" Qualia " is an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us. As is so often the case with philosophical jargon, it is easier to give examples than to give a definition of the term. Look at a glass of milk at sunset; the way it looks to you--the particular, personal, subjective visual quality of the glass of milk is the quale of your visual experience at (...) the moment. The way the milk tastes to you then is another, gustatory quale, and how it sounds to you as you swallow is an auditory quale; These various "properties of conscious experience" are prime examples of qualia. Nothing, it seems, could you know more intimately than your own qualia ; let the entire universe be some vast illusion, some mere figment of Descartes' evil demon, and yet what the figment is made of will be the qualia of your hallucinatory experiences. Descartes claimed to doubt everything that could be doubted, but he never doubted that his conscious experiences had qualia, the properties by which he knew or apprehended them. (shrink)
Qualia internalism is the thesis that qualia are intrinsic to their subjects: the experiences of intrinsic duplicates have the same qualia. Content externalism is the thesis that mental representation is an extrinsic matter, partly depending on what happens outside the head. 1 Intentionalism comes in strong and weak forms. In its weakest formulation, it is the thesis that representationally identical experiences of subjects have the same qualia. 2.
This paper revisits some classic thought experiments in which experiences are detached from their characteristic causal roles, and explores what these thought experiments tell us about qualia epiphenomenalism, i.e., the view that qualia are epiphenomenal properties. It argues that qualia epiphenomenalism is true just in case it is possible for experiences of the same type to have entirely different causal powers. This is done with the help of new conceptual tools regarding the concept of an epiphenomenal property. (...) One conclusion is that it is not obvious if qualia epiphenomenalism is false; and it is also not obvious what should make us believe that it is false—or for that matter, true. Connections between qualia epiphenomenalism, physicalism, and non-physicalist property dualism are further explored. (shrink)
In the field of machine consciousness, it has been argued that in order to build human-like conscious machines, we must first have a computational model of qualia. To this end, some have proposed a framework that supports qualia in machines by implementing a model with three computational areas (i.e., the subconceptual, conceptual, and linguistic areas). These abstract mechanisms purportedly enable the assessment of artificial qualia. However, several critics of the machine consciousness project dispute this possibility. For instance, (...) Searle, in his Chinese room objection, argues that however sophisticated a computational system is, it can never exhibit intentionality; thus, would also fail to exhibit consciousness or any of its varieties. This paper argues that the proposed architecture mentioned above answers the problem posed by Searle, at least in part. Specifically, it argues that we could reformulate Searle’s worries in the Chinese room in terms of the three-stage artificial qualia model. And by doing so, we could see that the person doing all the translations in the room could realize the three areas in the proposed framework. Consequently, this demonstrates the actualization of self-consciousness in machines. (shrink)
In this essay, I want to take another look at the phenomenon of transparency and its relevance to qualia realism and representationalism. I don’t suppose that what I have to say will cause those who disagree with me to change their minds, but I hope not only to clarify my position and that of others who are on my side of the debate but also to respond to various criticisms and objections that have arisen over the last 10–15 years (...) or so.The transparency thesisI begin with four quotations, two from G. E. Moore, one from Gilbert Harman, and one from an earlier paper of mine:…that which makes the sensation of blue a mental fact seems to escape us; it seems, if I may use a metaphor, to be transparent — we look through it and see nothing but the blue… (Moore 1903, p. 446).When we try to introspect the sensation of blue, all we can see is the blue: the other element is as if it were diaphanous (Moore 1903, p. 450).When Eloise sees a tree before her, the colors she experiences are all experien. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that conscious experience has a physical basis. That is, the properties of experience (phenomenal properties, or qualia) systematically depend on physical properties according to some lawful relation. There are two key questions about this relation. The first concerns the strength of the laws: are they logically or metaphysically necessary, so that consciousness is nothing "over and above" the underlying physical process, or are they merely contingent laws like the law of gravity? This question about the (...) strength of the psychophysical link is the basis for debates over physicalism and property dualism. The second question concerns the shape of the laws: precisely how do phenomenal properties depend on physical properties? What sort of physical properties enter into the laws' antecedents, for instance; consequently, what sort of physical systems can give rise to conscious experience? It is this second question that I address in this paper. (shrink)
How should we characterize the nature of perceptual experience? Some theorists claim that colour experiences, to take an example of perceptual experiences, have both intentional properties and properties called 'colour qualia', namely, mental qualitative properties which are what it is like to be conscious of colour. Since proponents of colour qualia hold that these mental properties cannot be explained in terms of causal relations, this position is in opposition to a functionalist characterization of colour experience.
The claim that behaviourally undetectable inverted spectra are possible has been endorsed by many physicalists. I explain why this starting point rules out standard forms of scientific explanation for qualia. The modern ‘phenomenal concept strategy’ is an updated way of defending problematic intuitions like these, but I show that it cannot help to recover standard scientific explanation. I argue that Chalmers is right: we should accept the falsity of physicalism if we accept this problematic starting point. I further argue (...) that accepting this starting point amounts to at least implicitly endorsing certain theoretical claims about the nature of introspection. I therefore suggest that we allow ourselves to be guided, in our quest to understand qualia, by whatever independently plausible theories of introspection we have. I propose that we adopt a more moderate definition of qualia, as those introspectible properties which cannot be fully specified simply by specifying the non-controversially introspectible ‘propositional attitude’ mental states (including seeing x, experiencing x, and so on, where x is a specification of a potentially public state of affairs). Qualia thus defined may well fit plausible, naturalisable accounts of introspection. If so, such accounts have the potential to explain, rather than explain away, the problematic intuitions discussed earlier; an approach that should allow integration of our understanding of qualia with the rest of science. (shrink)
According to representionalists, qualia-the introspectible properties of sensory experience-are exhausted by the representational contents of experience. Representationalists typically advocate an informational psychosemantics whereby a brain state represents one of its causal antecedents in evolutionarily determined optimal circumstances. I argue that such a psychosemantics may not apply to certain aspects of our experience, namely, our experience of space in vision, hearing, and touch. I offer that these cases can be handled by supplementing informational psychosemantics with a procedural psychosemantics whereby a (...) representation is about its effects instead of its causes. I discuss conceptual and empirical points that favor a procedural representationalism for our experience of space. (shrink)
Qualia include the ways things look, sound and smell, the way it feels to have a pain; more generally, what it's like to have mental states. Qualia are experiential properties of sensations, feelings, perceptions and, in my view, thoughts and desires as well. But, so defined, who could deny that qualia exist? Yet, the existence of qualia is controversial. Here is what is controversial: whether qualia, so defined, can be characterized in intentional, functional or purely (...) cognitive terms. Opponents of qualia think that the content of experience is intentional content, or that experiences are functionally definable, or that to have a qualitative state is to have a state that is monitored in a certain way or accompanied by a thought to the effect that I have that state. If we include the idea that experiential properties are not intentional or functional or purely cognitive in the definition of ` qualia ', then it is controversial whether there are qualia. (shrink)
The meta-problem of consciousness (Chalmers, 2018) is the problem of explaining the behaviours and verbal reports that we associate with the so-called 'hard problem of consciousness'. These may include reports of puzzlement, of the attractiveness of dualism, of explanatory gaps, and the like. We present and defend a solution to the meta-problem. Our solution takes as its starting point the emerging picture of the brain as a hierarchical inference engine. We show why such a device, operating under familiar forms of (...) adaptive pressure, may come to represent some of its mid-level inferences as especially certain. These mid-level states confidently re-code raw sensory stimulation in ways that (they are able to realize) fall short of fully determining how properties and states of affairs are arranged in the distal world. This drives a wedge between experience and the world. Advanced agents then represent these mid-level inferences as irreducibly special, becoming increasingly puzzled as a result. (shrink)
Feelings and experiences vary widely. For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is like for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philosophers often use the term ‘qualia’ (singular ‘quale’) to refer to the introspectively (...) accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives. In this standard, broad sense of the term, it is difficult to deny that there are qualia. Disagreement typically centers on which mental states have qualia, whether qualia are intrinsic qualities of their bearers, and how qualia relate to the physical world both inside and outside the head. The status of qualia is hotly debated in philosophy largely because it is central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness. Qualia are at the very heart of the mindbody problem. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker has reconciled a broadly functionalist and materialist conception of the mind with what he calls “the common-sense view‘ of the inverted spectrum. This paper explores Shoemaker’s articulation and defence of the common sense view, and the conception of the content of qualitative experience the lies behind it. It examines the Frege-Schlick view, and a counterargument that Shoemaker uses to raise a prima facie problem for the view he is defending. It is argued that when Shoemaker’s account of (...) class='Hi'>qualia is developed in response to the paradox, it loses its intuitive appeal and its claim on the label “common-sense view‘. (shrink)
Experiences vary widely. For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is _like_ for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philoso- phers often use the term 'qualia' to refer to the introspectively accessible properties of (...) experiences that characterize what it is like to have them. In this standard, broad sense of the term, it is very difficult to deny that there are qualia. There is another, more restricted use of the term. (shrink)
In this paper I present two arguments against the thesis that we experience qualia. I argue that if we experienced qualia then these qualia would have to be essentially vague entities. And I then offer two arguments, one a reworking of Gareth Evans' argument against the possibility of vague objects, the other a reworking of the Sorites argument, to show that no such essentially vague entities can exist. I consider various objections but argue that ultimately they all (...) fail. In particular I claim that the stock responses to the Sorites argument fail against my reworking of the argument because they require us to make a distinction between a determinate reality and how that reality appears to us, whereas in the case of qualia we can make no such distinction. I conclude that there can be no such things as qualia. (shrink)
Nearly all listeners consider the subjective aspects of music, such as its emotional tone, to have primary importance. But contemporary philosophers often downplay, ignore, or even deny such aspects of experience. Moreover, traditional philosophies of music try to decontextualize it. Using music as an example, this paper explores the structure of qualitative experience, demonstrating that it is multi-layer emergent, non-compositional, enacted, and situation dependent, among other non-Cartesian properties. Our explanations draw on recent work in cognitive science, including blending, image schemas, (...) and sensory memory, as well as on phenomenology. A hierarchical structure transformation based complexity theory is applied to obtain a non-linear dynamical systems explanation of qualia and emotion that respects phenomenological insights about time, including retention and protention. The complexity measure provides both a metric structure and a potential function, on spaces of pieces that are constructed using given elements and transformations, with weights that reflect their cognitive difficulty. However, the approach is not reductionist; using improvisation and the evolution of musical notation as data, we argue that situatedness, especially enactment and social context, are key aspects of musical consciousness. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose that those who reject higher-order theories of consciousness should not rule out the possibility of having conscious experiences that they cannot introspect. I begin by offering four arguments that such non-introspectible conscious experiences are possible. Next, I offer two arguments for thinking that we actually have such experiences. According to the first argument, it is unlikely that evolution would have furnished us with a faculty of introspection that worked flawlessly. According to the second argument, there (...) are many plausible potential sources of non-introspectible experiences. Given that all of these sources are at least somewhat plausible, it is fairly probable that we have some kind or other. Finally, I consider whether we might be justified in believing that we can introspect all of our conscious experiences if in fact we can. I show that current approaches to justifying belief in epiphenomenal qualia do not carry over. The upshot of these arguments is that we should be less certain that we really know what it feels like to be us. There may be much more to our experiences than we are aware of. (shrink)
In this paper we advocate the thesis that qualia are tropes (or qualitons), and not (universal) properties. The main advantage of the thesis is that we can accept both the Wittgensteinian and Sellarsian assault on the given and the claim that only subjective and private states can do justice to the qualitative character of experience. We hint that if we take qualia to be tropes, we dissolve the problem of inverted qualia. We develop an account of sensory (...) concept acquisition that takes the presence of qualia as an enabling condition for learning. We argue that qualia taken to be qualitons are part of our mechanism of sensory concept acquisition. (shrink)
Whether or not qualia are ways things seem, the view that qualia have the properties typically attributed to them is unjustified. Ways things seem do not have many of the properties commonly attributed to them. For example, inverted ways things seem are impossible. If ways things seem do not have the features commonly attributed to them, and qualia do have those same features, this looks like good reason to distinguish the two. But if your reasons for believing (...) that qualia have the features are epistemically on a par with reasons for believing that ways things seem have the features, and you know that ways things seem do not have the features, then those reasons cannot justify your belief that qualia have the features. I argue that the reasons are epistemically on a par in this way. (shrink)
endorsed one kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis and rejected another. This paper argues that the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis that Wittgenstein endorsed is the thin end of the wedge that precludes a Wittgensteinian critique of the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis he rejected. The danger of the dangerous kind is that it provides an argument for qualia, where qualia are contents of experiential states which cannot be fully captured in natural language. I will pinpoint the difference between (...) the innocuous and dangerous scenarios that matters for the argument for qualia, give arguments in favor of the coherence and possibility of the dangerous scenario, and try to show that some standard arguments against inverted spectra are ineffective against the version of the dangerous scenario I will be advocating. The leading idea of the paper is that an argument for qualia based on spectrum inversion does not require that the inversion be behaviorally indistinguishable. At one crucial point, I will rely on a less controversial version of an argument I gave in Block. Wittgenstein's views provide a convenient starting point for a paper that is much more about qualia than about Wittgenstein. (shrink)
Dennett provides a much discussed argument for the nonexistence of qualia, as conceived by philosophers like Block, Chalmers, Loar and Searle. My goal in this paper is to vindicate Dennett's argument, construed in a certain way. The argument supports the claim that qualia are constitutively representational. Against Block and Chalmers, the argument rejects the detachment of phenomenal from information-processing consciousness; and against Loar and Searle, it defends the claim that qualia are constitutively representational in an externalist understanding (...) of this. The core of the argument is contained in section 3. In the first part, I contrast a minimal conception of qualia, relative to which their existence is not under dispute, with the sort of view to which I will object. In the second part I set the stage by presenting the facts about qualia on which a Dennett-like argument can be based. (shrink)
This paper investigates the status of the purported explanatory gap between pain phenomena and natural science, when the “gap” is thought to exist due to the special properties of experience designated by “ qualia ” or “the pain quale” in the case of pain experiences. The paper questions the existence of such a property in the case of pain by: looking at the history of the conception of pain; raising questions from empirical research and theory in the psychology of (...) pain; considering evidence from the neurophysiological systems of pain; investigating the possible biological role or roles of pain; and considering methodological questions of the comparable status of the results of the sciences of pain in contrast to certain intuitions underpinning “the explanatory gap” in the case of pain. Skepticism concerning the crucial underlying intuitions seems justified by these considerations. (shrink)
Experiences of motion and change are widely taken to have a ‘flow-like’ quality. Call this ‘temporal qualia’. Temporal qualia are commonly thought to be central to the question of whether time objectively passes: (1) passage realists take temporal passage to be necessary in order for us to have the temporal qualia we do; (2) passage antirealists typically concede that time appears to pass, as though our temporal qualia falsely represent time as passing. I reject both claims (...) and make the case that passage-talk plays no useful explanatory role with respect to temporal qualia, but rather obfuscates what the philosophical problem of temporal qualia is. I offer a ‘reductionist’ account of temporal qualia that makes no reference to the concept of passage and argue that it is well motivated by empirical studies in motion perception. (shrink)
At the very heart of the mind-body problem is the question of the nature of consciousness. It is consciousness, and in particular _phenomenal_ consciousness, that makes the mind-body relation so deeply perplexing. Many philosophers hold that no defi nition of phenomenal consciousness is possible: any such putative defi nition would automatically use the concept of phenomenal consciousness and thus render the defi nition circular. The usual view is that the concept of phenomenal consciousness is one that must be explained by (...) means of specifi c examples and associated comments. (shrink)
If we are to preserve qualia, one possibility is to take the current academic, philosophical, and theoretical notion less seriously and current natural science and some pre-theoretical intuitions about qualia more seriously. Dennett (1997) is instrumental in showing how ideas of the intrinsicalness and privacy of qualia are misguided and those of ineffability and immediacy misinterpreted. However, by combining ideas of non-mechanicalness used in contemporary natural science with the pre-theoretical idea that qualia are special because they (...) are unique, we get a notion of qualia that is acceptable to naturalistic philosophy. The notion of unique qualia is not opposed to the idea that some of the characterizations of qualia have to be qualified. It is the folk-philosophical, academic, notions of theoreticity and conceptuality that have to be modified. (shrink)
Neurological syndromes in which consciousness seems to malfunction, such as temporal lobe epilepsy, visual scotomas, Charles Bonnet syndrome, and synesthesia offer valuable clues about the normal functions of consciousness and ‘qualia’. An investigation into these syndromes reveals, we argue, that qualia are different from other brain states in that they possess three functional characteristics, which we state in the form of ‘three laws of qualia’. First, they are irrevocable: I cannot simply decide to start seeing the sunset (...) as green, or feel pain as if it were an itch; second, qualia do not always produce the same behaviour: given a set of qualia, we can choose from a potentially infinite set of possible behaviours to execute; and third, qualia endure in short-term memory, as opposed to non-conscious brain states involved in the on-line guidance of behaviour in real time. We suggest that qualia have evolved these and other attributes because of their role in facilitating non-automatic, decision-based action. We also suggest that the apparent epistemic barrier to knowing what qualia another person is experiencing can be overcome by using a ‘bridge’ of neurons; and we offer a hypothesis about the relation between qualia and one's sense of self. (shrink)
In this article, I give an original objection to Frank Jackson's argument for the conclusion that the subjective, felt properties of experience are causally inert. I show that the very act of asserting the existence of these properties undermines the claim that they are epiphenomenal. If this objection goes through, it is fatal to the argument in question.
Qualia have proved difficult to integrate into a broadly physicalistic worldview. In this paper, I argue that despite popular wisdom in the philosophy of mind, qualia’s intrinsicality is not sufficient for their non-reducibility. Second, I diagnose why philosophers mistakenly focused on intrinsicality. I then proceed to argue that qualia are categorical and end with some reflections on how the conceptual territory looks when we keep our focus on categoricity.
We define qualia space Q to be the space of all possible conscious experience. For simplicity we restrict ourselves to perceptual experience only, though other kinds of experience could also be considered. Qualia space is a highly idealized concept that unifies the perceptual experience of all possible brains. We argue that Q is a closed pointed cone in an infinite-dimensional separable real topological vector space. This quite technical structure can be explained for the most part in a simple, (...) intuitive way. The structure of qualia space allows us to consider and even answer in a precise way such questions as: Is there a continuous path from the sensation of blue to the sensation of pain? Once we fix a desired accuracy of approximation, do there exist finitely many perceptual experiences such that any possible perceptual experience is approximately equal to one of them? What should be meant by ‘fundamentally different’ perceptual experiences? There is the possibility of additional structure, such as a Hilbert space structure on the vector space in which Q is embedded. (shrink)
Can psychology explain the qualitative content of experience? A persistent philosophical objection to that discipline is that it cannot. Qualitative states or 'qualia' are argued to have characteristics which cannot be explained in terms of their relationships to other psychological states, stimuli, and behavior. Since psychology is confined to descriptions of such relationships, it seems that psychology cannot explain qualia. A paradigm case of qualia is provided by simultaneous color contrast effects, in which a neutral grey patch (...) is made to look reddish by being enclosed in a green surround. If the qualia based objections are sound, psychology ought not to be able to explain simultaneous color contrast; but psychology at least seems to be able quite successfully to explain those effects. This paper analyzes the logic of psychological explanations of simultaneous color contrast effects, and the import of various qualia based objections to those explanations. I argue that the qualia objections do not demonstrate any explanatory inadequacy in existing psychological explanations of 'looks'. Psychology succeeds in explaining at least some qualia. In a more positive vein, I argue that once the structure of such explanations is sufficiently understood, a place can be found for qualia within the emerging scientific account of color perception. The resulting account can deal with many of the traditional perplexities over qualia. (shrink)