Re: qualia

Dan Fabulich (
Mon, 29 Nov 1999 22:19:02 -0500 (EST)

'What is your name?' 'Zeb Haradon.' 'IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!':

> The question is this: do you deny that there is a difference between YOUR
> subjective experience of red, and the objective movements of matter which
> constitute detection of the red-wavelength of light? If you say no, you must
> be fundementally different from me. If you say yes, then you're admitting
> qualia (as I define the term) exist.

My SUBJECTIVE experience of red? I'm not HAVING a *subjective* experience of red. I'm having an experience of red alright, but it's entirely OBJECTIVE. (And thus, it's perfectly reasonable for me to claim its equivalence with the *objective* movements of matter which constitute detection of the red-wavelength of light.)

You want me to explain why we have the illusion of subjective experience? When I pinch myself, you don't wince. Some people falsely inferred from this that there was something subjective going on, when, in fact, the reason you didn't wince when I did is because you didn't detect my pinching through your pinch-detectors, not because I had a feeling which was inaccessible to you.

("Pinch-detectors" isn't very precise, but it'll do in a ... erm... under these circumstances.)

No sale? Allow me to to make the same argument in the style of "reductionist" materialism, which Dennett explicitly eschewed in his paper in favor of "eliminative" materialism, but which I'll accept for the sake of argument, because it works just as well either way.

Actually, yeah, I believe that the objective movements of matter which constitute detection of the red-wavelength of light simply ARE my "experience" of red.

Why would you want to say that this is not the case? Some might argue that it is because their "subjective experience" of red doesn't "feel like" the movement of matter. But that's just begging the question; it's neither here nor there.

Consider this question: It is natural to say that the sun revolves around the earth; we refer to the "rising/setting sun" as if we believed that this was what was really going on. Why? Because it SEEMS like the sun revolves around the earth. But what would it seem like if the earth revolved around the sun? Similarly, what would it feel like if "red" WAS the objective movement of matter?

If you jump in and say "it couldn't feel like anything at all," or something like that, then you're REALLY begging the question. On the other hand, if you conclude that it would feel like exactly what it feels like right now, then you no longer have a motivation to say that your "subjective experience" of red is NOT qualia.

Except, of course, the fact that it's not subjective. And, really, if it's not subjective, then in what sense is it qualia?


-unless you love someone-
-nothing else makes any sense-

e.e. cummings