a rigorous multi-disciplinary perspective. Contributions should be accessible to anyone within the broad (multi-disciplinary) field of consciousness studies. We are open to new empirical and theoretical advances that specially address the status of the Hard problem. The guiding question for the issue is only: is the characterisation of consciousness as posing a uniquely Hard Problem reasonable?

Deadline for initial submission of papers February 28 2014

Submissions must be made using Topoi’s online submission system at:

When submitting your paper, please make sure to select “S.I.: Hard problem of consciousness (Carruthers/Schier)” in the scroll-down menu for Article Type. In preparing your article for submission, follow the guidelines available from the journal website, , under Information for Guest Editors and Authors –> Manuscript Preparation. 

If you have any questions please contact the guest editors:

Glenn Carruthers: [email protected]

Elizabeth Schier: [email protected]

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