Are qualia real?

Are qualia real?

  1. Yes, and they are not physical

    50.0%
  2. Yes, and they are physical

    30.0%
  3. No

    20.0%
  1. StatusX

    StatusX 2,567
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    In wikipedia, qualia are defined as:

    There is no way to prove they exist from third person methods alone, but many philosophers argue that we can know about them from the first person. I'm wondering who here thinks these are real and who thinks they are a delusion. For those who think they aren't real, do you at least admit that it seems like they are, but just feel that this intuition is wrong? And for those who do believe in them, do you think science will ever be able to account for their existence and/or specific (intrinsic) properties?

    I mean for this to be a way to see who stands where, so I've made the voting public. I'd like people to take this oppurtunity to make some arguments for and against qualia. Obviously, anyone can deny the most convincing argument for their existence and still hold a perfectly consistent world view. But try to be open minded, and argue specifically why this intuition should both exist and be wrong.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    I've never liked this question. I suppose not everyone will agree, but it's always seemed obvious that there is something that it is like to be in any conscious state. If that is the only restriction on what it is to be qualia, then sure, they exist. The real question is whether they are truly the ineffable phantoms that antiphysicalists want them to be, or whether they are the quantifiable brain events that opponents contend.

    Either way, taking a stance on one position or the other seems foolish to me at this point. You do that, and all that ends up happening is that you'll defend that position no matter how absurd it becomes in particular circumstances. As far as I'm concerned, I've seen decent arguments against each side and that's all. There is little evidence at this point on which to base a definitive judgement.
     
  4. StatusX

    StatusX 2,567
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    As the quote mentions, qualia are by defintion unknowable except by direct experience. In other words, if those states you talk about do turn out to be nothing more than quantifiable brain events, then they are not qualia, and qualia don't exist. In fact, it may be a contradiction to believe in physical qualia, but I know some people still do so I left it as a choice.

    Also, it is very important to take a stand now. If you believe qualia are real and nonphysical, you believe that there is more to be explained after the entire physical brain has been mapped. Nothing that could be found there could explain qualia, even in principle, so no experimental evidence will sway your opinion.

    If this sounds a little unreasonable, maybe it is. Because if they can explain why we believe in qualia, what retort could we give? This paradox is the reason I think many people don't believe in qualia, even though the evidence for them is overwhelming (right now you are observing qualia, as is always the case). I think we are misunderstanding some very basic properties of the extrinsic/intrinsic distinction, and that it is possible both that qualia are real and that there is a physical reason we talk about them.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2005
  5. I apologize to Nereid and honestrosewater for appearing to be rude but the people here make it very difficult. :cry: I tried to communicate the necessity of differentiating between logical thought and intuitive comprehension, but I suspect no one here has even begun to comprehend the value of recognizing this fundamental dicodomy. It should be clear to everyone that, by the very definition of the terms, that it is illogical to fail to differentiate between the two. Yet no one seems to be taking the trouble to do so. I can only conclude that no one has even begun to think about the issue. :confused:

    StatusX asks if qualia are real. Obviously, the first question which must be answered is exactly what does one mean by real. And then, given the answer to that question, ask if the label "qualia" refers to something which fullfills the specification implied by the label "real". Qualia is something which has been squat up by a number of people. "Real", on the other hand, is a label squat up by most everybody! The general definition of "real" seems to be that it lablels those "things" which are necessary to the world view we hold as valid (and I am very willing to listen to any arguments against that perspective). Under that perspective, statusX's question becomes, what makes "qualia" necessary to the world view you hold? You should be able to give me some logical consequences of the existance of qualia if it is more than just a label for some worthless squat your intuition has created. Please, what phenomena does it explain beyond its own existence?

    That is, show to me something about "qualia" that is worth thinking about; I personally have no thoughts on the idea at all and, at the moment, I don't seem to be able to squink any up. :rofl:

    Have fun -- Dick

    PS my wife tells me I have misspelled the past tense of squink; it should be squaught. I need an opinion – honestrosewater, you are the authority on this. :biggrin:
     
  6. FYI, it is possible for two people who understand the distinction to
    disagree.


    Qualia have consequences for

    1) The scientific understanding of perception. Since objects do not have
    scientifically speaking have all the properties they seem to have, we need
    a term for the properties they seem to have

    2) Aesthetics. How can a painting seem beautiful if it doesn't seem ? The
    difference betwen tasting a wine and reading its label.

    3) Ethics. There is cruely to animals, but not cruelty to machines, because machines do not *feel*.

    4) Complex behaviour, if Ramachandran is correct. (3 laws of qualia)
     
  7. Of ocurse one can accept that qualia are real in some sense whilst "bracketting£ the question of whether they are physical, etc.
     
  8. hypnagogue

    hypnagogue 2,265
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    I voted for the first option (not surprisingly): real and not physical. At the moment I favor Rosenberg's view of what qualia are and how they 'fit in' with the physical world. On this view, qualia are the intrinsic basis for the extrinsic relationships described by phyics. So it's not completely correct here to state that qualia are not physical; by hypothesis, physical phenomena (as described by extrinsic physical theory) literally are the sets of effective relationships engaged in by the intrinsic qualia. So, on this view, it would be more correct to say that physical phenomena are one aspect (but not all aspects) of qualia; they are qualia as seen 'from the outside.'
     
  9. StatusX

    StatusX 2,567
    Homework Helper

    That's not a helpful definition. If we have a world view that explains everything but qualia, then they certainly aren't necessary to it. But if qualia are real, then that view is lacking.

    It may not explain anything, and I disagree that it needs to. What about the intrinsic base of the physical, ie, whatever is at the bottom and being acted on by the rules? Its specific character has no logical consequences, but it is real. Of course, you might deny that there is anything at the bottom, but unless you can explain why that should be, you only believe that to protect your view that the extrinsic is all that's real.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2005
  10. StatusX

    StatusX 2,567
    Homework Helper

    I should just point out that many philosophers who believe in qualia do not believe they fill any roles like these. It certainly seems that all of these functions can be explained by the physical brain.

    The paradox of qualia is that they seem to be epiphenomenal, that is, having no functional porperties at all. And yet, they also seem to be real in a way that's stronger than any possible illusions or mistaken intuitions could be. Rather than assume our intuition is wrong and move on, I would like to find a way that qualia could be real and non-functional, and yet for it still to be necessary that they exist for us to actually talk and think about them.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2005
  11. So you are saying that you fully comprehend the difference between using logic and using intuition and that you feel recognition of the difference is of no value? :confused: I suppose you would suggest that the scientific community should accept intuition as just as good a defense of ideas they normally award to logic! :rofl:

    Perhaps that is the real reason for your illogical defense of the need for qualia:
    So qualia are properties objects do not have and we need a name for this! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: Because your intuition tells you so??? That has a familiar ring to it. :biggrin:
    Maybe there are important, "scientifically speaking", aspects to the situation which are not yet fully understood. What you seem to fail to understand is that giving a name to something is not a solution to the problem of understanding it. :yuck: All giving it a name does is to assist in acquiring the emotional feeling that you understand it, a very dangerous ("scientifically speaking") anti science illusion. :tongue:
    You are giving me a conclusion, not a defense of that conclusion. :uhh: Contrary to what you say above, you apparently have no understanding of the fundamental difference between logic and intuition at all.

    Have fun squinking, you are certainly wasting your time trying to think – Dick

    PS Speaking of cruelty to animals, I am firmly of the opinion (what my intuition has squinked up) that cruelty is in the mind of the performer of the act. When a tiger chews on the haunch of a living zebra, is it being cruel or is it simply enjoying a meal? On the other hand, in a Sims game, you can surround a Sim with a wall so that it cannot fulfill its needs for survival. In such a case, the Sim will complain a lot and eventually die. Why would someone enjoy doing such a thing? I personally would attach the word "cruel" to the enjoyment of the suffering of others. Different strokes for different folks.
     
  12. If we have a world view that explains everything but santa and the easter bunny, then they certainly aren't necessary to it. But if santa and the easter bunny are real, then that view is lacking. Now you need to define what you mean by "explain". :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

    Have fun -- Dick
     
  13. StatusX

    StatusX 2,567
    Homework Helper

    I'm glad you found that so amusing, but I was pointing out how your defintion of "real" was circular. You're the one who needs to clarify.
     
  14. Quoted by StatusX: "Rather than assume our intuition is wrong and move on, I would like to find a way that qualia could be real and non-functional, . . ."

    I would opine that studies done on patients diagnosed with 'blindsight' show that qualia are in fact functional and not at all epiphenomenal. Apparently, these people do process visual information, they just dont (or wont) consciously access it (or something to that effect). If qualia were real but non-functional, they would not be able to report it, they would just go on behaving as though they were experiencing visual qualia. Qualia, if real, would necessarily have to 'function', in the sense that it would have to do something . . . have some sort of effect, when it is 'kicked'. That is if 'blindsight' (notice the scare quotes) is a real disorder in its own right. But that goes right back to the beginning . . . so, nevermind.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2005
  15. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    This seems to equate qualia with internal processing of sensory data. I don't think this is what philosophers mean by the term. The usual referent is that a quale is "what it is like to have a sensory experience". I believe Chalmers (but maybe not Rosenberg) accepts the distinction, placing sensory signals in the physical box and qualia in the nonphysical.
     
  16. IE, the qualia RED is not the color red, but the experience of the color red. But what if one night the cells in your retina that respond to the 'color' red were removed, or anywhere else from eye to brain where color is 'dealt with'. If qualia were non-physical, you wouldnt be able to form a report to tell yourself that you were no longer able to experience the color red. If it were to happen while you were awake and in conversation, you would go on as before without the slightest break, only now you are a zombie.
     
  17. StatusX

    StatusX 2,567
    Homework Helper

    But you said it yourself: "...the cells in your retina that respond to the 'color' red were removed...". That is why you can report a difference, because there is a physical change. Qualia are what its like to see those colors, and that would also change. But qualia don't do anything, and if you could somehow change just the qualia, no one would be able to tell, including you. That is a big reason why many people don't believe in them.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2005
  18. Is it possible even in principle to 'change just the qualia'? Are there any examples of physical effects that completely terminate in such a local area that are analogous to epiphenomena?
     
  19. AKG

    AKG 2,585
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    We know and are certain of our experiences, although we can doubt their causes. We can conceive of a situation where we are just "brain-in-vats." We normally assume that when we see a computer, there is physically a computer in front of our physical bodies causing this experience, but it is conceivable that we are hallucinating, or as I said, "brains-in-vats." Now, we also normally assume that we have brains, but I believe it is conceivable that we have not. Perhaps we have something like brains, and we are "things-like-brains-in-vats." In fact, although it has no practical value, we could assume that we know only our experiences, and assume that we should infer nothing beyond: neither that we have brains like we think we do, nor bodies, nor is there physically a computer in front of whatever I am, causing me to experience it that way.

    We can be certain of our experiences, and that they exist. The image of the computer, what it's like to see redness, etc., we are sure of those things. We can't be certain of anything beyond them, so clearly, the two are different. Physical things like brains and computers are such things (i.e. things beyond experience which are inferred from experience), so these qualia must be different from such things.
     
  20. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    We can be certain that we have immediate memories of having had experiences, but that is all. Dennett, and the neurological experimenters along with him, testify that our brain processes systematically create false memories in our own best interests. Much better to shy at the false face in the bushes our internal processes have constructed of branches and twigs, than to ignore the real tiger hidden in there because it was only sketchily glimpsed.
     
  21. AKG

    AKG 2,585
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    You've confused what I meant. When I say "experience," I mean whatever it is you see. I don't mean, when I say you experience a computer, that you have a physical experience of a computer. Indeed, my point was that we can't be sure of any such experiences, but we can be sure of the current experience we have, i.e. we can be sure that to us, we see an image. Whether this image is the result of experiencing a "false" memory or a direct perception, whatever, is irrelevant. If this is confusing, then, in your words, yes, we are certain of our potentially false memories, and that is all. We can be certain of what our memories are, but they could be false, i.e. they may not correspond to anything beyond themselves. Not only could they be false in the sense that they tell us there is a face where there are only twigs, it is conceivable that they are false in that they tell us we're sitting at a computer when we may be brains-in-vats, or even, something-like-brains-(but-not-exactly)-in-vats. We can't even be sure that there are brains beyond our "memories" of brains. Nonetheless, we can be certain that our memories contain brains.
     
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