nothing exciting..

November 9, 2007

two posts ago, I recapped what is perhaps the ultimate summary of phil mind. That was the “Diet Qualia” comments I had. Why should anyone hold out for a “bridge law”, or something that can really explain qualia?

 The best answer I can give is that there is probably bound to be an explanation. But I don’t have a very high view of explanations. Language can describe experience, but not irrespective of everyone bringing their experience to the table first. What equations and formulas can intuitively do today may not be what they can in a hundred years. I suppose what I need is some kind of fairly clear — to the extent that this isn’t a self-defeating project — example of how, historically, a clear analysis was only acheivable by certain shared assumptions, or experiential starting points of the time. I realize that this is where my previous continental wanderings might come in, but I’m not looking for a cheap victory.

 Anyway, what I’m thinking will happen is that, at some point, certain basic building blocks will become “intuitive”, and that from there, an understanding of qualia will be built. I predict this will happen around 2075. Like millenialists, that’s not so far as to be unmeaningful, but probably enough outside of my lifetime that I can’t be proven wrong.


The Fan

August 6, 2007

It’s pretty hot and stuffy lately so I’ve got one of those big stand up fans blowing on me at night. It’s pretty loud but I’m a deep sleeper so it doesn’t really bother me that much. Lately I’ve been waking up up two or three times during the night for a minute or so. Somehow, I have it in my mind to attend to the noise of that fan as soon as I wake. I wake up, and for the space of some undetermined amount of time I hear nothing but I know there is a fan there making noise and I know that I’m awake. And then after this small amount of time, I’ll hear the fan. I swear if fades in, but I need to pay closer attention to be sure about that.

Qualia: A rip off Post

August 2, 2007

I just barely got a password going again to access my account. That’s how lazy I can be. Pete’s blog, Brain Hammer led me to this post on splintered mind:


I could just comment over there, but since I can’t think of anything to say and I feel I need to write a post, I’ll just respond here. I liked this post a lot. If I’m unpacking it right, here’s the issue:

You’ve got qualia, full-blown non-physical perceptions that can be inverted and so on independent of the physical world.

You’ve got zero-qualia, the Dennett kind which are psychological judgements we make about ‘experience’ which leads us to believe there is full-blown qualia.

Then you’ve got this weird critter, diet qualia. This, he argues, is the physicalist compromise. The “what-it’s-like” qualia. Now, as I understand Nagel, this “what-it’s like” stuff, difficult as it may be for us to comprehend, could one day become tractable via bridge laws.

But just what are diet qualia, anyway? How are they different from zero qualia?

One (non) answer is that it’s a placeholder. Dualism seems too rash and elimitivism seems to harsh, so there’s got to be a physical explanation. Diet qualia: it don’t put on pounds (multiply entities) yet keeps all the great taste you’ve grown to love drinking classic!

We won’t know how diet qualia can be something other that subjective raw feels, because we don’t have that first bridge law yet.


Possibility and Monsters

June 28, 2007

I keep wanting to think that David Chalmers, in a brilliant insight (zombie argument), figured out precisely what’s wrong with modal logic instead of proving anything about consciousness. But without being able to make that stick, perhaps he did indeed disprove physicalism. I just came across this post from last year on Reality Conditions discussion “possibility”.

Dennett is cited saying,

Smiling demons, cow-sharks, Blockheads, and Swampmen are all, some philosophers think, logically possible, even if they are not nomologically possible, and these philosophers think this is important. I do not.

And there is some discussion on how science would be skeptical of distinquishing between metaphysical and nomological necessity.

I’d like to say that logical possibility, as entailed by conceivability doesn’t see far enough down the road and what might at first seem logically possible might not be once more facts are on the table. But what other thought roads besides zombies and swampmen might such a position seal off?

What about the Flying Speghetti Monster? Surely he isn’t nomologically possible. Are we inclined to say that in some circumstances, depending on what our point is, we can rely on mere logical possibility? In this case, we might backpedal and say that we can make the same point with Russell’s teapot which isn’t quite so fanciful. But is Russell’s teapot nomologically possible? It seems physically possible, but even given the contingency of the laws of nature, it probably isn’t (or wasn’t) since it had to get into orbit by real, physical means.

But to back off further would amount to destroying the thought experiment as the whole point is to trade credulity on conceivability. Even in a reductio ad absurdum, we must bank on the possibility of our wacky scenario.

And what about innocent counterfactuals? Yes, I could have spared the two Hell’s Angels bikers in the bar last night, but I was really mad about their opinions on dual-sports. My brain had to be in the state it was. The more facts revealed on the incident, when understood all the way through, pretty much lock the events of last night into exactly what they were.

In everyday scenarios we back off on counterfactuals all the time. Yeah, the guy didn’t have to thrust the knife for the 15th time – ohhh, he wasn’t on his medications? And we also, depending on our vested interests, can be either extraordinarily sympathetic to or skeptical of logical possibilities.

I don’t know what the answer is, just throwing it out.

Lowering The Bar Pt. 2

May 30, 2007

I’ve been alcohol free for over a week and have had a couple good nights sleep so I wanted to reformulate my argument against qualia presented in my last post. Now I’m left without excuse if it totally sucks.

My assumptions, since definitions can vary, are that qualia are apprehended through pure introspection and that they are indubitable.

The one-sentence encpsulation of my argument is this: If it is reasonable that we can lower the bar for Mary, if there is a what-it’s-like qualitative experience more slippery to reduce than seeing red, then nothing is needed beyond physical and psychological explanations for consciousness.

What I’m saying is kind of bone-headed in the sense that it’s merely a trivial denial of my assumptions that qualia are indubitable. It seems to me, that to be indubitable is like being invincible. You can’t be anymore indestructable than industructable, and you can’t be more sure than 100% certain. So all qualia should be equally indubitable as a spectrum of indubitability appears to be a mere self-contradiction. So we should be able to introspect, and list without hesitation exactly what we know indubitably from introspection. There should be no sensible way to talk about lowering the bar.

The common examples of qualia are seeing red or pain. How could anyone deny pain? But how could anyone deny any other experience? Anything that qualifies as qualia should be immediatly and transparently apprehended as such. If there are mental entities which we can’t quite place in the correct psychological/phenomenal baskets then it would seem that psychology can give us all the results needed.

So as an example, from SEP,

Galen Strawson has recently claimed (1994) that there are such things as the experience of understanding a sentence, the experience of suddenly thinking of something, of suddenly remembering something, and so on. Moreover, in his view, experiences of these sorts are not reducible to associated sensory experiences and/or images.

Anyone reading this can settle the matter within themselves trivially by merely introspecting and clearly identifying “remembering” as indubitable experience or not every bit as easily and transparently as classifying seeing red or digesting a hamburger. If there is any hesitation, “Well, maybe there is something it’s like to remember but then again…” then this is to secretly admit that there is a spectrum of mental events where some seem, in a psychological sense, to be more qualitatively real than others, contradicting the necessary condition of indubitability. And skepticism sets in immediatly after “seeing red” which could simply be more intuitively tricky.

Lowering the bar for Mary

May 25, 2007

To respond to Enigman, yes, where anger ends and irritation begins is something I’m interested in for what-it’s-like in addition to seeing red. I didn’t spell out the intent of my last post. I wrote it a few hangovers ago, but I think my intent was to lower the bar for Mary. It might be the case that Mary intuitively fails because her brain is wired so precisely for color perception that there is no conceivable way to compensate for it through her other abilities. In other words, knowing red might be such a radically good knowledge the way we know red, that it appears to be irreducible when compared with other things that we know. Kind of like, Captain Picard apears so powerful to the natives that the cheif mistakenly makes an ontological distinction between Picard and his own people.

So yeah, red is the obvious example to use, to make physicalism appear intuitively silly. But I’d like to reverse the project. Let’s lower the bar drastically and find the minimal cases that constitute what-it’s-like and see if it makes sense if that could be reduced.

What my trick is supposed to be, and I may be up in the night on this, is that all matters of phenomenal consciousness should be equally irreducible in an intuitive way. And if it begins making sense that we could lower the bar and introduce cases where maybe it’s phenomenal or maybe it isn’t, then we’re already admitting defeat to physicalism.


May 7, 2007

Where is the line drawn for what constitutes “what it’s like to be” something? What it’s like to see red seems the obvious example of a what-it’s-like phenomena. But what about knowing a language or having a particular culture? Is there what-it’s-likeness in knowling a language beyond the veridical aspects, such as directly perceiving words by hearing or sight?