View Poll Results: Are qualia real?
Yes, and they are not physical 16 48.48%
Yes, and they are physical 10 30.30%
No 7 21.21%
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Are qualia real?

by StatusX
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loseyourname
#37
Mar3-05, 05:28 PM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
I was saying that this stand on qualia is too indecisive, because believing in them is believing that whatever we might find out about physical brain states, they can't completely account for qualia (of course, that renders the second option in the poll inconsistent, but this is just my understanding of qualia).
This sounds to me like you're advocating a leap of faith. On what basis can you firmly believe that any physical explanation of consciousness cannot explain the sensations associated with brain events? You needn't repost all of the arguments that have convinced you, seeing as how we've gone over them many times, but I think I (and others) have demonstrated that none of these arguments is particularly conclusive. They all rely on at least one premise that can only be believed due to intuition, an intuition that is not even shared amongst all of the posters here.

Maybe I should have said that if you are open to the possibility that brain states could explain all there is to qualia, then you really don't believe in qualia as defined above.
Well, heck, I guess I don't believe in qualia then. I never realized that the term necessarily excluded the possibility of a physical basis. I figured a physical explanation would be a case of reduction rather than elimination.
Tournesol
#38
Mar4-05, 06:22 AM
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Quote Quote by loseyourname
Well, heck, I guess I don't believe in qualia then. I never realized that the term necessarily excluded the possibility of a physical basis

As originally (and IMO authentically defined), it doesn't:-

C.I Lewis's original definition of qualia:-

"There *are* recognizable qualitative characters of the
given, which may be repeated in different experiences,
and are thus a sort of universals; I call these "qualia."
But although such qualia are universals, in the sense of being
recognized from one to another experience, they must
be distinguished from the properties of objects. Confusion
of these two is characteristic of many historical
conceptions, as well as of current essence-theories.
The quale is directly intuited, given, and is not the
subject of any possible error because it is purely subjective."


The way not to argue for qulia is to load the ontological dice at the outset.
Canute
#39
Mar4-05, 09:54 AM
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Speaking of the intrinsic base of the physical, it has a couple of properties in common with qualia that I think should be explored. First, if we take the view that rules cannot exist by themselves, but must act on something, then we know that there is an intrinsic basis, even though we can't observe it. However, we can't say exactly what it is. Similarly, we know qualia exist, but we can't describe them. Does anyone see any significance to this parallel?
Yes, very much so. I feel it should be treated as a highly significant fact. But it seems to be generally overlooked.

As solipsism is unfalsifiable we know that although we can be certain that our conscious sensations/qualia exist we can never show that anything else exists. Under the circumstances it seems a bit unlikely that anybody will ever manage to show that qualia do not exist but brains do. In fact it is logically impossible.

What is intrinsic to both mental phenomena and corporeal phenomena is, going strictly on the available evidence, meta-physical. While we are forced to accept that what is intrinsic to matter is 'beyond science', it seems that few yet accept that what is intrinsic to consciousness is likewise metaphysical. I suspect that we will all have to face this as a fact sooner or later.

Always there will be two things beyond science. The first is what is fundamental to the 'objective' physical universe, the second is what is fundamental to the 'subjective' mental universe. Perhaps this is a coincidence, or perhaps it is not two things.
StatusX
#40
Mar6-05, 05:41 PM
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Quote Quote by loseyourname
This sounds to me like you're advocating a leap of faith. On what basis can you firmly believe that any physical explanation of consciousness cannot explain the sensations associated with brain events? You needn't repost all of the arguments that have convinced you, seeing as how we've gone over them many times, but I think I (and others) have demonstrated that none of these arguments is particularly conclusive. They all rely on at least one premise that can only be believed due to intuition, an intuition that is not even shared amongst all of the posters here.
It isn't just intuition. The problem is that physics can only explain functions and structure. So if you are a physicalist, you believe that's all there is to the universe. The vast majority of the world is covered by physics, but consciousness is a little different.

First, what aspects of the human brain can physics explain? It seems likely that anything we say or do can be attributed to atoms interacting in our heads, since these are just functions. Qualia is the name given to those mental phenomena that can't be explained by physics, if they exist. So what are they?

When you look at a pumpkin, photons hit your retina which gives rise to electro-chemical signals that travel through your brain. All kinds of processing is done on these signals, and any number of possible actions can result. You can say "That is orange" or "I am experiencing an orange qualia, and I am certain it cannot be explained by physics" or you can throw the pumpkin out the window. All of this can, in fact, be explained by physics. So the question you have to ask yourself is "Is that all?"

Or is there also an experience? I'm not talking about sound waves corresponding to talk about experience, or even brain waves corresponding to thought about it. I'm talking about that inner, subjective experience. It exists, so what is it? Can it be identified with the physics of firing neurons? Not a priori, certainly, but empirically? No, because all this will cover is causal relationships between physical structures. Qualia is not just relationships, it is absolute. Orange looks like something. What we say or think about orange is one thing, but the experience of it is something different. You can know everything we say and think about orange , but you can't know what it looks like until you experience it yourself. It is intrinsic, in that the experience of orange is what it is, regardless of the particular context it is presented.

I don't think anyone claims there is no inner subjective world, many just feel that this is nothing more than neurons, somehow. But neurons are defined entirely by structure and function. There is no intrinsic "neuron." There is a structure made of protein and other biological chemicals which performs certain roles, like metabolism and passing on of electric signals. This is all a neuron is. But qualia aren't defined this way. They do not have functions, and they do not have to have structure. These can't possibly be the same thing.
loseyourname
#41
Mar6-05, 07:04 PM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
It isn't just intuition. The problem is that physics can only explain functions and structure.
You've just made a variation on the same argument. Physical facts are facts about structure and function. Facts about experience are not facts about structure and function. Therefore, facts about experience are not physical facts. Can you really not see how question begging that is? 'Facts about experience are not facts about structure and function.' Says who? If it is so evident that this is the case, then why is there still any debate? It seems to me that this is what the antiphysicalist camp is seeking to prove. You can't just presuppose it as revealed truth and then use your revelation to divorce experience from science. It isn't that easy.

You say that because orange is "like something," that it cannot be the result of anything physical? Why? How do you make the leap? Who says that physical things can't be "like something?" This just goes to the question of whether qualitative content can be entailed by physicality alone. I brought up in another thread the question of whether novels written and read only by zombies could have themes and tones and such. The answer seemed to be yes. But these are all "like something." They are all qualities that cannot be expressed in scientific language. This just means that there are multiple ways to explain things. Take this quotation from Roger Scruton from a discussion of Spinoza:
  • What I look at a picture I see physical objects: patches of pigments smeared on a canvas. And I can describe these objects so thoroughly as to account for the entire picture. In doing so, I do not mention the other thing that I see: a stag hunt passing before a country house. This too I could describe so thoroughly as to give a complete account of the picture. But the two accounts are incommensurable: I cannot cross from one to the other in midstream, so to speak. I cannot describe the lead hound as frantically pursuing a patch of ochre, or the area of yellow fused with oxydised lindseed oil as resting on a huntman's knee. In some such way, Spinoza is saying, the complete description of the body described the very same thing as the complete description of the mind . . .

No one ever seems to grant that this is even possible. Why can't mental states be described in either physical or qualitative terms, with both giving complete accounts? Why do simply assume that a physical account that doesn't talk about qualia is incomplete, or vice versa? Given that Spinoza wrote his major works several hundred years ago, it's not like this is a new idea.
StatusX
#42
Mar6-05, 07:35 PM
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Quote Quote by loseyourname
You've just made a variation on the same argument. Physical facts are facts about structure and function. Facts about experience are not facts about structure and function. Therefore, facts about experience are not physical facts. Can you really not see how question begging that is?
To be fair, it isn't question begging. I really think that experiences are more than structure and function, and it is because of this that I think they are unphysical, not the other way around.

'Facts about experience are not facts about structure and function.' Says who? If it is so evident that this is the case, then why is there still any debate?
Because it means giving up physicalism, something many people don't want to do.

You say that because orange is "like something," that it cannot be the result of anything physical? Why? How do you make the leap? Who says that physical things can't be "like something?" This just goes to the question of whether qualitative content can be entailed by physicality alone. I brought up in another thread the question of whether novels written and read only by zombies could have themes and tones and such. The answer seemed to be yes. But these are all "like something." They are all qualities that cannot be expressed in scientific language. This just means that there are multiple ways to explain things. Take this quotation from Roger Scruton from a discussion of Spinoza:
  • What I look at a picture I see physical objects: patches of pigments smeared on a canvas. And I can describe these objects so thoroughly as to account for the entire picture. In doing so, I do not mention the other thing that I see: a stag hunt passing before a country house. This too I could describe so thoroughly as to give a complete account of the picture. But the two accounts are incommensurable: I cannot cross from one to the other in midstream, so to speak. I cannot describe the lead hound as frantically pursuing a patch of ochre, or the area of yellow fused with oxydised lindseed oil as resting on a huntman's knee. In some such way, Spinoza is saying, the complete description of the body described the very same thing as the complete description of the mind . . .

No one ever seems to grant that this is even possible. Why can't mental states be described in either physical or qualitative terms, with both giving complete accounts? Why do simply assume that a physical account that doesn't talk about qualia is incomplete, or vice versa? Given that Spinoza wrote his major works several hundred years ago, it's not like this is a new idea.
There is a big difference between the qualitative content of a novel and that of an experience. The former can be phrased in the language of structure/function, while the latter cannot. The tones and themes of a novel can be completely described by referring to how they affect our physical brain. The way an author's words affect our emotions are quantifiable, albeit well beyond any current methods. The reason is that the whole chain of events, from photons bouncing off ink to neural signals, is physical. Once we have accounted for every possible effect a tone or theme can have on us, we have exhaustively accounted for it.

Experiences, on the other hand, are not just difficult to describe. The best poets in the world, or the best neuroscientists in the world, can only give a functional account. They can describe how an experience affects our mood, what it causes us to do or say, or relate it to other experiences to evoke similar feelings. But this does not exhaust what that experience is, because there is still something it is like to be having it.
loseyourname
#43
Mar6-05, 08:26 PM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
To be fair, it isn't question begging. I really think that experiences are more than structure and function, and it is because of this that I think they are unphysical, not the other way around.
Thinking that experiences are more than structure and function and thinking that experiences are more than physical are exactly the same thought! "Structure and function" is just another way of saying "physical." That is exactly why it is question-begging to prove one by presupposing the other.

Because it means giving up physicalism, something many people don't want to do.
Why is it that you think this? What exactly does a physicalist give up by giving up physicalism? His science will be just as effective and useful, and still just as dictatorially in control of its realms, as it was when he was a physicalist. The reason there is debate isn't because one side or the other is being obstinate in not wanting to let go of a cherished world-view. To suggest that is simplistic and bordering on insulting. The reason there is debate is because the matter isn't as cut-and-dry obvious as you want to think.

There is a big difference between the qualitative content of a novel and that of an experience. The former can be phrased in the language of structure/function, while the latter cannot.
I disagree. A description of the qualities of a novel in neuroscientific language isn't going to do it for me, just as a neuroscientific description of the qualities of experience won't do it for you.

Experiences, on the other hand, are not just difficult to describe. The best poets in the world, or the best neuroscientists in the world, can only give a functional account. They can describe how an experience affects our mood, what it causes us to do or say, or relate it to other experiences to evoke similar feelings. But this does not exhaust what that experience is, because there is still something it is like to be having it.
Now you seem to be saying that no qualitative or physical description will do it for you, that experience is simply inexplicable by any means.
StatusX
#44
Mar6-05, 09:59 PM
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I disagree. A description of the qualities of a novel in neuroscientific language isn't going to do it for me, just as a neuroscientific description of the qualities of experience won't do it for you.
But don't you see, that really is all there is to it. What could there possibly be to the theme or tone besides every possible reaction we might have to it? The only thing that can't be accounted for is the subjective experience of the emotions and thougts the novel gives rise to.

Now you seem to be saying that no qualitative or physical description will do it for you, that experience is simply inexplicable by any means.
That may be, but it should at least be acknowledged. The reason I think many physicalists are so stubborn is that we want to believe we can understand every facet of nautre, and consciousness is at least one area where it's not so obvious this can be done, so they deny the hard problem.
Canute
#45
Mar7-05, 05:48 AM
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Status X

I agree with most of what you've said here. In particular I agree that it is only stubbornness or wishful thinking that keeps alive the idea that qualia can be explained scientifically.

Still, what seems obvious to you and me does not appear at all obvious to many others. Perhaps it's worth coming at this from another angle by trying to imagine what a scientific explanation of qualia would look like.

How would the explanation make the leap from physical and observable brain process to non-physical and unobservable qualia? Anyone who tries to sketch out such an explanation must soon discover, whatever form their explanation takes, that there is in principle no way to leap across the explanatory gap between brain functions and processes to subjective experiences. There just isn't a scientific way of doing it, however much we learn about the brain. If there was a way then by now we'd at least expect to have one or two acceptable working hypotheses as to how brain and mind are related.

Even if we knew everything there is to know about the brain states that correlate to the appearance of various qualia we would be no closer to explaining why these states give rise to qualia as opposed to just further brain functions and processes.
Tournesol
#46
Mar7-05, 06:47 AM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
I don't think anyone claims there is no inner subjective world, many just feel that this is nothing more than neurons, somehow. But neurons are defined entirely by structure and function.
Nothing that concretely exists is 'just' structure and function...S & F are abstractions. They are a way of talking about things, not stuff tht things can be made of.

Qualia do not have functions,
Subjectively, they do have causal roles. Note that a 'causal role' is on
the concrete side of the abstract/concrete divide.
loseyourname
#47
Mar7-05, 09:04 AM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
But don't you see, that really is all there is to it. What could there possibly be to the theme or tone besides every possible reaction we might have to it? The only thing that can't be accounted for is the subjective experience of the emotions and thougts the novel gives rise to.
Does a novel then cease to have any qualities if there aren't any people around to read it? Does the painting only contain pigments, and no hunt scene, if no person is there to view it?

That may be, but it should at least be acknowledged. The reason I think many physicalists are so stubborn is that we want to believe we can understand every facet of nautre, and consciousness is at least one area where it's not so obvious this can be done, so they deny the hard problem.
And you give no creedence whatsoever to the possibility presented by Spinoza that both descriptions are complete descriptions that are simply looking at the same thing in different ways?
Tournesol
#48
Mar7-05, 09:46 AM
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Quote Quote by loseyourname
No one ever seems to grant that this is even possible. Why can't mental states be described in either physical or qualitative terms, with both giving complete accounts?
Well, it happens to be the case that physical accounts don't capture the
what-it-seems-like aspects of experience, and if we suppose that
physical accounts are inherently extrinsic and quantative, and that
subjectivity is inhernetly intrinsic and qualiative, both of which seem
reasonable in their own right, we can see why the explanatory gap should arise. OTOH, both descriptions can account for the production of behaviour, so in that sense they overlap, and there is no danger of epiphenomenalism.
StatusX
#49
Mar7-05, 10:38 AM
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Quote Quote by Tournesol
Nothing that concretely exists is 'just' structure and function...S & F are abstractions. They are a way of talking about things, not stuff tht things can be made of.
That's true, but physics is just structure and function. Basically, physics is a very specific kind of math, with the extra axiom that "this is all real." In fact, maybe qualia is what makes physics real. The difference between a universe where the fine structure constant is 1/731 and one where it is 1/137 is that we experience the latter but not the former.

Subjectively, they do have causal roles. Note that a 'causal role' is on
the concrete side of the abstract/concrete divide.
The subjective feeling of a causal role is not a causal role. But I do agree, they must have some kind of causing power because we can talk about them. What I'm talking about when I say "non-functional" is the specifc nature of the qualia. Exactly what it is that red looks like is not related to its functional role, or at the very least, not exhaustively described by it.
StatusX
#50
Mar7-05, 10:47 AM
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Quote Quote by loseyourname
Does a novel then cease to have any qualities if there aren't any people around to read it? Does the painting only contain pigments, and no hunt scene, if no person is there to view it?
It isn't important to the general definition whether a specific instance of a painting or novel is being observed. If you're asking whether theme would still be a meaningful concept if there were no humans in the universe, yes it would. It would be described in terms of hypothetical creatures called humans and the way they would express their thoughts and emotions with language, if they existed. On the other hand, "qualia" is not a meaningful conept in a universe without experiencers, because to know what a qualia is is to experience it.

And you give no creedence whatsoever to the possibility presented by Spinoza that both descriptions are complete descriptions that are simply looking at the same thing in different ways?
Well of course they are. We experience what is in our brain. The question is how are they aspects of that thing, and what it is. The claim physicalists make is that they are the same thing looked at the same way, and that to explain how neurons work is to explain experience.
Tournesol
#51
Mar7-05, 11:32 AM
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Quote Quote by StatusX
Exactly what it is that red looks like is not related to its functional role, or at the very least, not exhaustively described by it.
Of course not. A functional (computational functionalism) role is just an abstract description, and as
such abstracts away the concrete properties of whatever system
implements it. The 'explanatory gap' is just a special case of not
being able to get back from the abstract to the concrete, because in
going from the concrete to the abstract a certain amount is left out.
Les Sleeth
#52
Mar7-05, 06:05 PM
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Anyone see the irony in trying to rationally justify what by definition can only be experienced? One doesn't "think" the taste of a pizza, and one doesn't "feel" logic. So how is one going to prove or logically justify the existence of qualia?
loseyourname
#53
Mar7-05, 11:32 PM
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Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
One doesn't "think" the taste of a pizza, and one doesn't "feel" logic. So how is one going to prove or logically justify the existence of qualia?
That's fine, but experience alone doesn't lead us to the conclusion that what we experience is non-physical in nature. Experience only leads us to the conclusion that what we experience is yellow, or hot, or painful or whatever. It tells us nothing about the origin and/or nature of these experiences. Theory is required to make the leap to the definition that Status posted, which overtly stated that, in order to qualify as qualia, the content of an experience must not have any physical explanation. We can, of course, reason about our experiences and come to these conclusions in light of the theoretical framework that we develop. Most here think that they've reasoned to the conclusion that the contents of their experiences must be non-physical qualia. I think that their reasoning is not sound, and furthermore that there is absolutely nothing in my experience itself to lead me in either direction. I experience yellow, hot, and pain, not physical or non-physical.
Canute
#54
Mar8-05, 08:43 AM
P: 1,499
Are you arguing that pain is physical? That doesn't make much sense to me. The causes of pain can be physical and can be invetigated by theorising, but how can the pain itself, without which any theory of its cause cannot get off the ground, be physical? If it is then I'd want to ask what you mean by 'physical'?


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