Interview & discussion with Professor Joseph Levine

Consciousness is humanity’s most primary and fundamental experience yet it is also its most elusive. Just What is consciousness? This question has plagued history’s greatest philosophers and scientists. Subsequently this has produced the most polarised views that include dualism and the soul (that mind and brain are distinct) to the most reductive elements of naturalistic materialism where some even argue that what we experience as consciousness is merely an illusion that arises from modal brain states

Joseph Levine is Professor of philosophy at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is one of the world’s most distinguished thinkers in the area of consciousness and philosophy of mind. In 1983 he wrote a seminal paper titled Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap. In this paper, he developed the philosophical framework of, and coined the term, the Explanatory Gap to explicate the philosophical problem regarding the relationship between the physical and the mental – how a physical brain can produce mental phenomena. This idea has now come to be known as the Hard Problem; further elaborated by Professor David Chalmers. The Explanatory Gap and the Hard Problem has become a fundamental pillar in the debates in philosophy of mind; a debate that still rages and is as strong as ever regarding how, if and to what extent the physical brain can explain the mind? As a consequence, this makes Joseph Levine one of the most influential philosophers of the last 40 years. He received his PhD in 1981 from Harvard University. He is also the author of Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness, Oxford University Press, 2001.