Skip navigation
The Australian National University

David Chalmers inspires the title of new Tom Stoppard play 'The Hard Problem'

Tom Stoppard: The Hard Problem

One of the most celebrated British playwrights, Tom Stoppard delivers a play every four or five years: he chooses a subject matter, usually abstract, heavily researches it and then works out its dramatic possibilities. This time his play’s focus is on consciousness and evolutionary biology.

Science and belief
Famously outspoken on every subject but himself, Stoppard’s work (The Invention of Love, Arcadia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) often centres on intellectual and philosophical examination. The Hard Problem is no different. Confronting the tumultuous ground when science meets psychology, it explores the disintegration of our beliefs when we realise that science may not hold all the answers.

The play’s title is inspired by Australian philosopher and scientist David Chalmers, a specialist in the philosophy of the mind: he introduced the term "hard problem" in relation to human consciousness.

Stoppard uses the private turmoil of his characters, such as psychology researcher Hilary, to highlight the clash between pure science and the workings of the mind. If there is nothing but matter, what is consciousness?

Extract from:

Updated: 4 July 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher