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?