Re: Qualia (Was Re: Re: Emulation vs. Simulation)

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Fri Mar 23 2001 - 18:03:38 MST

Brent Allsop wrote:

> But how can you have conscious knowledge (conscious knowledge is, by
> definition, constructed of qualia) that is incorrect?

An eliminitivist would not use this definition of knowledge,
obviously; on account of this, your interpretation of Dennett is
uncharitable in the extreme.

Eliminitivists can and do give good accounts of what thinking and
awareness are. For example, one simple account of thinking might be:
modelling the object of awareness in the structures of the brain and
acting on the basis of those models.

This account of awareness isn't the kind of awareness any
self-respecting mental realist should want, however. On this account,
extremely simple computers are aware of some things, even if they
don't have any internal feelings, or any feeling of awareness, since
they have a model of the world and act on the basis of that.

Nonetheless, THAT'S what Dennett means when he says "it merely seems
like we're conscious."

It "seems" that we have consciousness, but this definition of
"thinking" doesn't require any consciousness at all, not in the
internal what's-it-like sense of consciousness. It merely says that
our brain models represent a "feeling" above and beyond the operations
of the brain (even though no actual feeling accompanies that internal
representation). In that sense, it "seems" to us that there is
consciousness, by virtue of the fact that we tend to "think" that we're

Why switch definitions like this? Because Dennett himself is reading
the term "seems" charitably. Your definition of "seeming" never
refers to anything under his theory of mind. Yet there is something
right about saying "I seem to have two hands." Dennett has identified
what that "something" is under this theory, and used "seeming" to
refer to that.

You might argue that the plain-old-english definition of "seeming" is
the one we ought to use, but that definition is obviously theory-
laden: it doesn't make sense unless you believe that there is internal
what's-it-like-ness. So the definition of "seems" is exactly what's
under debate here: a "seeming" is either an internal quale or a model
of reality, depending on what theory you take to be true.

If you like, you could differentiate the terms: seems[1] involves
qualia and seems[2] is nothing more than a brain model. Dennett would
be contradicting himself to say "It just seems[1] that there are
qualia," but luckily for him he's merely saying that "It just seems[2]
that there are qualia."


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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