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2011-10-06
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Hey guys,

1. As far as I understand, philosophical zombies are physically and behaviorally identical to normal beings, they have all the intentional mental states of normal beings, but they have no qualia. The lack of qualia is the only difference.

2. There is a certain kind of intentional mental states: intentional states about qualia.I have the belief that I'm seeing red, I have the desire to have an orgasm, I have the fear of experiencing pain. Much of the intentional mental states are about phenomenal properties of experience.

3. So my question is: Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?

I'm not sure about exactly what is the relevance of this question, but I have a hunch that there is something here...

Thanks in advance!



Ramiro Frick.

Instituto de Filosofía y Ciencias de la Complejidad,
Santiago de Chile.

2011-10-10
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Ramiro Frick
I argue in 'What is it like to have an unconscious mental state' (Phil Studies 2001)
that the propositional content of an introspective state directed at a quale token (pain, say)
is 'Here is a state with this very token quality and it is an instance of pain.' The indexical
brings the particular quale-token into the proposition and the rest of the proposition
types the token. The typing can go wrong (as when I mistake a sensation of cold
for pain) but the first conjunct cannot. So the skeptic cannot argue from the
fact that I sometimes mistype qualitative states that maybe I don't have them
at all. 'Zombie skepticism' is a non-starter.

If that's right, entities without qualia cannot have introspective states about qualia,
since quale tokens are part of the propositional content
of introspective states about qualia.

If that's right, zombies cannot have all the intentional mental states of normal human beings.


2011-12-14
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Ramiro Frick
Hi Ramiro, 
I agree that this is a very interesting question.  I think arguments can be made for both sides.  It would be pretty neat to read or write a paper about this.

- Cecilea Mun

2011-12-19
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Ramiro Frick
I argue that zombies can make one type of judgment about the states they have that are postulated to be functionally identical to our conscious states. We conscious creatures can make a different type of judgment. The judgments are intrinsically different but share some, but not all, of the same functional role. See: Macpherson F. (2010) "A Disjunctive Theory of Introspection: A Reflection on Zombies and Anton's Syndrome", Philosophical Issues, Vol. 20, Issue 1, pp. 226-265.

PDF available from publisher.




2011-12-20
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?

I really cannot see how it is possible to carry on a philosophical discussion about zombies. David Chalmers writes that “A zombie is physically identical to a normal human being, but completely lacks conscious experience.” 

Now unless we know what “conscious experience” is – and so far there's a conspicuous absence of agreement on this – the idea of a zombie is null and void isn’t it?  One cannot subtract an unknown.

DA


2011-12-26
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Derek Allan
Hi Derek, 
I'm sorry, but I respectfully disagree with you.  My reasons are the following: 

1) Despite the fact that you cannot see how it is possible to carry on a philosophical discussion about zombies, it is the case that such discussions do occur.

2) I don't agree with your interpretation of Chalmer's reliance on zombies, but I admit that this is my interpretation. (I encourage others to correct me if I am wrong).  According to my understanding, the idea of philosophical zombies are thought experiments that are supposed to incite our intuitions regarding what consciousness is.  Our intuitions on philosophical zombies is where arguments regarding consciousness begin and not where they end.


CM

2011-12-26
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Cecilea Mun

Hi Cecilea

Thank you for your reply.

I certainly recognise that, as you say, discussions about zombies do occur. But discussions occur about all manner of things real and unreal, so that in itself can’t be a reason why it is philosophically sensible to carry on philosophical discussions about zombies. Frankly, philosophers talking about zombies strikes me as the equivalent of the characters in the Big Bang Theory arguing about what superman could or couldn’t do. In both cases Hollywood fantasies are being taken seriously. Though at least Sheldon and his crew have the excuse of being Hollywood fantasies themselves.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by “your interpretation of Chalmers' reliance on zombies”. I wasn’t interpreting Chalmers. That was a direct quote.  I think you are right in saying that “zombies are thought experiments that are supposed to incite our intuitions regarding what consciousness is.” But there are two problems here:

First, the term “experiment” is misleading. How does one “experiment” with a Hollywood fantasy?

Second, as I indicated, the idea of a zombie – such as it is – is defined as a human being minus consciousness.  If the idea of consciousness is necessary to define a zombie, how could we use the idea of a zombie to help us define consciousness?

I don’t know whether the story about medieval philosophers debating how many angels could pass through the eye of a needle is apocryphal or not. But philosophical speculation about zombies strikes me as the modern-day equivalent. (Though the Middle Ages could perhaps be excused. They really did believe in angels...)

DA  


2011-12-26
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Derek Allan
From "I really cannot see how it is possible to carry on a philosophical discussion about zombies" to "...it is philosophically sensible to carry on philosophical discussions about zombies"?

possible = sensible 




hmmm...


ok. 


CM







2011-12-27
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Cecilea Mun

Hi Cecilea

Well, it is possible to have a discussion about anything – even, say, whether the moon is made of green cheese. 

So when I said “I cannot see how it is possible to carry on a philosophical discussion about zombies” I meant a philosophically sensible discussion – a discussion that is likely to be of some intellectual use.

I do not think philosophical discussion of zombies can be of any conceivable intellectual use – unless perhaps one happens to be talking about the nature of fantasy (and there are probably richer examples of fantasy than zombies).

But more to the point, how does one get around the basic problem that since a zombie is defined as a human being lacking consciousness, one needs to know what one means by consciousness to start with?  How, as I said, does one subtract an unknown?

DA


2011-12-27
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Fiona, for the purposes of her very interesting paper, suggests that zombies, as defined in philosophy,
are functionally identical to particular human beings, but lack all states with phenomenal character.

This is part of my difficulty with understanding zombies, I confess.

Functional states are individuated partly by their characteristic inputs (e.g. tissue damage is
part of what makes the functional state pain the functional state it is).

But I think it's plain that qualia are the characteristic inputs to many of our functional states.
I smile when I eat ice cream and ask for more, because I like the way it tastes.
I fear the dentist because I don't like the way what she does to me feels.
I say: 'That's Burgundy 1973' (or whatever) because I recognize the phenomenal
character of its taste.

It follows immediately that zombies cannot be functionally identical to particular human
beings, me, anyhow, since they don't have the inputs that partly individuate a good
number of the functional states we're in.

Even if the zombie has the same output and intermediate states to a characteristically
different input (an ersatz phenomenal state, say), that's not the functional state I'm in.

It's no use objecting that qualia are extra-physical and so aren't inputs of functional states (due to the Causal Closure of the Physical) because,
that's one of the questions we're investigating and for all we know qualia are
physical characteristics of brain states. Indeed, quite a few philosophers think
that's just what they are.

So I have some trouble getting my zombies to the starting line, as it were.
I expect I am misunderstanding something.




2011-12-27
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Jim Stone

Hi Jim

Re zombies you say: “…zombies, as defined in philosophy,…”

I was wondering what you had in mind. David Chalmers, who I gather is one of the main proponents, writes: “…A zombie is physically identical to a normal human being, but completely lacks conscious experience. Zombies look and behave like the conscious beings that we know and love, but "all is dark inside." There is nothing it is like to be a zombie.”

There seem to be three elements here:

(1)   Zombies are physically the same as a human being but lack consciousness. This is clearly of no use to us unless we know what “consciousness” signifies. (As I’ve said one can’t subtract an unknown.)

(2)   “All is dark inside”. I pointed out to David that this is just a vague metaphor, to which he replied “’All is dark inside’ is indeed just a vague metaphor.  It doesn't play any role in the arguments.” So I take it we can forget this bit.

(3)   “There is nothing it is like to be a zombie”. I assume this is an appeal to the Nagel argument (on which Fiona also seems to rely). I would have thought Nagel has worn pretty thin now, especially since the demolition job Hacker did on him (somewhat belatedly, I think – he was a sitting duck.)

So this doesn’t seem to leave us with anything at all. What did you yourself have in mind for “zombies, as defined in philosophy”?

DA


2011-12-27
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
I want to add something to my last post. An alternative way of construing zombies,
Fiona notes, is that they are physically identical to us but they have no states with
phenomenal character.

Now I think it's reasonable to believe on the face of things that qualia have causal
powers. Some make me smile, others make me scream, some cause me to have
desires. I'm directly acquainted with quale-tokens and I personally don't think
one can give a plausible account of direct acquaintance without ascribing
causal powers to affect the mind to the object of our direct acquaintance. If qualia were black holes in causal space, as it were, we wouldn't know we had them (certainly we wouldn't know
we have them in the way we do know).

To imagine my zombie is to imagine that it has no qualia, but that is to imagine
that a great deal of causation in my life is absent in its life. On the face of
things, therefore, the zombie would act differently from me.

The way to avoid this is to suppose the following:

Physical events and properties
that indirectly cause behaviour in me by causing qualia
which cause that behaviour, cause directly the behaviour in my zombie.

In short, if my zombie is to act like me, lots of physical
events and properties must have in him different causal powers than
they have in me. The physics of the universe with my zombie in it must be different
from the physics of the actual universe, since physical events in our universe
have different causal powers in his.

But then, on the face of things, the zombie is not physically identical to me,
Something which is a different physical mechanism from me
that operates by different causal laws is not physically identical to me.
.Even a molecule for molecule duplicate of me, in which some of those
molecules operate by different causal laws and so do physical things that my molecules
don't do is not physically identical to me.

In sum, if qualia have causal powers (as seems pretty reasonable given what
we know of human life), then zombies either act differently from us or
have physical parts that have different causal powers from our physical parts.
In neither case are they physically identical to us.

Arguably the zombiphile owes us a clearer account of what 'physically identical'
amounts to. Perhaps there is a weaker sense of 'physically identical' that will serve,
but one wants to know what it is. Also one wants to know why physically identical
zombies in that weaker sense serve the philosophical purposes to which
zombies are put.

Of course we can deny that qualia have causal powers, but, first, that's implausible
on its face and, second, it begs some of the questions which
zombies are enlisted to help answer.

2011-12-28
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Jim Stone

The term “phenomenal” gets used a lot in the philosophy of consciousness but always very questionably. Clear definitions are extremely rare and one often has the uneasy feeling that the term is being used simply to avoid using the word “conscious” – to dance around the issue, as it were. (A fairly common feature of the philosophy of consciousness in general is heavy reliance on ill-defined jargon. Terms like “functional states”, “qualia”, “perceptual experience”, etc abound, and, again, clear definitions are rare.)

Anyway, I notice Fiona defines “phenomenal” as follows: “‘phenomenal character’ refers to that aspect of mental states, paradigmatically had by perceptual experiences, sensations, moods and emotions, which is to be identified with “what it is like” to be in such states, to use Nagel’s (1974) well-worn phrase.”

Phrases like “perceptual experiences, sensations, moods and emotions” are obviously highly question-begging in any discussion of consciousness. Can one even have “perceptual experiences” etc without being conscious in the first place? Vicious circle. So that part of the definition doesn’t help us at all.

That just leaves us with the Nagel thing – a very slender thread indeed to hang a definition on. Fiona says the Nagel phrase is “well-worn”. I would say: well and truly “worn out”.  Personally, I find it hard to understand how the Nagel formula has been accepted for so long by a school of philosophy that prides itself on its ability to analyse the meanings of words and statements. Hacker has highlighted the weaknesses in Nagel very effectively but, really, that analysis should have been done a long time ago.

Now, of course, the philosophy of consciousness has simply painted itself into a corner. Nagel has been relied on for so long that it’s no longer possible to repudiate him. He has effectively become holy writ, and any rejection now would be tantamount to heresy…

DA



2011-12-29
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Derek Allan
Perhaps I can throw some light on the question, for I have been a zombie.  I have started a new thread on the topic, "What it is like to have been a zombie."  (http://philpapers.org/bbs//thread.pl?tId=723).  Your comments are welcome.

2011-12-30
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Bill Meacham
Hi Bill

This is a reponse to part of your comment on the new thread you started.  I give it here because it also seems relevant to this thread.

You write: Derek Allan objects to the concept,[of a zombie]  saying it makes no sense. In particular he objects to the phrase "There is nothing it is like to be a zombie." I agree that the phrase "what it is like to be " is problematic, but we all know what it is trying to get at. If one has a conscious experience one can talk about it in hopes of getting one's listener to understand how it feels, how it appears or manifests itself, to the one talking about it. What is it like to eat ginger candy? Well it is a bit like eating ginger, but sweeter. It is a bit like eating sugar but far more pungent. And so forth.

Two objections to this.

First, I have encountered this “we all know what it is trying to get at” response before.  It makes all my philosophical red lights blink like crazy. Philosophy simply cannot proceed on the basis of “we all know…”.  Philosophy ( and especially analytic philosophy, I would have thought) means looking very carefully at what we mean and being quite clear about it.  Formulations like “we just all know” are not good enough.

Second, comparisons of the kind you mention (“What is it like to eat ginger candy?”) simply do not work with consciousness. Try giving a serious answer to “What is it like to be conscious?”  The only serious answer can be the absurd one: “It is like being conscious”.  What else could it be like?  Is it like being sick? sad? hungry? alert? drowsy? at death’s door? happy? a bit happy and a bit sad? scared? sort of scared but not really? and so on, ad infinitum?  Consciousness seems in some way to be the condition of all these things – and of a million more. But that is obviously no answer either. So the comparison thing just doesn’t work here. (This is also one of Hacker’s points if I recall.)

There is more to say but I’ll leave it there for now.  In my view the Nagel thing is a red herring and always was.

DA

2012-01-02
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Derek Allan

At the risk of aborting an interesting discussion, I have to say that I agree with you.  I have never liked the phrase because it requires something for comparison.  And with what can one compare being conscious?  We each have only one data point.  If I need to refer to someone's private experience or some aspect of it, I say "How it is to be ...."  

I have a waggish friend who likes to ask people "So, what's it like being you?"  Best answers:

*  "I have no basis for comparison" (government prof)
*  "Better than being you" (grad student, now director of corporate strategy, Bell Canada)
*  "Fun" (five year-old boy)
*  "Much like being you, I suppose, but how would either of us really know?" (me)








2012-01-03
Do zombies have intentional states about qualia?
Reply to Bill Meacham

Hi Bill

Nice to encounter someone who agrees with me on the point. The only other person I am aware of who does is Peter Hacker – who doubtless has never heard of me.

I never cease to be amazed by the unwillingness of philosophers of consciousness to subject the “something it is like” proposition to careful analysis. It’s like a kind of credo or ritual incantation one recites as proof of one’s orthodoxy – but never questions.

And to make matters worse, it’s everywhere!  Philosophers great and small in every corner of the globe invoke constantly it as if it were the law and the prophets. I switched on the radio last night and what do I hear? Some Australian philosopher pontificating on the subject of consciousness and relying constantly on the idea of “feeling like” as if it were self-evident Truth. Hacker would have had a fit. Last year, I outlined my objections to the idea on the “Consciousness Online” conference (which I hope to do this year too if I get the chance) and the replies I got were exactly what I have now come to expect – a refusal to engage with detailed analysis, and vague comments about “missing the point” etc. (I am happy to entertain the possibility that I am missing the point, but that would have to be demonstrated to me by clear philosophical argument, not just asserted.)

Such is life. Thank God the philosophy of consciousness is not my main interest! I would find it soooo frustrating dealing with this kind of thing. Consciousness is far too important a subject to be sidetracked by such nonsense.

DA