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.