Originally posted by hypnagogue
You could indeed equally well phrase it, "it is like something for a dog to do X," eg "it is like something for a dog to smell a tree." The phrasing "it is like something to be a dog" just highlights the first-person view of this 'like-ness.' That is, when we say "it is like something to be a dog," we mean something roughly like
1) A dog has a conscious perception associated with e.g. its behavior of smelling a tree-- it is 'like something' for the dog to smell the tree.
2) The dog's experience of smelling the tree is only accessible to the dog itself.
3) Therefore, if you were the dog, it would be like something for you to smell the tree.
4) Therefore, it is like something to be the dog (eg to be the dog smelling the tree, or to be the dog experiencing any other arbitrary conscious perception).
I think you get the substance of the idea; it's just a matter of phrasing.
I'm sorry, but I still don't like it.
If it is like something to do a particular thing as a dog does that thing, then that dog has subjective experience, and I never denied this. However, if it is like something to be a dog, then doesn't that refer (as you mentioned) to the first-person perspective of being a dog...but the dog doesn't know it's a dog, and so this couldn't take place, could it?