Davidson, Beliefs, Qualia

Brain Hammer has a good post up on qualia, sort of building on Dennett’s ideas. It made me wonder about the following:

Assume Davidson is right and beliefs presuppose language. On a elimitivist account, there are only pain beliefs. From the paper being summarized on Brain Hammer, there aren’t rocks in your head, only beliefs about rocks. And there are likewise only beliefs about pains. If a language is required, or plays a strong role in the formation of beliefs, then animals and babies don’t hold any kind of relation to pain but adult humans do.

Even if you don’t buy Davidson’s argument, it seems clear that adult humans are capable of holding much more articulate and stronger beliefs in light of language and culture than babies or cows. It just doesn’t seem possible that the ‘agony’ I ‘feel’ when getting kicked in the shin is present relative to the complexity of my belief structure with little to no input from my nervous system per se. And the nervous systems of babies and cows along with their reactions to sharp objects are similar enough to my own to convince me something similar is going on in them as in me when I get stabbed.

(note i tried to respond to questions posed to me there but either i didn’t pass moderation or the post got lost in space)


2 Responses to Davidson, Beliefs, Qualia

  1. Pete Mandik says:

    I think your answers to my questions must have been eaten by the internet. The way moderation works on my site is that once I approve you the first time around, then your subsequent comments should go through automatically. On behalf of the internet, I apologize.

    Anyway, I agree with you that you don’t need language for experience. What I’m skeptical about, though, is whether you need language for belief. I’m inclined to think then, that whatever non-linguistic behavioral criteria suffice for belief, also suffice for experience.

  2. A.G. says:

    Ah, ok. I tried again with success.

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