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 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)
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.
Computational neuroscience attributes coloured areas and other perceptual qualia to calculations that are realizable in multiple cellular forms. This faces serious issues in explaining how the various qualia arise and how they bind to form overall perceptions. Qualia may instead be neuroelectrical. Growing evidence indicates that perceptions correlate with neuroelectrical activity spotted by locally activated EEGs, the different qualia correlate with the different electrochemistries of unique detector cells, a unified neural-electromagnetic field binds this activity to form (...) overall perceptions, and this field interacts with sensory circuits to help attentively guide perception. The coloured areas in images may thus be seated in the electrochemistry of unique cells, while constancy mechanisms and other multiply realizable computations just help refine these images behind the scenes. This theory is ultimately testable. (shrink)
Many believe that a suitably programmed computer could act for its own goals and experience feelings. I challenge this view and argue that agency, mental causation and qualia are all founded in the unique, homeostatic nature of living matter. The theory was formulated for coherence with the concept of an agent, neuroscientific data and laws of physics. By this method, I infer that a successful action is homeostatic for its agent and can be caused by a feeling - which (...) does not motivate as a force, but as a control signal. From brain research and the locality principle of physics, I surmise that qualia are a fundamental, biological form of energy generated in specialized neurons. Subjectivity is explained as thermodynamically necessary on the supposition that, by converting action potentials to feelings, the neural cells avert damage from the electrochemical pulses. In exchange for this entropic benefit, phenomenal energy is spent as and where it is produced - which precludes the objective observation of qualia. (shrink)
In this paper, we describe four broad ‘meta-methods’ employed in scientific and philosophical research of qualia. These are the theory-centred metamethod, the property-centred meta-method, the argument-centred meta-method, and the event-centred meta-method. Broadly speaking, the theory-centred meta-method is interested in the role of qualia as some theoretical entities picked out by our folk psychological theories; the property-centred meta-method is interested in some metaphysical properties of qualia that we immediately observe through introspection ; the argument-centred meta-method is interested in (...) the role of qualia in some arguments for non-physicalism; the event-centred metamethod is interested in the role of qualia as some natural events whose nature is hidden and must be uncovered empirically. We will argue that the event-centred metamethod is the most promising route to a comprehensive scientific conception of qualia because of the flexibility of ontological and methodological assumptions it can provide. We also reveal the hidden influences of the different meta-methods and in doing so show why consideration of meta-methods has value for the study of consciousness. (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)
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)
This paper distinguishes two types of qualia theory, which I call Galilean and non-Galilean qualia theories. It also offers considerations against each type of theory. To my mind the considerations are powerful. In any case, they bring out the importance of distinguishing the two types of theory. For they show that different considerations come into play—or considerations come into play in quite different ways—in assessing the two types of theory.
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)
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)
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 this paper, I address the issue of the ontological status of qualitative properties. I discuss the prevalent approaches to the problem of qualia in philosophy of mind, in relation to the various attempts at naturalizing the mind and the various theories of perception. I compare these views with Husserl's phenomenology, highlighting the phenomenological distinction between phenomenal contents of mental states and sensory properties of the perceived objects. I present some open issues of this view, in order to show (...) how they can be addressed in the light of some developments of the phenomenological inquiry in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. (shrink)
Many so-called problems in contemporary philosophy of mind depend for their expression on a collection of inter-defined technical terms, a few of which are qualia, phenomenal property, and what-it’s-like-ness. I express my scepticism about Keith Frankish’s illusionism, the view that people are generally subject to a systematic illusion that any properties are phenomenal, and scout the relative merits of two alternatives to Frankish’s illusionism. The first is phenomenal meta-illusionism, the view that illusionists such as Frankish, in holding their view, (...) are themselves thereby under an illusion. The second is qualia quietism, the view that nothing worth saying is said by employing any of the aforementioned inter-defined technical terms. (shrink)
By arguing that qualia is meaning or understanding, a new framework for understanding consciousness is developed. In this way, the meaning of yellow and red are uncovered. The suggested solutions are that yellow means “source of light” and red means “important”. Also, in the process of arguing that qualia is meaning, remarkable similarities in the structure of qualia are uncovered. In this way, a reason for why very hot and very cold water feel the same, is given. (...) The same behaviour is also shown to take place for colours. (shrink)
Pure representationalism or intentionalism for phenomenal experience is the theory that all introspectible qualitative aspects of a conscious experience can be analyzed as qualities that the experience non-conceptually represents the world to have. Some philosophers have argued that experiences such as afterimages, phosphenes and double vision are counterexamples to the representationalist theory, claiming that they are non- representational states or have non-representational aspects, and they are better explained in a qualia-theoretical framework. I argue that these states are fully representational (...) states of a certain kind, which I call “automatically non-endorsed representations”, experiential states the veridicality of which we are almost never committed to, and which do not trigger explicit belief or disbelief in the mind of the subject. By investigating descriptive accounts of afterimages by two qualia theorists, I speculate that the mistaken claims of some anti-representationalists might be rooted in confusing two senses of the term “seeming”. (shrink)
This review provides a commentary on coloured-hearing arising on hearing music: music-colour synaesthesia. Although traditionally explained by the hyperconnectivity theory (Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001a) and the disinhibited feedback theory (Grossenbacher & Lovelace, 2001) as a purely perceptual phenomenon, the review of eight coloured-hearing neuroimaging studies shows that it may not be assumed that these explanations are directly translatable to music-colour synaesthesia. The concept of 'ideaesthesia' (Nikolić, 2009) and the role of conceptual and semantic inducers challenge the likelihood of a single (...) mechanism underlying the cause of synaesthesia and argue for a move away from a purely sensory to sensory explanation. Finally, music-colour synaesthesia forms a challenge for established philosophical theories and the position of synaesthesia is considered within the larger context of musical qualia. (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.
In this paper, we take a critical look at the notion of musical qualia. Although different conceptions of qualia are often used by theorists to describe musical experience, there is little consensus as to just what this entails. Broadly speaking, some argue that qualia are best understood as pregiven attributes of the musical environment, whereas others insist that they are products of information processing confined within the boundaries of the skull. We critically examine these positions and consider (...) how they align with recent work in cognitive science. Although our main goal is to contribute to a richer understanding of what musical experience entails, we present arguments that go beyond the sole domain of music, involving critical neuroscience, Gestalt psychology, and philosophy of mind. Indeed, because music spans such a wide range of human activity, it offers a rich experiential context where theories of cognition may be put to the test. With this in mind, we then explore an alternative embodied perspective that looks beyond dichotomous inner-outer schemas and information-processing frameworks. As we go, we suggest that embodied approaches to musical experience may offer more inclusive and holistic models that better reflect how people actually engage with and talk about music in their day-to-day lives. To conclude, we discuss the relevance of the embodied perspective for the notion of qualia and what such insights might mean for musical research and practice. (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)
It is often thought that consciousness has a qualitative dimension that cannot be tracked by science. Recently, however, some philosophers have argued that this worry stems not from an elusive feature of the mind, but from the special nature of the concepts used to describe conscious states. Marc Champagne draws on the neglected branch of philosophy of signs or semiotics to develop a new take on this strategy. The term “semiotics” was introduced by John Locke in the modern period – (...) its etymology is ancient Greek, and its theoretical underpinnings are medieval. Charles Sanders Peirce made major advances in semiotics, so he can act as a pipeline for these forgotten ideas. Most philosophers know Peirce as the founder of American pragmatism, but few know that he also coined the term “qualia,” which is meant to capture the intrinsic feel of an experience. Since pragmatic verification and qualia are now seen as conflicting commitments, Champagne endeavors to understand how Peirce could (or thought he could) have it both ways. The key, he suggests, is to understand how humans can insert distinctions between features that are always bound. Recent attempts to take qualities seriously have resulted in versions of panpsychism, but Champagne outlines a more plausible way to achieve this. So, while semiotics has until now been the least known branch of philosophy ending in –ics, his book shows how a better understanding of that branch can move one of the liveliest debates in philosophy forward. (shrink)
This paper argues for the reality of qualia as aspects of phenomenal experience. The argument focuses on color vision and develops a dispositionalist, subjectivist account of what it is for an object to be colored. I consider objections to dispositionalism on epistemological, metaphysical, and 'ordinary' grounds. I distinguish my representative realism from sense-data theories and from recent 'representational' or 'intentional' theories, and I argue that there is no good reason to adopt a physicalist stance that denies the reality of (...)qualia as phenomenally available intentional contents in Brentano's original sense of 'intentionality'. (shrink)
David Chalmers' dancing qualia argument is intended to show that phenomenal experiences, or qualia, are organizational invariants. The dancing qualia argument is a reductio ad absurdum, attempting to demonstrate that holding an alternative position, such as the famous inverted spectrum argument, leads one to an implausible position about the relation between consciousness and cognition. In this paper, we argue that Chalmers' dancing qualia argument fails to establish the plausibility of qualia being organizational invariants. Even stronger, (...) we will argue that the gap in the argument cannot be closed. (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)
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)
First, I briefly characterize Dretske’s particular naturalization project, emphasizing his naturalistic reconstruction of the notion of representation. Second, I note some apparent similarities between his notion of representation and Husserl’s notion of intentionality, but I find even more important differences. Whereas Husserl takes intentionality to be an intrinsic, phenomenological feature of thought and experience, Dretske advocates an “externalist” account of mental representation. Third, I consider Dretske’s treatment of qualia, because he takes it to show that his representational account of (...) mind succeeds in naturalizing even the “subjective” features of experience. I claim that Dretske's argument for his account of qualia turns on an ambiguous characterization of qualia. I conclude that he succeeds in naturalizing qualia only if qualia are understood as nonphenomenological features of experience and that he therefore has less to say than he thinks about the subjective life of beings such as us. (shrink)
Representationism is the view that the phenomenal character of an experience supervenes on its representational content. Synaesthesia is a condition in which the phenomenal character of the experience produced in a subject by stimulation of one sensory modality contains elements characteristic of a second, unstimulated sensory modality. After reviewing some of the recent psychological literature on synaesthesia and one of the leading versions of representationism, I argue that cases of synaesthesia, as instances of what I call the extra qualia (...) problem, are counterexamples to externalist versions of representationism. (shrink)
Logic is useful as a neutral formalism for expressing the contents of mental representations. It can be used to extract crisp conclusions regarding the higher-order theory of phenomenal consciousness developed in (McDermott 2001, 20007). A key aspect of conscious perceptions is their connection to the distinction between appearance and reality. Perceptions must often be corrected. To do so requires that the logic of perception be able to represent the logical structure of judgment events, that is, to include the formulas of (...) the logic as objects to be reasoned about. However, there is a limit to how finely humans can examine their own representations. Terms representing primary and secondary qualities seemed to be _locked,_ so that the numbers (or levels of neural activation) that are their essence are not directly accessible. Humans feel a need to invoke ``intrinsic,'' ``nonrelational'' properties of many secondary qualities --- their _qualia_ --- to ``explicate'' how we compare and discriminate among them, although this is not actually how the comparisons are accomplished. This model of qualia explains several things: It accounts for the difference between ``normal'' and ``introspective'' access to a perceptual module in terms of quotation. It dissolves Jackson's knowledge argument by explaining what Mary learns as a fictional but undoubtable belief structure. It makes spectrum inversion logically impossible by providing a degree of freedom between the physical structure of the brain and the representations it contains that redescribes putative cases of spectrum inversion as alternative but equivalent ways of mapping physical states to representational states. (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)
Within recent discussions in the Philosophy of Mind, the nature of conscious phenomenal states or qualia (also called ‘raw feels’ or the feel of ‘what it is like to be’) has been an important focus of interest. Proponents of Mind-Body Type-Identity theories have claimed that mental states can be reduced to neurophysiological states of the brain. Others have denied that such a reduction is possible; for them, there remains an explanatory gap. In this paper, functionalist, physicalist, epiphenomenalist, and biological (...) models of the mind are discussed and compared. Donald Davidson’s Anomalous Monism is proposed as a unifying framework for a non-reductive theory of qualia and consciousness. Downward Causation, Emergence through Symmetry-breaking, and Dynamical Systems Theory are used to show how consciousness and qualia emerge from their neural substrate and can also be causally efficacious. (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)
Epiphenomenalism has been criticized with several objections. It has been argued that epiphenomenalism is incompatible with the alleged causal relevance of mental states, and that it renders knowledge of our own conscious states impossible. In this article, it is demonstrated that qualia-epiphenomenalism follows from some well- founded assumptions, and that it meets the cited objections. Though not free from difficulties, it is at least superior to its main competitors, namely, physicalism and interactionism.
This is a review of "The Case for Qualia" (Ed., Edmund Wright). The review is in three parts. In Part 1, I briefly lay out the general metaphysic in which the debate on qualia has been unfolding. I term it the classical or spatial metaphysic. In Part 2, we traverse the essays and relate them – the problems with which they grapple, the pitfalls they encounter – to this classic metaphysic. In Part 3, I will briefly sketch out (...) a transformed metaphysic – a temporal metaphysic – along with the model of the origin of the image of the external world, with all its qualia, that this model entails. It happens to be both the metaphysic and the concrete model of the brain developed by Bergson (1896/1912), and it happens to be an approach to the subject neglected, with nary a reference, in the collection. (shrink)
In this paper we put forward the thesis that qualia are tropes (or qualitons), and not (universal) properties. Further, we maintain that Wittgenstein hints in this direction. We also find in Wittgenstein elements of an account of language acquisition that takes the presence of qualia as an enabling condition. We conclude by pointing out some difficulties of this view.
Hans Muller has recently attempted to show that Frank Jackson cannot assert the existence of qualia without thereby falsifying himself on the matter of such mental states being epiphenomenal with respect to the physical world. I argue that Muller misunderstands the commitments of qualia epiphenomenalism and that, as a result, his arguments against Jackson do not go through.
Philosophers who advocate the possibility of spectrum inversion often conclude that the qualitative content of experiential states pose a serious problem for functionalism. I argue that in order for the inversion hypothesis to support this conclusion one needs to show that it generalizes to all species of qualia. By examining features of touch, taste, and olfactory sensations, I show there is good reason to resist this generalization, in which case appeals to the possibility of spectral inversion are considerably less (...) effective than they may initially appear. (shrink)
Qualia are phenomenal properties of sensations and perceptual states: they are whatever it is that gives such states their “felt,” qualitative character. (In speaking of sensations, I speak of course not of mental objects or mental contents, but of mental events—of sensings, not sensa.).
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 ’ based on a loose analogy with Newton’s three laws of classical mechanics. (...) 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 (e.g. they are ‘filled in’) 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 simply by using a ‘bridge ’ of neurons; and we offer a hypothesis about the relation between qualia and one’s sense of self. (shrink)
IntroductionIt is at least a bit embarrassing, perhaps even scandalous, that debate should still rage over the sheer existence of qualia, but they continue to find able defenders after decades of being attacked as relics of ghostly substances, epiphenomenal non-entities, nomological danglers and the like; the intensity of the current confrontation is captured vividly by Daniel Dennett:What are qualia, exactly? This obstreperous query is dismissed by one author by invoking Louis Armstrong's legendary reply when asked what jazz was: (...) “If you gotta ask, you ain't never gonna get to know.” … If I succeed in my task, this move … will look as quaint and insupportable as a jocular appeal to the ludicrousness of a living thing-a living thing, mind you! -doubting the existence of elan vital. (shrink)
Blindsight is a hot topic in philosophy, especially in discussions of consciousness. Here I critically examine various attempts to bring blindsight to bear on debates about qualia -- the raw constituents of consciousness. I argue that blindsight does not unequivocally support any particular theory of qualia. It does, however, vindicate the view that there are qualia, despite arguments -- most notably by Daniel Dennett -- to the contrary.
David Chalmers argues that consciousness -- authentic, first-person, conscious consciousness -- cannot be reduced to brain events or to any physical event, and that efforts to find a workable mind-body identity theory are, therefore, doomed in principle. But for Chalmers and non-reductionist in general consciousness consists exclusively, or at least paradigmatically, of phenomenal or qualia-consciousness. This results in a seriously inadequate understanding both of consciousness and of the “hard problem.” I describe other, higher-order cognitional events which must be conscious (...) if the “hard problem” is to be solved -- in any sense of ‘solve’ which would make us any the wiser about it -- but whose consciousness is quite different from the qualia and phenomena usually inventoried. Events of this kind are both part of the hard problem and the means by which we will solve it, if we ever do. (shrink)
What follows is a short thought experiment that aims to show, reductio ad absurdum, that narrow qualia internalism is probably inconsistent with a physicalist/functionalist theory of mind. Those wishing to rebut the argument presented here will need to demonstrate why spatial proximity and the right sort of causal connection of functionally isolated components are necessary to the instantiation of qualia.
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)
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)
Qualia realists hold that experience’s phenomenal character is a non-representational property of experience, what they call qualia. Representationalists hold that phenomenal character is a representational property of experience—there are no qualia (in this particular sense of the word). The transparency of qualia to introspection would seem to count as reason for rejecting qualia realism and favoring representationalism. Sydney Shoemaker defends a middle ground, call it moderate qualia realism, which seems to provide a response to (...) the problem of transparency that in consistent with qualia realism. According to this view, while phenomenal character is a representational property of experience, it is determined by certain non-representational properties of experience, namely qualia. Shoemaker explains the apparent transparency of qualia by claiming that, while qualia are not directly introspectable, they are indirectly introspectable. I argue that neither Shoemaker’s moderate qualia realism nor his account of indirect introspection provide the qualia realist with a plausible solution to the problem of transparency. (shrink)
There is an argument whichshows conclusively that if qualia are causallyimpotent we could have no possible grounds forbelieving that they exist. But if, as this argumentshows, qualia are causally potent with respect to thedescriptions we give of them, it is tolerably certainthat they are causally potent in other morebiologically significant respects. The empiricalevidence, from studies of the effect of lesions of thestriate cortex shows that what is missing inthe absence of visual qualia is the ability tocategorize sensory (...) inputs in the visual modality. This would suggest that the function of privateexperience is to supply what Broadbent callsthe evidence on which the categorization ofproblematic sensory inputs are based. At the sametime analysis of the causal relation shows that whatdifferentiates a causal relation from an accidentalspatio-temporal conjunction is the existence ofreciprocally related dispositional properties of theentities involved which combine to make it true thatif one member of the conjunction, the cause, had notexisted, the other, the effect, would not haveexisted. The possibility that qualia might bedispositional properties of experiences which, as itwere, supply the invisible glue that sticks cause toeffect in this case is examined, but finallyrejected. (shrink)
One of the strongest objections to epiphenomenalism is that it precludes any kind of knowledge of qualia, since empirical knowledge has to include a causal relationship between the respective belief and the object of knowledge. It is argued that this objection works only if the causal relationship is understood in a very specific sense (as a 'direct' causal relationship). Epiphenomenalism can, however, live well with other kinds of causal relationships ('indirect' causal relationships) or even with a reliability account of (...) knowledge which does not invoke causation at all. Michael Pauen has argued extensively (this volume of Journal of Consciousness Studies), however, that this line of defence doesn't work because it presupposes the existence of psychophysical laws connecting qualia with physical phenomena which cannot be established under epiphenomenalist presuppositions. It is argued that Pauen's arguments lead to sceptical consequences which threaten not only interactionist alternatives to epiphenomenalism but finally his own account. (shrink)
The central attempt of this paper is to explain the underlying intuitions of Frank Jackson’s “Knowledge Argument” that the epistemic gap between phenomenal knowledge and physical knowledge points towards a corresponding ontological gap. The first step of my analysis is the claim that qualia are epistemically special because the acquisition of the phenomenal concept of a quale x requires the experience of x. Arguing what is so special about phenomenal concepts and pointing at the inherence-relation with the qualia (...) they pick out, I give compelling reasons for the existence of ontologically distinct entities. Finally I conclude that phenomenal knowledge is caused by phenomenal properties and the instantiation of these properties is a specific phenomenal fact, which can not be mediated by any form of descriptive information. So it will be shown that phenomenal knowledge must count as the possession of very special information necessarily couched in subjective, phenomenal conceptions. (shrink)