Re: The foundation of reason

Tue, 09 Mar 1999 13:48:03 +0100

It appears as if Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <> wrote:
|Let's start with the qualia. "Qualia" is a technical term philosophers use
|to describe the redness of red, the mysterious, indescribable, apparently
|irreducible quality of redness that exists above and beyond <FONT
|color="#FF0000">. (There is a certain amount of dispute over what
|qualia are or even whether the term refers to anything.) I'm using the
|term "qualia" to refer to your immediate conscious sensations, your
|now - the movie screen, as it were, of your Cartesian observer, before
|all rational interpretation. (I am also referring to the qualia of any
|rational interpretation you may be doing, but I'm not yet admitting them
|as rational interpretations. Got it?)

0. Every non-interjection verbal term used by humans refer to something.

That ``something'' exists as:

	(a)	a phenomenon in the real world,
	(b)	a set of signal data in brains of sentients,
	(c)	both of the above,
   or	(d)	none of the above

An interjection term would e.g. "Ouch!" or other non- or quasi-verbal communication (e.g. the words which U.S. TV companies convert into <beep> would be quasi-verbal communication).

  1. When I first read the passage above I thought the term "qualia" referred to the property of objects in (b) being characterized as e.g. ``being red''.

But after reading the passage again, it appears to me that the ``qualia'' term actually refers to the set of properties in (a), the basic input data of the human brain.

The qualia ``red'' would then consist of the frequencies which would cause a human to call the perceived colour "red" when sensed by the human.

Correctly understood?

2. The qualia of any rational interpretation would then refer to the output

from the rational thinking part of the human brains, as perceived by the internal (non-verbal) monitor.

Do you feel certain that this actually has the same immediate quality as the qualia of external input has? Apart from introspection, do you have any data that suggest that the human brain implements the verbal symbol manipulation on qualia? If not, would not the verbal symbol manipulation actually _be_ the qualia of the verbal part of brain?

Consider the fact that by naming various parts of one's mental processes one achieve power over them in metaprogramming (cf. the magickal idea of getting power over something or somebody when you know the true name).

|It's an interesting question as to whether or not you can doubt that you
|are right now experiencing the sensation of redness. Some people
|would say no. I would say yes.

If the "experiencing" refers to the (a) domain the answer becomes "No." unless I receive optical input signals from the outside world of the correct frequencies.

If the "experiencing" refers to the (b) domain the answer becomes "No." if I evoke the symbol complex "red", "Yes." if do not and <shrug> if I disable the brain unit which I use to convert sense data into verbal data as the word "red" would lose its meaning for me.