"Absolute" qualia eliminativism?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Buckaroo Banzai, Apr 5, 2012.

  1. Buckaroo Banzai Mentat Registered Senior Member

    I don't get qualia eliminativism, how far does it go.

    I'm completely OK with the notion of eliminating folk notions of qualia, things like naïve realism and representationism, dualism, or whatever theoretical properties of qualia.

    But can it really be eliminated altogether, without being as nonsensical as to maintain "universe eliminativism"?

    By "altogether" I mean eliminating qualia in its most basic sense, "the way things seem to us". Is anyone (such as Dennett) really meaning that "there's no such thing 'as the way things seem to us'"?


    Such phrasing would only be "better" if it were "there's no such thing as 'the way things seem to us', or so it seems to us".
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Judging from the quote below, it's hopefully just the concept of qualia being declared untenable, rather than a denial of properties being present in experience. Even then there are papers that supposedly salvage the idea for qualiaphiles. Eugene Park: "Although many of his points are insightful and supported with empirical data, Dennett, in the end, fails to show a real incoherency in the concept of qualia. [...] Proponents of qualia seem to have a clear avenue by which they can travel around Dennett’s call for the elimination..."

    Daniel Dennett: Which idea of qualia am I trying to extirpate? Everything real has properties, and since I don't deny the reality of conscious experience, I grant that conscious experience has properties. I grant moreover that each person's states of consciousness have properties in virtue of which those states have the experiential content that they do. That is to say, whenever someone experiences something as being one way rather than another, this is true in virtue of some property of something happening in them at the time, but these properties are so unlike the properties traditionally imputed to consciousness that it would be grossly misleading to call any of them the long-sought qualia. Qualia are supposed to be special properties, in some hard-to-define way. My claim--which can only come into focus as we proceed--is that conscious experience has no properties that are special in any of the ways qualia have been supposed to be special. --Quining Qualia
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  5. Buckaroo Banzai Mentat Registered Senior Member

    Thanks for that quote. I've read that article a few times, somehow I've "missed" it. I guess that when I'm reading on this subject I find specially harder to follow a given train of thought, without departing on my own digressions every third of a paragraph.
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  7. Literphor I is for ignorance Registered Member

    I had what I felt to be a well thought out response vanish because my session timed out

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    . Is there anyway to prevent that from happening other than typing faster?

    I believe he's saying is what we typically refer to as qualia is just a property of our conscious experience much like hard is to a rock. It might be more appropriate to say "hard" is a property of our conscious experience of a rock. Unfortunately, by doing so, we lose a very useful tool for understanding how knowledge (and therefore conscious experience itself) is derived. It also suggests that animals which exhibit that thing we typically refer to as qualia (such as pain) must also have a conscious experience.

    If this is, in fact, what he's saying then I support it. Lets get rid of that ancient outdated term and come up with a new philosophy of mind! The big problem I see, without qualia all we're really left with is linguistics to build off. We also have the difficult task of correlating our senses with knowledge without using qualia, or "how it feels" to describe it. I'm assuming Dennet failed to do this properly. Maybe we have to wait for a better physical theory to accomplish this.


    I believe eliminativism follows this thought... we can argue about the existence of free will but its irrelevant. We believe a complete physical theory (specifically neuroscience) would not be able to describe such a thing, therefore it must not exist. It's a "subjective illusion". Qualia, desires, beliefs are other examples of subjective illusions.

    I don't believe they would even consider these things properties... they're just...what? No idea. They just hold the belief that the future will eventually see no use for such concepts and it'll be discarded like used baby wipes. I think they hope to eliminate subjectivity all together.

    Interesting topic, thank you for bringing it to my attention.

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    Eliminativism doesn't seem to speak about the validity of these things. It's just a principle.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2012
  8. Literphor I is for ignorance Registered Member

    On second thought it might be more appropriate still to say "hard" is a property of "rock" which is a property of "something going on inside of us". Without qualia, at all, I don't think we can really say that the things we see exist, with certainty. So as it stands, we can't be certain the rocks actually there... so if I get hit over the head with it, a property of physical collisions causes something to happen inside me which has the property which we've typically referred to as pain, and causes something to occur inside us which produces the sound ouch. Or something to that extent I think.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2012
  9. Buckaroo Banzai Mentat Registered Senior Member

    Some browsers have a "lazarus" extension/plug-in/add on, that is constantly automatically saving the text typed in text fields (you won't even notice), so if the browser crashes or the session ends, you can log in again, return to the post, and by right clicking on the same text field, there will be a "lazarus" menu with the saved text.

    A extension-less trick is to, before clicking "submit", click to open some random link in a new tab/window, and there you check whether you're still logged, logging in again if you were not. Other than that, "infinite sessions", but I guess that's out of question.
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    The philosophy of mind isn't my thing, so I'm not entirely up to speed. But having said that, I'm probably something of a 'qualia eliminativist' myself.

    I want to steer clear of the kind of ontological representationalism that holds that we don't really perceive the world at all, that what we actually perceive is instead some inner mind-constructed model of the world, a model that's presumably constructed out of qualia. (So if we eliminate qualia, we eliminate the 'phenomenal' world.)

    The problem that arises there is justifying our belief in there being any physical world beyond our mental experience at all. Let alone everyone else who populates that physical world and who we can only know from 'outside', so to speak. Solipsism is the iceberg that philosophical idealism's Titanic is always in danger of striking.

    Explaining Dennett is above my pay-grade.

    If we are talking about qualia, the issue is kind of subtle. To help Sciforums readers who are unfamiliar with the idea --

    According to the 'Oxford Guide to Philosophy' (p. 775):

    Qualia -- The subjective qualities of conscious experience... Examples are the way sugar tastes, the way vermilion looks, the way coffee smells, the way a cat's purr sounds, the way it feels to stub your toe. Accounting for these features of mental states has been one of the biggest obstacles to materialist solutions of the mind-body problem, because it seems impossible to analyse the subjective character of these phenomena, which are comprehensible only from the point of view of certain types of conscious being, in objective physical terms which are comprehensible to any rational individual independently of his particular sensory faculties.​

    My own thinking is along these lines: When we perceive states of affairs in the physical world, we acquire information about those events through various sensory modalities and assume various (as yet) little understood neural states, which in turn become involved in all kinds of associative and motivational stuff. Not only can we do all that, we can also represent those states to ourselves as if they were sensory input, and actually imagine 'seeing red', for instance. We can recall past events and imagine counterfactual situations. I expect that most animals capable of planning ahead probably think in images and can do that to some extent.

    The arguments about qualia seem to go off the rails here (from the quote above):

    because it seems impossible to analyse the subjective character of these phenomena, which are comprehensible only from the point of view of certain types of conscious being, in objective physical terms which are comprehensible to any rational individual independently of his particular sensory faculties.​

    The difficulty there seems to be a category error. Analyzing subjective experience in scientific terms needn't reproduce the experience of seeing red, it only needs to be able to explain it. Analyzing in this scientific sense would be a linguistic and conceptual process, very unlike the visual process that occurs when one's retinas are stimulated by red light. That's where Frank Jackson's 'Mary black and white' argument seems to me to go wrong.

    But what of the underlying intuition that we can never fully explain the color red to a man who is blind since birth. We can talk about it all day, but he will never know what it looks like.

    Qualia theorists want to argue that there's some kind of being, some kind of thing, or quality, or something, that we might call 'a look'. The simple redness of red. Something that simply can't be captured in words. What red looks like.

    Lined up against them are those of us who question whether ontology actually contains non-physicalistic and essentially mental 'looks' and 'feels' and 'sounds' in that necessarily subjective-experiential sense.

    If we try to describe the experience of red in scientific terms, we might generate something like a particular visual state in a neurological wet-ware system, one that's unique and recognizable from instance to instance. The eliminativist will then suggest that maybe that's all there is to it. There really isn't any mysterious thing in addition, anything distinct from the neural visual state itself.

    One philosophical faction wants to say that the 'can't put it into words' indicates the existence of a non-physical and perhaps essentially mental kind of being. The other faction wants to say that the reason why the look of red is immediately recognizable but can't be put into words is because of the difference between actually being in a visual state on ene hand, and the verbal and conceptual description of that visual state on the other. Looking at something and talking about it are distinct neurological activities and it's not realistic for philosophers to expect to be able to equate them.

    It's the denial that subjective experiences constitute an entire ontological realm of non-physical being in themselves.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  11. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

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  12. Cortex_Colossum Banned Banned

    Here is a video that might be of interest. I got it from one of my threads. I think it was Rav who gave it.

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