(in)signficance of "Qualia"

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Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 11:46 pm
@prothero,
prothero;168905 wrote:
Certainly humans are not the only experiential and perceptive entities that have "qualia"? What is it like to be a bat? or a tiger? or anything for that matter?

I agree. And those are great questions. I was watching two squirrels chasing one another through the branches of trees, at high speed. What agility. My friend and I were contemplating what it would be like to move like that.

My question is what exists outside of "qualia," if anything? We know that when a human dies, we live on, still seeing reality. But reality is utterly for each of us individually associated with qualia, with "consciousness." And yet we talk so freely about the world independent of consciousness, and this is probably because we know other humans die, and we remain. But who has seen the world when not alive? The world survives them, but in what way will it survive us? What could the world be in the absence of qualia ("consciousness")?
I feel that this is one of those awkward but fascinating questions. We are ultimately supposed to take it on faith that reality exists in some abstract way, despite the absence of qualia that are "reality" for living beings.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 11:59 pm
@Reconstructo,
I don't think these criticisms are coming to terms with what your materialist philosophers of consciousness (Dennett in particular) is saying, though. They are interesting ideas in their own right, but they don't really address the issue which prompted the original notion of 'qualia', do they? They actually say there is no subjective experience, that subjectivity itself is illusory, don't they? Isn't that the viewpoint of 'eliminative materialism?' I don't think anyone here agrees with it, but I think we ought to get clear about what we are critiquing...
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 12:02 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;168906 wrote:
My question is what exists outside of "qualia," if anything? We know that when a human dies, we live on, still seeing reality. But reality is utterly for each of us individually associated with qualia, with "consciousness." And yet we talk so freely about the world independent of consciousness, and this is probably because we know other humans die, and we remain. But who has seen the world when not alive? The world survives them, but in what way will it survive us? What could the world be in the absence of qualia ("consciousness")?
I feel that this is one of those awkward but fascinating questions. We are ultimately supposed to take it on faith that reality exists in some abstract way, despite the absence of qualia that are "reality" for living beings.
You know, I am one of those who would say that "consciousness is just high level integrated experience, a function of complex organism.

Experience on the other hand (not conscious experience but primitive experience) is a general or widespread feature of reality.
The same of perception (not sense perception) but prehension (primitive preception (non sensory awareness) of other actualites is widespread in nature.

Nature is fundamentally perceptive, experiential and responsive to its core, so the absence of humans has little effect on the overall experience of the universe. One conception of god is that god is the unified experience of the universe (takes in the experience of the universe) and provides new possiblities for creative advance against chaos and the formless void.

---------- Post added 05-25-2010 at 11:08 PM ----------

jeeprs;168909 wrote:
I don't think these criticisms are coming to terms with what your materialist philosophers of consciousness (Dennett in particular) is saying, though. They are interesting ideas in their own right, but they don't really address the issue which prompted the original notion of 'qualia', do they? They actually say there is no subjective experience, that subjectivity itself is illusory, don't they? Isn't that the viewpoint of 'eliminative materialism?' I don't think anyone here agrees with it, but I think we ought to get clear about what we are critiquing...
Well it seems to me like the assertion is the real is the material, the physical. That everything mental and experiential is ultimately reducible to the physical or the material. Yes it is eliminative materialism. That mind, perception and experience all all illusions of a sort.It seems like a very odd thing for a high level conscious experiential being to assert. It seems like a denial of the most obvious fact of human experience and human consciousness. Also a denial of the very nature and the inherent limits of the scientific endeavor. Almost a replacement for religion, let us worship at the feet of science, now, revealer of all truth.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 12:11 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;168909 wrote:
I don't think these criticisms are coming to terms with what your materialist philosophers of consciousness (Dennett in particular) is saying, though. They are interesting ideas in their own right, but they don't really address the issue which prompted the original notion of 'qualia', do they? They actually say there is no subjective experience, that subjectivity itself is illusory, don't they? Isn't that the viewpoint of 'eliminative materialism?' I don't think anyone here agrees with it, but I think we ought to get clear about what we are critiquing...


I just took the Wiki definition and ran with it. I have looked at some of Dennett's work, though. "Eliminative materialism" strikes me as absurd, as almost insane. I wonder how those discussing it as a great idea ignored the fact that they could see who they were talking to, and even hear their own voice...

Materialism seems so silly to me. Sure, "consciousness" is also a tricky concept, but certainly less immediately absurd than materialism.

Who would have dreamed up the concept of matter in the absence of qualia (or shall we just say "sensation)"?

From a logical point of view, I think there's a strong case in a common source for both "matter" and "consciousness." These are both abstractions, nodes in the network of language.

---------- Post added 05-26-2010 at 01:15 AM ----------

prothero;168910 wrote:
You know, I am one of those who would say that "consciousness is just high level integrated experience, a function of complex organism.

I respect that. I just can't help seeing "consciousness" as an essence, a concept. Perhaps you are associating the experience of sensation and concept with the word "consciousness." In this case, I think I see what you are saying.

---------- Post added 05-26-2010 at 01:16 AM ----------

prothero;168910 wrote:

Experience on the other hand (not conscious experience but primitive experience) is a general or widespread feature of reality.
The same of perception (not sense perception) but prehension (primitive preception (non sensory awareness) of other actualites is widespread in nature.

This is interesting. It reminds me of Schopenhauer, who as you probably know thought that "Wille" was the fundamental reality, beneath objects, living and "dead," as they appear to us. Will was more concentrated in the more mobile and conscious beings.

---------- Post added 05-26-2010 at 01:19 AM ----------

prothero;168910 wrote:

Nature is fundamentally perceptive, experiential and responsive to its core, so the absence of humans has little effect on the overall experience of the universe. One conception of god is that god is the unified experience of the universe (takes in the experience of the universe) and provides new possiblities for creative advance against chaos and the formless void.

I find this view quite respectable. Perhaps you will agree it requires a certain faith, as we have only known reality while embedded in it in the form of human -- or as embedded in the experience of a human.

But this leap of "faith" is something most of us do automatically. It's not absurd. When we are born, we find a world that is old and rich with history. Still, for us all this history is abstract.

---------- Post added 05-26-2010 at 01:21 AM ----------

prothero;168910 wrote:
That mind, perception and experience all all illusions of a sort.It seems like a very odd thing for a high level conscious experiential being to assert. It seems like a denial of the most obvious fact of human experience and human consciousness. Also a denial of the very nature and the inherent limits of the scientific endeavor.


This is my gripe, even though I love science. The implicit metaphysics of science (at least as too often expressed) is more than a little questionable when taken as the full human truth. Abstractions are taken as the true reality, even though these abstractions are always embedded in sensation, emotion, a particular human being. The general forgets the particular it is born from.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 06:31 am
@Reconstructo,
prothero;168905 wrote:
Just a little shy of suggesting a cosmic mind, spirit or consciousness.


Re-visiting this point.

Perhaps this is because mind (or spirit, or consciousness, or intelligence) is not something in the mix, not an attribute of matter, not a 'fine material essence', and actually not anything. Instead there is the idea of an order which pervades everything, but the order itself can't be singled out or reified - you can't say 'there it is' - it is simply shows up, or becomes evident, in the way in which everything is related.

So 'shy', actually, is a good word for it, and a good way to be. It may well be something about which we should be reticent.

---------- Post added 05-26-2010 at 10:34 PM ----------

Very Buddhist, I acknowledge.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:16 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;168227 wrote:
First class!

The idea of 'species independent objectivity' or 'complete objectivity' is a myth. And no ultimate object has ever been found, nor will be.


What does, "species independent objectivity" mean? What does "ultimate object" mean? How can anyone tell whether what you say is true or false unless he can tell what you mean? Third class!
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:19 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;167976 wrote:
I want to call "qualia" mysterious, but "mysterious" isn't the right word. In fact, no word seems like the right word.


Funnily enough, we have a word for things that can't be expressed, "ineffable".
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:24 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;169052 wrote:
Funnily enough, we have a word for things that can't be expressed, ineffable.


I think you have got to mean, "ineffable". We have another word for what cannot be expressed, "inexpressible".
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:28 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;169054 wrote:
I think you have got to mean, "ineffable". We have another word for what cannot be expressed, "inexpressible".


effable. a. able to be expressed

pedant. a. a person who is overly concerned with formalism and precision, or who makes a show of his learning

Source: Dictionary of Difficult Words - effable
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:36 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;169057 wrote:
effable. a. able to be expressed



Source: Dictionary of Difficult Words - effable


Yes, that is what the word "ineffable" means. I thought you were saying that there was the word, "ineffable". You weren't talking about what it means, were you? You really have to distinguish between the word and what the word means. (You never even mentioned the term, "effable", did you? That word refers to what is expressible). One man's accuracy is another man's pedantry, I suppose.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:41 am
@qualia,
qualia;168071 wrote:
Premise 1: Functionalism is the view that mental states can be defined in terms of their causal role in the control of the organism.

Premise 2: Conscious mental states seem to have 3 properties

  • its functional properties that form a part of our explanations of behaviour
  • a material basis in the physio-chemistry of the brain
  • Qualia, mental states that have phenomenological qualities, specific looks and feels of which the person experiencing them is aware.


Premise 3: The first and third properties are not equivalent.

Premise 4: The second and third properties are not equivalent because descriptions of qualia cannot be analysed in terms of descriptions of physio-chemical conditions.

Conclusion: Therefore functionalism is an incomplete theory of the mind, because it leaves out qualia. Why? Well, descriptions of brain activity record events that are publicly observable, and descriptions of qualia record events which are private and subjective. Thus, the two types of events have different properties. They are different types of statements which are both equally true. In this way, the statements describing one event are not logically equivalent to statements describing the other.


We know that certain chemicals alter perception in fairly reliable ways. How is this not at least a partial connection between the functional role of chemicals and the subjectivity of qualia?

I have a feeling that the only reason why that is dismissed is because most people have a misconception of scientific explanations. They seem to think that scientific explanations show why things that happen must happen. So, for qualia to be explained it must be explained why some bit of qualia feels that way instead of another way. But science never explains things like that. Science doesn't explain why and can never explain why things have to be the way they are. There is no explanation for why water has to boil at a certain temperature. We only explain things contingently, in the terms of something else. Water boils at a certain temperature because temperature is the internal kinetic motion of molecules and when there is enough motion certain phase changes can happen, etc, etc. Yet, when you get down to it, these are all things that just happen. Water could behave completely differently. Qualia could be completely different. But it's not and there cannot be an explanation for that.

There is no more reason why a lump of meat should give rise to conscious experience than there is reason why the universe should exist.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:52 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;169062 wrote:
Qualia could be completely different. But it's not and there cannot be an explanation for that.



Why not? There is an explanation for why water does not boil at a temperature of 112 C. isn't there?
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:01 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;169065 wrote:
Why not?


Read the above post again. I already explained why.

kennethamy;169065 wrote:
There is an explanation for why water does not boil at a temperature of 112 C. isn't there?


Most physicists agree that there is nothing special about the structure of our universe. There could be a universe where water boils at any temperature you like. Are you saying there couldn't be? If so, why not?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:11 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;169071 wrote:
Read the above post again. I already explained why.



Most physicists agree that there is nothing special about the structure of our universe. There could be a universe where water boils at any temperature you like. Are you saying there couldn't be? If so, why not?


You don't really mean that physics doesn't know why water does not boil at 100 C do you? Hint: something to do with the water molecules and their reaction to temperature? (Look it up if you don't recall).
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:16 am
@richard mcnair,
richard_mcnair;168360 wrote:
Well I don't like 'qualia', although I applaud such people for taking on the blind materialists, however I simply must take you up on what you've just said.

How exactly is 'red' the property of an object? Surely even the most closed minded materialist would admit, that all that happens in the external world is light hits an object, and the surface of the object gives the light waves a certain frequency, which travels to the eye, but no where apart from the mind of the observer does there exist 'red'.


I'm pretty certain you've referred to an object by its color at least once in your life. Heck, if you're like me, you may even do it often.

When I asked a clerk earlier, "Can I have the blue Gatorade, please?", I must have been speaking gibberish. Everyone knows that things can't have color properties. What in the world was I thinking?!
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:18 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;169080 wrote:
You don't really mean that physics doesn't know why water does not boil at 100 C do you?


You're missing the point as usual.

Do you think any physicist thinks there couldn't be a possible universe where water boils at any other temperature? There is nothing special about our universe. There is no explanation for why our universe is this way and not some other way. Apply the same logic to the question of qualia.

There is no reason why a lump of meat should give rise to consciousness anymore than water should boil at a certain temperature. It's just a contingent fact of the universe we find ourselves in.

Science does explain temperature, internal kinetic energy and phase change but it doesn't explain why the universe is the way it is rather than some other way or not at all.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:31 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;169082 wrote:
You're missing the point as usual.

Do you think any physicist thinks there couldn't be a possible universe where water boils at any other temperature? There is nothing special about our universe. There is no explanation for why our universe is this way and not some other way. Apply the same logic to the question of qualia.

There is no reason why a lump of meat should give rise to consciousness anymore than water should boil at a certain temperature. It's just a contingent fact of the universe we find ourselves in.

Science does explain temperature, internal kinetic energy and phase change but it doesn't explain why the universe is the way it is rather than some other way or not at all.


Yes, if a substance could boil at 100 C. it would not be H20. It would be epistemically possible for H2O to boil at 100 C. That is, if we did not understand what that substance was, and what its properties were, but it would not be physically possible for it to boil at 100 C. There is no metaphysically possible world in which it is possible for water to boil at 100 C.

In any case, putting the above aside, no physicist holds that because it is logically possible for water to boil at 100 C. that it is physically possible for it to do so.

So, on either understanding of what it means for it not to be possible for water to boil at 100 C. you are wrong.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:44 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;169089 wrote:
Yes, if a substance could boil at 100 C. it would not be H20. There is no metaphysically possible world in which it is possible for water to boil at 100 C.


Wrong. You may buy Kripke's absurd philosophy but I don't. I don't think it's really relevant anyways though. You're just being pedantic as usual.

kennethamy;169089 wrote:
So, on either understanding of what it means for it not to be possible for water to boil at 100 C. you are wrong.


Wrong and you're still missing the point since that says nothing against what I'm claiming which is that explanations don't explain why our universe is the way it is rather than some other way. There could be a universe where water explodes when applying heat. You haven't come up with a cogent argument against my position yet.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:47 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;169095 wrote:
Wrong. You may buy Kripke's absurd philosophy but I don't. I don't think it's really relevant anyways though. You're just being pedantic as usual.



Wrong and you're still missing the point since that says nothing against what I'm claiming which is that explanations don't explain why our universe is the way it is rather than some other way. There could be a universe where water explodes when applying heat. You haven't come up with a cogent argument against my position yet.


The explanation of why water does not boil at 100 C. is supposed to be an explanation of why the universe is that way? Just to ask that question exposes the absurdity of that proposition.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 10:55 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;169098 wrote:
The explanation of why water does not boil at 100 C. is supposed to be an explanation of why the universe is that way?


No, that's my point. Some people mistakenly think that.

The point is, there could exist another universe identical to this one except that water boils at a different temperature. In the same way, there could exist another universe identical to this one except that a lump of meat doesn't give rise to conscious experience. Why we find ourselves in one universe instead of another is not something that can be explained. Though, we can point out that, in the universe without conscious experience, we couldn't even raise the question.
 
 

 
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