What is the nature of consciousness? Asking the question is simple, but determining the answer is not. Consciousness can seem utterly familiar, even mundane. People excuse themselves for "unconsciously" ignoring someone at a party or profess that they seek to "expand their consciousness." But a true understanding of the phenomenon remains elusive.
How do the brain's physical systems work together to create the subjective experiences of the mind--the self-reflective, private thoughts that make us who we are? Noting the difficulty of using empirical science to quantify something so subjective, David J. Chalmers, a philosopher at the University of Arizona, has dubbed this the "hard problem" [see "The Puzzle of Conscious Experience," by David J. Chalmers; Scientific American, December 1995].
This article was originally published with the title The Quest to Find Consciousness.