• Banno
    9.9k
    So, here it is:

    Quining Qualia

    Let's take a closer look.

    My goal is subversive. I am out to overthrow an idea that, in one form or another, is "obvious" to most people--to scientists, philosophers, lay people. My quarry is frustratingly elusive; no sooner does it retreat in the face of one argument than "it" reappears, apparently innocent of all charges, in a new guise.

    Going over my own notes, I found an admission that I did not understand qualia - from 2012. In 2013, I said I do not think that there is worth in giving a name to the subjective experience of a colour or a smell. In 2014, I doubted the usefulness of differentiating a smell from the experience-of-that-smell. Never understood qualia. I still don't see their purpose.

    So I have some sympathy for Dennett's take here: to deny resolutely the existence or importance of something real or significant.

    No definition of qualia. But providing such a definition, to be fair, is not up to Dennett, if he is rejecting them, but up to their advocates. Instead we get:
    What follows is a series of fifteen intuition pumps, posed in a sequence designed to flush out--and then flush away--the offending intuitions.

    SO, can we list these?
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #1: watching you eat cauliflower.
    There is a way this cauliflower tastes to you right now. Well, no. the taste changes even as you eat it, even as the texture changes as you chew.
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #2: the wine-tasting machine.
    As a tool for convincing those who disagree, this strikes me as singularly useless. Dennett will say there is nothing missing from the machine description; advocates of qualia will say that there is...

    Except that they cannot say what it is that is missing; qualia are after all ineffable. But this never stops their advocates from talking about them...
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #3: the inverted spectrum.
    Meh. Undergrad speculation. Add Intuition pump #4: the Brainstorm machine. Qualia gain no traction here, either. intuition pump #5: the neurosurgical prank. Back to Wittgenstein: how could you tell that your qualia had been inverted, so that what was once blue is now red, as opposed to say, your memory had changed, so what you always saw as red you now recall, erroneously, previously seeing as blue? Intuition pump #6: alternative neurosurgery
  • schopenhauer1
    4.8k
    These inverted quale experiments and such, are not the core problem in my opinion. Rather, that we have quale at all is the core problem. It is not why your quale might be different than mine. That is akin to easy problems vs. the hard problem. Odd dualisms of brain states and mental states like quale are pretty thorny it seems to me.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    1.7k
    But providing such a definition, to be fair, is not up to Dennett, if he is rejecting them, but up to their advocates.Banno

    That does not follow. Terrible reasoning. What good is it to analyze or critique some notion or concept without comprehending it fundamentally? I agree, there is no better source than the advocate, but if the advocate cannot provide an adequate definition for us to work with, we are all just making shit up - masturbation my friend.

    I believe that there is some authority on qualia, who is the first philosopher to mention it? It would be more philosophical to address that person's ideas. My goal here is edification - to quine quining.
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #7: Chase and Sanborn. They have the same decreased liking for the coffee they taste; but is it the coffee that is faulty, or is it the capacity to taste that has changes? The difference between this example and 4-6 is the removal of memory as a participant.
    800px-Kanizsa_triangle.svg.png
    Whence the boundary of the white triangle? In the perception or in the judgement? Hence, intuition pump #8: the gradual post-operative recovery; is the recovery in the quality of the qualia or in the judgement that ensues?

    And if you cannot tell, then what is the point of introducing qualia?
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    1.7k
    I don't see any triangle, but I do see three pacmans
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Pff. Definitions are over-rated. And off-topic. And appeals to authority are without value. Have a read of what he actually says at the start of the article. Try addressing the issues at hand.
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #9: the experienced beer drinker. This is similar to 7 & 8 in playing on the supposed difference between the qualia and the judgement of that qualia. What is added is a seeming rejection of a spit between the taste of the beer and the appreciation of the beer...
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #10: the world-wide eugenics experiment. How to make sense of the qualia of secondary properties... Someone who says phenol-thio-urea is tasteless is not wrong.

    Intuition pump #11: the cauliflower cure. The cauliflower tastes exactly the same, but is now delicious...

    These two perhaps play on the public/private ambiguity of qualia. One might respond that, since the cauliflower is now delicious, Dennett is not experiencing the same taste; or insist that those who think phenol-thio-urea tasteless are indeed in error.
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #12: visual field inversion created by wearing inverting spectacles.

    Only a very naive view of visual perception could sustain the idea that one's visual field has a property of right-side- upness or upside-downness independent of one's dispositions to react to it...

    The point here seems to be that even if there were qualia, they need not count as intrinsic to consciousness. Needs more consideration.
  • Banno
    9.9k
    Intuition pump #13: the osprey cry.

    There's danger here of following Kripke rather than Wittgenstein. However the point must stand, that recognising the rule one is following consists at least in part in being able to carry on with the rule; but nothing in a single instance allows for this. Hence, if a qual (singular of qualia) cannot by its very nature recur, there can be no grounds for claiming that some rule has been followed; if that be so, there can be no basis for differentiating a qual; hence, no qual and no qualia.
  • Banno
    9.9k
    intuition pump #14: the Jello box. This seems to be about the information content of the notion of qualia; if I've understood it aright, one side of the Jello box are the ineffable qualia, the side other, corresponding exactly, the effable, public content of our everyday discourse. But if the content are identical, what is pointed at by the notion of the qualia of say the taste of coffee that is not also pointed at by the usual conversation about the taste of coffee?

    What additional information is to be found in qualia?
  • Banno
    9.9k
    And intuition pump #15: the guitar string.

    Arguably we have here three qualia; the first open E, the harmonic, and the second open E. Is the point here that as the ineffable becomes the subject of discussion, the qualia is less ineffable...?
  • Banno
    9.9k
    that we have quale at all is the core problem.schopenhauer1

    Seems to me that there is nothing that talk of qualia is about. In so far as talk of qualia is usable and useful, it is no different to talk of colours or tastes or what have you. In so far as something is added to the conversation by the addition of qualia, seems to me that Dennett is correct in showing that there is nothing here to see.
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    Seems to me that there is nothing that talk of qualia is about. In so far as talk of qualia is usable and useful, it is no different to talk of colours or tastes or what have you. In so far as something is added to the conversation by the addition of qualia, seems to me that Dennett is correct in showing that there is nothing here to seeBanno

    Fair enough. Let's talk of colours, smells, feelings, tastes, timbres and tunes then. If that's umweildy, we can use the acronym: CSF3T. As is the case with LGBT, this acronym may evolve, i.e. anyone can add to the set.

    Problem solved, at least temporarily.
  • khaled
    1.6k
    Qualia is only useful to distinguish between things like "700 nanometer wavelength electromagnetic wave" and "Red". There are many things you can say about red that don't apply to 700 nanometer wavelength electromagnetic waves.
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    There are many things you can say about red that don't apply to 700 nanometer wavelength electromagnetic waves.khaled

    That's true. We can speak for instance of the gorgeous reds of Georgia O'Keeffe.

    georgia-o-keeffe-painting-1.jpg
    Red Canna, 1919
  • magritte
    145
    Qualia are bundles of properties without a distinct object.
    The issue is that since the PNC is inapplicable saying things about qualia becomes difficult but not impossible.
  • litewave
    444
    To my understanding, qualia are a special kind of "things in themselves". Every thing is something in itself (which constitutes its intrinsic identity), as opposed to its relations to other things (which constitute its extrinsic/relational/structural/compositional etc. identity). Qualia are the intrinsic identities of certain things in our brains that constitute the content of our consciousness. They have a reputation of being ineffable because they are difficult to describe in relation to the myriads of electrochemical processes in the brain. But we don't even know what the electrons are in themselves, let alone how their intrinsic identities and the intrinsic identities of other particles in the brain add up to the intrinsic identities of the spatiotemporal wholes that we experience as contents of our consciousness.
  • Luke
    1.2k
    Intuition pump #1: watching you eat cauliflower.
    There is a way this cauliflower tastes to you right now. Well, no. the taste changes even as you eat it, even as the texture changes as you chew.
    Banno

    I find it odd that it's presented as "watching you eat cauliflower" (in the third person) and then going on to describe the taste and texture in the first-person. How do you know what the taste and texture of cauliflower is like, or that it changes, by watching someone else eat?

    Anyway, even if there is a particular taste and texture of cauliflower at time t, and a different taste and texture of cauliflower at time t', then Dennett (or Banno?) has already acknowledged the first-person, qualitative aspect of the experience of eating cauliflower, which they are apparently seeking to deny.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    Seems to me that there is nothing that talk of qualia is about. In so far as talk of qualia is usable and useful, it is no different to talk of colours or tastes or what have you. In so far as something is added to the conversation by the addition of qualia, seems to me that Dennett is correct in showing that there is nothing here to see.Banno

    Sure, if f(x,y) is unique for x and y, you can talk just in terms of x and y, and ignore f. f doesn't add any new information. Likewise what Dennett's intuition pumps demonstrate is that, when considering a particular individual interacting with a particular object, there's nothing added by considering the objects of subjective experience of that individual of that object. The subject and the object suffice.

    intuition pump #5: the neurosurgical prank. Back to Wittgenstein: how could you tell that your qualia had been inverted, so that what was once blue is now red, as opposed to say, your memory had changed, so what you always saw as red you now recall, erroneously, previously seeing as blue?Banno

    This one never sat well with me. If my memory of grass looks like what I think of as green, and the grass before me looks like what I think of as red, both the memory of green grass and the present experience of red grass ought to be on equal footing. All Dennett can really say is that we don't know *which* qualia changed, not whether qualia changed.
  • Mww
    1.9k
    Qualia....a metaphysical invention by those to whom “representation” doesn’t say enough, by means of that which is itself a representation, but attempts to say too much.

    The last thing of interest to me, upon the occasion of experience, is what the experience is like; given enough experience I already know what it is like, and if not enough experience, I wouldn’t have to means to know what it is like anyway. I’ve seen the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in person as a simple thinking subject, and I’m here to tell ya.....there is NOTHING that experience is like. And to say that experience is like, or similar to, an equally first person experience of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, does nothing but take away from each that which belongs to it alone. When asked about the former, one never offers the latter as a similarity, which makes explicit the “what it is like” explication, these “properties of conscious experience” subliminally attached to subjectivity, has no more qualitative authority then the representations they were theoretically meant to replace.

    It is an indubitable aspect of the human condition to progress, not to leave well enough alone, but rather, to advance for the sake of knowledge generally. Granting that the concept “qualia” is nothing but the speculative evolution of the concept “representation”, it remains questionable as to whether qualia advance speculative epistemology any more than representation already has.
  • schopenhauer1
    4.8k
    Seems to me that there is nothing that talk of qualia is about. In so far as talk of qualia is usable and useful, it is no different to talk of colours or tastes or what have you. In so far as something is added to the conversation by the addition of qualia, seems to me that Dennett is correct in showing that there is nothing here to see.Banno

    I think Dennett might be confusing the origins of quale with its existence. Based on contexts clues from his thought experiments, is seems to be arguing for a socially constructed version of qualia. That is debatable, but one idea. He talks a lot about how it is a public event, that is shared. It needs context of language, inputs from environment, etc. However, to deny that indeed, we have first-person content, would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Rather, there is something "sticky" about actual sensations, if you will. The point of the hard-questioners is that for all the third-person representation of phenomena, it never gets at why it is accompanied by or is "the same thing as" the sensation. Why is "green" the same thing as a certain frequency on wavelength hitting rods and cones, etc. We can keep heaping on more stuff, but then this is the "Cartesian Theater" or similarly the "Homunculus" fallacy. It is simply pushing the problem back to another spot.
  • fdrake
    4.3k
    What's an an intuition pump?

    The purpose of an intuition pump is to challenge an intuition about a claim. It isn't a formal refutation, knock down argument, noticing a contradiction. It's an attempt to reconfigure someone's perspective on something by describing a (possibly imaginary) scenario and analysing how the scenario should be interpreted.

    Why is that appropriate here?

    My goal is subversive. I am out to overthrow an idea that, in one form or another, is "obvious" to most people--to scientists, philosophers, lay people. My quarry is frustratingly elusive; no sooner does it retreat in the face of one argument than "it" reappears, apparently innocent of all charges, in a new guise.

    What are qualia, exactly? This obstreperous query is dismissed by one author ("only half in jest") by invoking Louis Armstrong's legendary reply when asked what jazz was: "If you got to ask, you ain't never gonna get to know." (Block, 1978, p.281) This amusing tactic perfectly illustrates the presumption that is my target. If I succeed in my task, this move, which passes muster in most circles today, 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 lan vital.

    My claim, then, is not just that the various technical or theoretical concepts of qualia are vague or equivocal, but that the source concept, the "pretheoretical" notion of which the former are presumed to be refinements, is so thoroughly confused that even if we undertook to salvage some "lowest common denominator" from the theoreticians' proposals, any acceptable version would have to be so radically unlike the ill-formed notions that are commonly appealed to that it would be tactically obtuse--not to say Pickwickian--to cling to the term. Far better, tactically, to declare that there simply are no qualia at all.

    The standard for demonstrating the metaphysical structure of qualia, and in some cases their existence, is an appeal to intuition rather than a philosophical argument or scientific study. If an appeal to intuition alone may be used to support any (perhaps nascent) qualia account, using equal evidential/logical standards for (perhaps nascent) accounts of qualia suggest that appeals to intuition alone may be used to support criticism of qualia.

    Another aspect is that if an appeal to intuition alone suffices to determine or otherwise influence the structure of qualia in a given account of them, that makes the idea of qualia a moving target with unarticulated structure. That makes the idea of qualia a moving target that can hide and change shape. Which is a situation we are all to familiar with on forum and find frustrating; don't just appeal to personal intuition and self evidence, and treat your opponents' criticism with the same standard of evidence as you use to support your beliefs. Here that's appeals to intuition.

    So how to read the article? Keep in mind that the text is intended to change intuitions of what is plausible or implausible regarding qualia, if one adapts one's intuitions about qualia on the fly and appeals to their self evidence, keep in mind that the article is trying to meet you where you're at; appeals to intuition about a largely uncharacterised or unarticulated idea. If they suffice for the qualia advocate, they suffice for Dennett's criticism. If they don't suffice for you, then you should agree with Dennett about the article's method's appropriateness, and should read his intuition pumps in good faith as explicit counter-intuitions regarding qualia. His intuitions simply differ from yours, go read why, he's gone through the trouble of writing them down and analysing them.
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    the article is trying to meet you where you're at; appeals to intuition about a largely uncharacterised or unarticulated idea. If they suffice for the qualia advocate, they suffice for Dennett's criticism. If they don't suffice for you, then you should agree with Dennett about the article's method's appropriateness, and should read his intuition pumps in good faith as explicit counter-intuitions regarding qualia. His intuitions simply differ from yours, go read why, he's gone through the trouble of writing them down and analysing them.fdrake
    A lot of them are about highly improbable "what ifs". Like your memory of green changing to red... What do this highly esoteric hypothesis achieves exactly?

    Colors have been scientifically studied for quite some time, including their physiological basis. They can be coded in computers, and we know that they can affect our mood. I'm not talking of wavelengths here, but of combinations of wavelengths interpreted by brain processes within a certain environment to appear as colors, shines and hues to a subject.

    We kinda know that colors exist. The concept 'works'. The categories (eg green vs blue) vary from one language to the next, and even from one person to the next, but the scheme works.

    Of course, anyone can have a field day deconstructing the concept of color, complex and fleeting as they are, to next to nothing, as Dennet tries to do, but then we would miss an important, even vital concept. You can die for confusing a red with a green light...

    Can we not try and destroy the concept of color, please, least we want to change all color codings in the world to something else? And least of all, let's not destroy this useful concept by way of highly esoteric thought experiments about brain surgeons able to switch green and red in your mind. It's philosowowoooophying about what would happen if pigs would fly...
  • fdrake
    4.3k
    The concept 'works'.Olivier5

    Works in some way. As signalled by the scarequotes. How? What is that way? Is there more than one way? - That space of questions is (allegedly) left to the intuition by qualia proponents. If you'd like to deal with the article, I'll respond more, but since this is an exegetical thread I won't engage in something that will take us off essay.
  • schopenhauer1
    4.8k

    Dennett is trying to say earlier, I think Dennett is mixing causation with metaphysics. The core problem seems to be, not that people can have different quale, but that quale even exist and their nature. To say its an "illusion" doesn't negate their existence. Rather, it is saying something about their causation. We refute the very fact that something isn't happening by saying "We think it's happening, but it doesn't" Well what is this persistent "thinking it is happening"? Even if it is socially constructed, a dual, mental event is indeed happening to that person, so what of it? Why? Dennett does not say anything about the nature. I am not sure what trying to show differences in people's quale would prove that there is no quale.
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    That space of questions is (allegedly) left to the intuition by qualia proponents.fdrake

    Nothing else is available, but you would be surprised how much we know through the scientific recording and analysis of intuitive, or rather introspective data. For instance, any optical illusion plays with some hiatus between our vision of an image, and the real image on paper. Scientists can study these optical illusions by asking people to describe their perception. And what is striking is that typically, everybody seems to see the same illusion. This shows that our visual "qualia" are reproduceable and predictable. It's useful research, and it is based on introspection.
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    This may be a tangent, but few people know that colors, and the need to produce them on an industrial scale, were one of the main reasons behind / sources of funding for the growth of chemistry as a science in the 19th and early 20th century. The textile industry in particular needed dyes.
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