David Chalmers
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David John Chalmers (; born 20 April 1966) is an Australian
philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Suc ...
and cognitive scientist specializing in the areas of
philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often ...
and
philosophy of language In analytic philosophy, philosophy of language investigates the nature of language and the relations between language, language users, and the world. Investigations may include inquiry into the nature of Meaning (philosophy of language), meanin ...
. He is a professor of philosophy and neural science at
New York University New York University (NYU) is a private university, private research university in New York City. Chartered in 1831 by the New York State Legislature, NYU was founded by a group of New Yorkers led by then-United States Secretary of the Treasu ...
, as well as co-director of NYU's Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness (along with Ned Block). In 2006, he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. In 2013, he was elected a Fellow of the
American Academy of Arts & Sciences The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (abbreviation: AAA&S) is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States of America, United States. It was founded in 1780 during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bow ...
. Chalmers is best known for formulating the
hard problem of consciousness The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why and how humans have qualia or Consciousness#Types of consciousness, phenomenal experiences. This is in contrast to the "easy problems" of explaining the physical systems that give ...
. He and David Bourget cofounded PhilPapers, a database of journal articles for philosophers.


Early life and education

Chalmers was born in
Sydney Sydney ( ) is the capital city of the States and territories of Australia, state of New South Wales, and the most populous city in both Australia and List of cities in Oceania by population, Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metro ...
,
New South Wales ) , nickname = , image_map = New South Wales in Australia.svg , map_caption = Location of New South Wales in AustraliaCoordinates: , subdivision_type = Country , subdivision_name = Australia , established_title = Before federation , es ...
, in 1966, and subsequently grew up in
Adelaide Adelaide ( ) is the list of Australian capital cities, capital city of South Australia, the state's largest city and the list of cities in Australia by population, fifth-most populous city in Australia. "Adelaide" may refer to either Greater A ...
,
South Australia South Australia (commonly abbreviated as SA) is a States and territories of Australia, state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of , it is the fourth-largest o ...
, where he attended Unley High School. As a child, he experienced
synesthesia Synesthesia (American English) or synaesthesia (British English) is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who rep ...
. He began coding and playing computer games at age 10 on a
PDP-10 Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)'s PDP-10, later marketed as the DECsystem-10, is a mainframe computer family manufactured beginning in 1966 and discontinued in 1983. 1970s models and beyond were marketed under the DECsystem-10 name, especi ...
at a medical center. He also performed exceptionally in
mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in modern mathematics ...
, and secured a bronze medal in the
International Mathematical Olympiad The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is a mathematical olympiad for pre-university A university () is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education and research whi ...
. When Chalmers was 13 he read
Douglas Hofstadter Douglas Richard Hofstadter (born February 15, 1945) is an American scholar of cognitive science, physics, and comparative literature whose research includes concepts such as the sense of self in relation to the external world, consciousness, ...
's 1979 book '' Gödel, Escher, Bach'', which awakened an interest in philosophy. Chalmers received his undergraduate degree in pure mathematics from the
University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide (informally Adelaide University) is a public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. Th ...
in Australia. After graduating Chalmers spent six months reading philosophy books while hitchhiking across Europe, before continuing his studies at the
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
, where he was a
Rhodes Scholar The Rhodes Scholarship is an international Postgraduate education, postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom. Established in 1902, it is the oldest graduate scholarship in the world. It is con ...
but eventually withdrew from the course. In 1993, Chalmers received his
PhD PHD or PhD may refer to: * Doctor of Philosophy A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin: or ') is the most common Academic degree, degree at the highest academic level awarded following a course of study. PhDs are awarded for pro ...
in philosophy and cognitive science from
Indiana University Bloomington Indiana University Bloomington (IU Bloomington, Indiana University, IU, or simply Indiana) is a public university, public research university in Bloomington, Indiana. It is the flagship university, flagship campus of Indiana University and, with ...
under
Douglas Hofstadter Douglas Richard Hofstadter (born February 15, 1945) is an American scholar of cognitive science, physics, and comparative literature whose research includes concepts such as the sense of self in relation to the external world, consciousness, ...
, writing a doctoral thesis entitled ''Toward a Theory of Consciousness''. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program directed by
Andy Clark Andy Clark, (born 1957) is a British people, British philosopher who is Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at the University of Sussex. Prior to this, he was at professor of philosophy and Chair (official), Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at th ...
at Washington University in St. Louis from 1993 to 1995.


Career

In 1994, Chalmers presented a lecture at the inaugural Toward a Science of Consciousness conference. According to an article in the ''
Chronicle of Higher Education ''The Chronicle of Higher Education'' is a newspaper and website that presents news, information, and jobs for college and Faculty (academic staff), university faculty and student affairs professionals (staff members and administrators). A subscr ...
'', this "lecture established Chalmers as a thinker to be reckoned with and goosed a nascent field into greater prominence." He went on to coorganize the conference (now renamed "The Science of Consciousness") for some years with Stuart Hameroff, but stepped away when it became too divergent from mainstream science. Chalmers is also a founding member of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, as well as one of its past presidents. Having established his reputation, Chalmers received his first professorship the following year, at UC Santa Cruz, from August 1995 to December 1998. In 1996, while teaching there, he published the widely cited book ''
The Conscious Mind ''The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory'' was published in 1996, and is the first book written by David Chalmers, an Australian philosopher specialising in philosophy of mind. Though the book has been Hard problem of consciousness, ...
''. Chalmers was subsequently appointed Professor of Philosophy (1999–2004) and, subsequently, Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies (2002–2004) at the
University of Arizona The University of Arizona (Arizona, U of A, UArizona, or UA) is a Public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1885 by the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature, it was the first ...
, sponsor of the conference that had first brought him to prominence. In 2004, Chalmers returned to Australia, encouraged by an ARC Federation Fellowship, becoming professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Consciousness at the
Australian National University The Australian National University (ANU) is a public research university located in Canberra, the capital of Australia. Its main campus in Acton, Australian Capital Territory, Acton encompasses seven teaching and research colleges, in additio ...
. Chalmers accepted a part-time professorship at the philosophy department of
New York University New York University (NYU) is a private university, private research university in New York City. Chartered in 1831 by the New York State Legislature, NYU was founded by a group of New Yorkers led by then-United States Secretary of the Treasu ...
in 2009, and then a full-time professorship there in 2014. In 2013, Chalmers was elected a Fellow of the
American Academy of Arts & Sciences The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (abbreviation: AAA&S) is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States of America, United States. It was founded in 1780 during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bow ...
. He is an editor on topics in the
philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often ...
for the ''
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (''SEP'') combines an online encyclopedia of philosophy with scholarly peer review, peer-reviewed publication of original papers in philosophy, freely accessible to Internet users. It is maintained by S ...
''. In May 2018, it was announced that he would serve on the jury for the Berggruen Prize.


Philosophical work


Philosophy of mind

Chalmers is best known for formulating what he calls the "
hard problem of consciousness The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why and how humans have qualia or Consciousness#Types of consciousness, phenomenal experiences. This is in contrast to the "easy problems" of explaining the physical systems that give ...
," in both his 1995 paper "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" and his 1996 book ''
The Conscious Mind ''The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory'' was published in 1996, and is the first book written by David Chalmers, an Australian philosopher specialising in philosophy of mind. Though the book has been Hard problem of consciousness, ...
''. He makes a distinction between "easy" problems of consciousness, such as explaining object discrimination or verbal reports, and the single hard problem, which could be stated "why does the ''feeling'' which accompanies awareness of sensory information exist at all?" The essential difference between the (
cognitive Cognition refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses all aspects of intellectual functions and processes such as: perception Perceptio ...
) easy problems and the (
phenomenal A phenomenon (: phenomena) is an observable In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the rel ...
) hard problem is that the former are at least theoretically answerable via the dominant strategy in the philosophy of mind:
physicalism In philosophy, physicalism is the metaphysical thesis that "everything is physics, physical", that there is "nothing over and above" the physical, or that everything supervenience, supervenes on the physical. Physicalism is a form of ontological mo ...
. Chalmers argues for an "explanatory gap" from the objective to the subjective, and criticizes physicalist explanations of mental experience, making him a dualist. Chalmers characterizes his view as " naturalistic dualism": naturalistic because he believes mental states
supervene In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied o ...
"naturally" on physical systems (such as brains); dualist because he believes mental states are ontologically distinct from and not reducible to physical systems. He has also characterized his view by more traditional formulations such as ''
property dualism Property dualism describes a category of positions in the philosophy of mind which hold that, although the world is composed of just one kind of substance theory, substance—Materialism, the physical kind—there exist two distinct kinds of pro ...
''. In support of this, Chalmers is famous for his commitment to the logical (though, not natural) possibility of
philosophical zombie A philosophical zombie or p-zombie argument is a thought experiment in philosophy of mind that imagines a hypothetical being that is physically identical to and indistinguishable from a normal person but does not have consciousness, conscious ex ...
s. These zombies are complete physical duplicates of human beings, lacking only qualitative experience. Chalmers argues that since such zombies are conceivable to us, they must therefore be logically possible. Since they are logically possible, then
qualia In philosophy of mind, qualia ( or ; singular form: quale) are defined as individual instances of Subjectivity, subjective, consciousness, conscious experience. The term ''qualia'' derives from the Latin neuter plural form (''qualia'') of the Lati ...
and sentience are not fully explained by physical properties alone; the facts about them are further facts. Instead, Chalmers argues that consciousness is a fundamental property ontologically autonomous of any known (or even possible) physical properties, and that there may be lawlike rules which he terms "psychophysical laws" that determine which physical systems are associated with which types of qualia. He further speculates that all
information Information is an Abstraction, abstract concept that refers to that which has the power to Communication, inform. At the most fundamental level information pertains to the Interpretation (logic), interpretation of that which may be sensed. ...
-bearing systems may be conscious, leading him to entertain the possibility of conscious thermostats and a qualified
panpsychism In the philosophy of mind, panpsychism () is the view that the mind or a mindlike aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. It is also described as a theory that "the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists thro ...
he calls
panprotopsychism In the philosophy of mind, panpsychism () is the view that the mind or a mindlike aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. It is also described as a theory that "the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists thro ...
. Chalmers maintains a formal agnosticism on the issue, even conceding that the viability of panpsychism places him at odds with the majority of his contemporaries. According to Chalmers, his arguments are similar to a line of thought that goes back to
Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz . ( – 14 November 1716) was a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist and diplomat. He is one of the most prominent figures in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathema ...
's 1714 "mill" argument; the first substantial use of philosophical "zombie" terminology may be Robert Kirk's 1974 "Zombies vs. Materialists". After the publication of Chalmers' landmark paper, more than twenty papers in response were published in the ''Journal of Consciousness Studies''. These papers (by
Daniel Dennett Daniel Clement Dennett III (born March 28, 1942) is an American philosopher, writer, and Cognitive science, cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of biology, particularly as t ...
,
Colin McGinn Colin McGinn (born 10 March 1950) is a British people, British philosopher. He has held teaching posts and professorships at University College London, the University of Oxford, Rutgers University, and the University of Miami. McGinn is best kn ...
,
Francisco Varela Francisco Javier Varela García (September 7, 1946 – May 28, 2001) was a Chilean biologist, philosophy, philosopher, cybernetician, and neuroscientist who, together with his mentor Humberto Maturana, is best known for introducing the concept o ...
,
Francis Crick Francis Harry Compton Crick (8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004) was an English molecular biology, molecular biologist, biophysics, biophysicist, and neuroscientist. He, James Watson, Rosalind Franklin, and Maurice Wilkins played crucial roles in de ...
, and
Roger Penrose Sir Roger Penrose (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematician, mathematical physicist, Philosophy of science, philosopher of science and Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Laureate in Physics. He is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics ...
, among others) were collected and published in the book ''Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem''.
John Searle John Rogers Searle (; born July 31, 1932) is an American philosopher widely noted for contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and social philosophy. He began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1959, and was Willis S. and Mario ...
critiqued Chalmers' views in ''
The New York Review of Books ''The New York Review of Books'' (or ''NYREV'' or ''NYRB'') is a semi-monthly magazine with articles on literature, culture, economics, science and current affairs. Published in New York City, it is inspired by the idea that the discussion of i ...
''. With
Andy Clark Andy Clark, (born 1957) is a British people, British philosopher who is Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at the University of Sussex. Prior to this, he was at professor of philosophy and Chair (official), Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at th ...
, Chalmers has written " The Extended Mind", an article about the borders of the mind.


Philosophy of language

Chalmers has published works on the "theory of reference" concerning how words secure their referents. He, together with others such as Frank Jackson, proposes a kind of theory called two dimensionalism arguing against
Saul Kripke Saul Aaron Kripke (; November 13, 1940 – September 15, 2022) was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic philosophy, analytic tradition. He was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University o ...
. Before Kripke delivered the famous lecture series Naming and Necessity in 1970, the descriptivism advocated by
Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, Mathematical logic, logician, and mathematician. He was a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the fath ...
and
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British mathematician, philosopher, logician, and public intellectual. He had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, ar ...
was the orthodoxy. Descriptivism suggests that a name is indeed an abbreviation of a description, which is a set of properties or, as later modified by
John Searle John Rogers Searle (; born July 31, 1932) is an American philosopher widely noted for contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and social philosophy. He began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1959, and was Willis S. and Mario ...
, a disjunction of properties. This name secures its reference by a process of properties fitting: whichever object fits the description most, then it is the referent of the name. Therefore, the description is seen as the connotation, or, in Fregean terms, the sense of the name, and it is via this sense by which the denotation of the name is determined. However, as Kripke argued in ''Naming and Necessity'', a name does not secure its reference via any process of description fitting. Rather, a name determines its reference via a historical-causal link tracing back to the process of naming. And thus, Kripke thinks that a name does not have a sense, or, at least, does not have a sense which is rich enough to play the reference-determining role. Moreover, a name, in Kripke's view, is a
rigid designator In modal logic and the philosophy of language, a term is said to be a rigid designator or absolute substantial term when it designates (picks out, denotes, refers to) the same thing in ''all possible worlds'' in which that thing exists. A designato ...
, which refers to the same object in all possible worlds. Following this line of thought, Kripke suggests that any scientific identity statement such as "Water is H2O" is also a necessary statement, i.e. true in all possible worlds. Kripke thinks that this is a phenomenon that the descriptivist cannot explain. And, as also proposed by
Hilary Putnam Hilary Whitehall Putnam (; July 31, 1926 – March 13, 2016) was an American philosopher, mathematician, and computer scientist, and a major figure in analytic philosophy in the second half of the 20th century. He made significant contributions ...
and Kripke himself, Kripke's view on names can also be applied to the reference of
natural kind "Natural kind" is an intellectual grouping, or categorizing of things, in a manner that is reflective of the actual world and not just human interests. Some treat it as a classification identifying some structure of truth and reality that exists wh ...
terms. The kind of theory of reference that is advocated by Kripke and Putnam is called the
direct reference theory A direct reference theory (also called referentialism or referential realism)Andrea Bianchi (2012) ''Two ways of being a (direct) referentialist'', in Joseph Almog, Paolo Leonardi, ''Having in Mind: The Philosophy of Keith Donnellan''p. 79/ref> is a ...
. However, Chalmers disagrees with Kripke, and all the direct reference theorists in general. He thinks that there are two kinds of intension of a natural kind term, a stance which is now called two dimensionalism. For example, the words, :"Water is H2O" are taken to express two distinct propositions, often referred to as a ''primary intension'' and a ''secondary intension'', which together compose its meaning. The primary intension of a word or sentence is its
sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world through the detection of stimuli. (For example, in the human body, the brain A brain is an organ (biology), organ tha ...
, i.e., is the idea or method by which we find its referent. The primary intension of "water" might be a description, such as ''watery stuff''. The thing picked out by the primary intension of "water" could have been otherwise. For example, on some other world where the inhabitants take "water" to mean ''watery stuff'', but where the chemical make-up of watery stuff is not H2O, it is not the case that water is H2O for that world. The ''secondary intension'' of "water" is whatever thing "water" happens to pick out in ''this'' world, whatever that world happens to be. So if we assign "water" the primary intension ''watery stuff'' then the secondary intension of "water" is H2O, since H2O is ''watery stuff'' in this world. The secondary intension of "water" in our world is H2O, and is H2O in every world because unlike ''watery stuff'' it is impossible for H2O to be other than H2O. When considered according to its secondary intension, water means H2O in every world. Via this secondary intension, Chalmers proposes a way simultaneously to explain the necessity of the identity statement and to preserve the role of intension/sense in determining the reference.


Philosophy of verbal disputes

In some more recent work, Chalmers has concentrated on verbal disputes. He argues that a dispute is best characterized as "verbal" when it concerns some sentence S which contains a term T such that (i) the parties to the dispute disagree over the meaning of T, and (ii) the dispute arises solely because of this disagreement. In the same work, Chalmers proposes certain procedures for the resolution of verbal disputes. One of these he calls the "elimination method", which involves eliminating the contentious term and observing whether any dispute remains.


Technology and virtual reality

Chalmers addressed the issue of virtual and non-virtual worlds in his 2022 book ''Reality+''. While Chalmers recognises that virtual reality is not the same as non-virtual reality, he does not consider virtual reality to be an illusion, but rather a “genuine reality” in its own right. Chalmers sees virtual reality as potentially offering as meaningful a life as non-virtual reality, and argues that we could already be inhabitants of a simulation without knowing it. Chalmers proposes that computers are forming a form of “exo-cortex”, where a part of human cognition is ‘outsourced’ to corporations such as
Apple An apple is an edible fruit produced by an apple tree (''Malus domestica''). Apple fruit tree, trees are agriculture, cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus ''Malus''. The tree originated in Central Asia, wh ...
and
Google Google LLC () is an American Multinational corporation, multinational technology company focusing on Search Engine, search engine technology, online advertising, cloud computing, software, computer software, quantum computing, e-commerce, ar ...
.


Media

Chalmers was featured in the 2012 documentary film entitled '' The Singularity'' by filmmaker Doug Wolens, which focuses on the theory proposed by techno-futurist
Ray Kurzweil Raymond Kurzweil ( ; born February 12, 1948) is an American computer scientist, author, inventor, and futurist. He is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), speech synthesis, text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition ...
, of that "point in time when computer intelligence exceeds human intelligence." He was a featured philosopher in the ''Daily Nous'' series on GPT-3, which he described as "one of the most interesting and important AI systems ever produced."


Personal life

Chalmers is the lead singer of the Zombie Blues band, which performed at the music festival Qualia Fest in 2012 in New York. Chalmers is in a relationship with Claudia Passos Ferreira, a philosopher and psychologist from
Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro ( , , ; literally 'River of January'), or simply Rio, is the capital of the state of the same name, Brazil's third-most populous state, and the second-most populous city in Brazil, after São Paulo. Listed by the GaWC as a b ...
. Regarding religion, Chalmers has said: "I have no religious views myself and no spiritual views, except watered-down humanistic, spiritual views. And consciousness is just a fact of life. It's a natural fact of life."


Bibliography

* ''
The Conscious Mind ''The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory'' was published in 1996, and is the first book written by David Chalmers, an Australian philosopher specialising in philosophy of mind. Though the book has been Hard problem of consciousness, ...
: In Search of a Fundamental Theory'' (1996). Oxford University Press. hardcover: , paperback: * ''Toward a Science of Consciousness III: The Third Tucson Discussions and Debates'' (1999). Stuart R. Hameroff, Alfred W. Kaszniak and David J. Chalmers (Editors). The MIT Press. * ''Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings'' (2002). (Editor). Oxford University Press. or * ''The Character of Consciousness'' (2010). Oxford University Press. hardcover: , paperback: * ''Constructing The World'' (2012). Oxford University Press. hardcover: , paperback: * ''Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy'' (2022). W. W. Norton & Company. Hardcover:


Notes


External links

*
An in-depth autobiographical interview with David Chalmers

"The Singularity" a documentary film featuring Chalmers

The Moscow Center for Consciousness Studies video interview with David Chalmers
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Chalmers, David 1966 births 20th-century Australian philosophers 21st-century Australian philosophers Alumni of Lincoln College, Oxford Analytic philosophers Australian humanists Australian National University faculty Australian Rhodes Scholars Consciousness researchers and theorists Epistemologists Fellows of the Australian Academy of the Humanities Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Indiana University Bloomington alumni International Mathematical Olympiad participants Lecturers Living people Metaphysicians New York University faculty Ontologists Philosophers of language Philosophers of mind Philosophers of science Philosophy writers Quantum mind University of Adelaide alumni