## ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Discussions on the nature of reality and knowledge. What is reality? How do we know it?

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### ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

The most convincing argument in support of the notion that qualia are not physical was advanced by Frank Jackson in his article, "Epiphenomenal Qualia" (1982).

Jackson asks us to assume, arguendo, that a certain person (Mary) was confined since birth to a room consisting of only black and white objects, such that she may be described as situationally fully color blind.

Jackson asks that we further assume that Mary somehow acquires all knowledge about the physical aspects of color and color vision while in the room but is thereafter released and, for the first time, actually experiences colors. Jackson concludes that because Mary had knowledge of all the physical aspects of color yet did not have all knowledge of color until she left the room, the experience of color cannot be physical.

Many elaborate explanations have been provided over the years to counter this analysis, yet the most obvious one seems to have been overlooked.

If Mary really knew “all the physical aspects of color and color vision,” she would know that certain wave lengths of light are the operative cause of the experience of color. She would further have understood all the various electro-chemical processes in the body which result in the experiences of colors. That is, she would know the proximal as well as the operative causes of the experiences of colors.

Because Mary must have known that she was not actually experiencing colors, she would undoubtedly have concluded that either or both the operative or proximal causes of the color sensations were absent—that is, either she was not subjected to the wave-lengths of light that instigate the color sensations or she was color blind.

Because, it would have been clear from her studies that the experiences of colors have physical causes, both within and without the body, she would have concluded that the experiences of colors were themselves physical. She would have arrived at this conclusion, because the “physical” belongs to the spatio-temporal realm while the non-physical is said to belong to a wholly separate realm outside of time and space. Because no causal nexus can possibly exist between such utterly different realms of reality, Mary reached the conclusion that no non-physical entity can result from a physical cause--thus, her conclusion that the experiences of colors are themselves physical.

Because of her extensive knowledge of this subject matter, May would have known that the physical experiences of colors are such that they do not lend themselves to explanation in words. To be known, they must be experienced. Her expertise in matters of color (before she left the room) would undoubtedly have led her to the writings of Frank Jackson. Upon reading "Epiphenomenal Qualia," she would have exclaimed—

“How can you say I know all the physical aspects of color and color vision if I have not yet had the physical experiences of colors? I do not beg the question by saying that such experiences are physical. It is you who begs the question by saying that they are not. You are the one who has put the rabbit in the hat!”
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

What Mary knows prior to her having actually experienced colour, amounts to nothing more that a series of hypotheses as to why ( or rather how) we experience colour; hypotheses that are founded upon a materialistic/physicalistic metaphysical view of the phenomenal world. Consequently, had Mary been instructed in accordance with an immaterial/idealistic view of the world, she might just as easily argue that her experience of colour was wholly mind generated. Nevertheless, no amount of knowledge of a qualia equates to our actual experience of that qualia, and such experiences are confined to the minds of sentient beings alone.

What's more, if you take the same argument that you just made, and imagine that Mary is a dream-persona, then it must follow that the colours she perceives have their origin and cause, not in the cognisant awareness of the dreamer, but in the apparent interaction of the various physical-like aspects of the dream-world. For it must certainly appear to her (the dream-persona) that when the dream-lights are turned out in her dream-room, that she is no longer able to perceive the various dream-objects that were once clearly visible. Consequently, she may reasonable assume that the dream-light must be the origin and cause of here visual perception; given that she is unaware of the fact that all she perceives is but the stuff of dreams.

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Jehu,

Thank you for the comments, but I am afraid you may not have quite got the subtlety of “Mary’s argument.”

To say that one can have all knowledge regarding the physical aspects of color without the conscious experience of color, already presumes that that experience is not included the physical aspects of color—which is the very thing which Jackson has set out to prove. In other words, his premise begs the question; for by it, he has already preordained the result.

To put it differently, if Mary had been instructed in the immaterial/idealistic view of the world, she would see nothing wrong with presuming that one can have all knowledge about the physical aspects of color without having the conscious experience of color. However, there is nothing that compels her to accept the immaterial/idealistic view. She may just as easily conclude that all that is real is physical. In such case, she would maintain that if one has not had the experience of color, one does not in fact have all knowledge about the physical aspects of color.

It is true that one can experience color in dreams. However, this would not make that experience less physical if, in any case, it results from physical interactions in the brain. The only difference would be that the waking experience of color has immediate representative content, for it is instigated by real conditions outside the central nervous system. In dreaming colors, the brain (by the faculty of memory) recreates the experience of color without immediate prompting from the world.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri wrote:Jehu,

Thank you for the comments, but I am afraid you may not have quite got the subtlety of “Mary’s argument.”

To say that one can have all knowledge regarding the physical aspects of color without the conscious experience of color, already presumes that that experience is not included the physical aspects of color—which is the very thing which Jackson has set out to prove. In other words, his premise begs the question; for by it, he has already preordained the result.

When we say that Mary has all knowledge with regard to the physical aspects of colour, it is understood that this entails only such knowledge as the physical sciences can provide us, and this does not include the sentient experience itself. After all, one cannot derive nourishment from the definition of a turkey dinner, however comprehensive that definition might be?

Neri wrote:To put it differently, if Mary had been instructed in the immaterial/idealistic view of the world, she would see nothing wrong with presuming that one can have all knowledge about the physical aspects of color without having the conscious experience of color. However, there is nothing that compels her to accept the immaterial/idealistic view. She may just as easily conclude that all that is real is physical. In such case, she would maintain that if one has not had the experience of color, one does not in fact have all knowledge about the physical aspects of color.

If Mary had been instructed in the immaterial/idealistic view, she would have no call to presume that one can have all knowledge about the physical aspects of colour, for she would believe that the physical world was nothing more that a manifestation of her own cognisant awareness.

Neri wrote:It is true that one can experience color in dreams. However, this would not make that experience less physical if, in any case, it results from physical interactions in the brain. The only difference would be that the waking experience of color has immediate representative content, for it is instigated by real conditions outside the central nervous system. In dreaming colors, the brain (by the faculty of memory) recreates the experience of color without immediate prompting from the world.

Well, this again is a matter of ones metaphysical stance. Nevertheless, my point was that Mary's dream-persona would have every reason to believe that the colours it was experiencing were a direct result of the appearance of light within the dream. And only on awakening from the dream state would Mary realize that neither her dream-person nor the light it perceived were the true causes of her experiencing colour.

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Jehu,

(1) To equate “all knowledge of the physical aspects of a thing” with “only such knowledge as the physical sciences can provide” is to make the wholly unwarranted assumption that only science can provide knowledge of the physical aspects of the world.

(2) I am afraid that if Mary descends from the “immaterial/idealistic view” to the depths of solipsism, her condition is hopeless; for she would attach no objective distinction between being in the black-and-white room and being outside in the world of color. Both locations would be only concoctions of her mind. Thus, to her, Jackson’s analysis would have no meaning and would prove nothing. In fact, she would consider you, me, Jackson and this forum to be only “manifestations of her own cognisant awareness.”

(3) Eating a turkey dinner would provide nourishment whether or not it is accompanied by the conscious experience of satiety. The manner in which it provides nourishment lends itself to expression in words. Mary can easily conclude (as she did with the experience of color) that the experience of satiety, while it does not lend itself to verbal explication, is an effect of physical causes and consequently must itself be physical.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri wrote:Because, it would have been clear from her studies that the experiences of colors have physical causes, both within and without the body, she would have concluded that the experiences of colors were themselves physical. She would have arrived at this conclusion, because the “physical” belongs to the spatio-temporal realm while the non-physical is said to belong to a wholly separate realm outside of time and space. Because no causal nexus can possibly exist between such utterly different realms of reality, Mary reached the conclusion that no non-physical entity can result from a physical cause--thus, her conclusion that the experiences of colors are themselves physical.

To be truly physical, wouldn't qualia need to have direct physical effects as well as causes? That is to say, wouldn't they need to have physical effects distinct from those of their corresponding brain states? Yet qualia do not feature in the laws of physics. The present and future states of the universe can be mathematically described/predicted without them. They do not contribute in addition to the brain states to the total amount of matter and energy in the universe. So in what sense can they be "physical"?

If we regard brain states as corresponding to qualia rather than causing them, we can drop the problematic claim that qualia are physical. Instead of featuring in a (sequential) causal nexus, they would be (simultaneous) epiphenomena of brain states – "two sides of the same coin", so to speak. In any case in which a particular brain state was present, the corresponding qualia would be present also.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Positor,

Qualia do not result from “brain states.” They are caused by physical interactions in the brain and are suffusions of electro-chemical energy converted from the oxidation of food. As such they do not “contribute” to the total energy of the universe. They are included in it. Because qualia are physical, they cause predictable physical effects as registered on the electroencephalograph.

These suffusions of energy are the experience of qualia. We cannot properly say that qualia are how this energy “appears to us”; for there is no “us” independent of the qualia. We are our qualia.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri wrote:To equate “all knowledge of the physical aspects of a thing” with “only such knowledge as the physical sciences can provide” is to make the wholly unwarranted assumption that only science can provide knowledge of the physical aspects of the world.

What knowledge can there be of the physical world apart from that which we derive empirically – through observation? You can tell a child that a stove is hot, and you can describe what that means in whatever terms you like, but no amount of description can accomplish what can be understood in an instant, by simply touching the hot stove.

Neri wrote:I am afraid that if Mary descends from the “immaterial/idealistic view” to the depths of solipsism, her condition is hopeless; for she would attach no objective distinction between being in the black-and-white room and being outside in the world of color. Both locations would be only concoctions of her mind. Thus, to her, Jackson’s analysis would have no meaning and would prove nothing. In fact, she would consider you, me, Jackson and this forum to be only “manifestations of her own cognisant awareness.”

You do not properly understand immaterialism if you think that it equates to solipsism, for the cognisant awareness of which we speak is not Mary's, nor mine, nor does it belong to anyone else. Rather, we belong to it, for it is the essential nature of all things – physical or otherwise.

Neri wrote:Eating a turkey dinner would provide nourishment whether or not it is accompanied by the conscious experience of satiety. The manner in which it provides nourishment lends itself to expression in words. Mary can easily conclude (as she did with the experience of color) that the experience of satiety, while it does not lend itself to verbal explication, is an effect of physical causes and consequently must itself be physical.

Indeed she can, but the fact the she can infer something does not mean that it is necessarily so.

When we set out to teach someone about something that they have never encountered directly, there are only two ways of going about it: either we point to the thing that we wish to teach them, so that they have a direct experience of it, or we explain it in terms of the characteristic features or qualities that are essential to its being what it is. For example, we might describe a bicycle to someone who has never seen one, by saying that it is a vehicle comprising two wheels mounted one behind the other on a frame, which is steered by handlebars and propelled by peddles. Such an explanation will suffice so long as the person being taught has some previous experience with wheels, frames, handlebars, etc. However, when it come to qualia such as colour, there are no subsidiary elements with which to describe it, and no amount of knowledge concerning the physicalistic theories as to it origin and cause will ever bring about an understanding equivalent to that which is gained by experiencing a colour directly.

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Jehu,

Empirical knowledge is derived through sensations such as sight, hearing and touch. These are qualia. In fact, they are the direct and primary source of empirical knowledge. Of course, such knowledge may also be derived secondarily through language, but this is always traceable to the qualia of others. Empirical knowledge may also be logically inferred from particular qualia [or from the linguistic reports thereof].

When there is mutual understanding of particular qualia among persons who have experienced them, there is no need for the verbal explication of such experiences. Every such person knows immediately, without need of definition, what the other means when a quale is named.

Admittedly, however, qualia are such that they do not lend themselves to explanation in words. This is because they are primary, direct and precede all language. However, this in no way means that they do not convey empirical knowledge. Clearly sight (observation) is the principle source of empirical knowledge. Yet, this is no less the case because we are unable to explain what it means to see to blind man who has never experienced sight.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

I'm afraid that you are merely “begging the question” here, for you assume a physicalistic stance, and then attempt to use the tenets and hypotheses of the physical sciences to prove your assumption.

It is easy to assert something like: “ Give a machine of the appropriate level of complexity it will achieve conscious, and experience qualia.”, but it is quite another thing to produce such a sentient machine. There is, on the other hand, ample evidence that the mind is capable, under certain circumstance (dreams, delusions, etc.), of giving rise to the appearance of physical things, where no physical thing actually exists. Consequently, there is no reason to prefer your physicalistic view of the origin of qualia over that of the immaterialist and idealists, which hold that qualia are properties of the mind, and that all phenomena are mind made.

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Jehu,

It seems you have missed the point. I invite you to re-read my posts.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri wrote:Qualia do not result from “brain states.” They are caused by physical interactions in the brain and are suffusions of electro-chemical energy converted from the oxidation of food. As such they do not “contribute” to the total energy of the universe. They are included in it. Because qualia are physical, they cause predictable physical effects as registered on the electroencephalograph.

These suffusions of energy are the experience of qualia. We cannot properly say that qualia are how this energy “appears to us”; for there is no “us” independent of the qualia. We are our qualia.

OK, let's say that qualia are, or are caused by, "brain processes" rather than "brain states". But you seem to be equivocating between "are" and "are caused by".

You mention the following:
(a) physical interactions in the brain;
(b) qualia;
(c) physical effects as registered on the electroencephalograph.

Are you saying that (a) causes (b), which in turn causes (c)? Or are you saying that (a) and (b) are identical, and that (a\b) causes (c)?

If (a), (b) and (c) are distinct, how can qualia be part of the causal nexus? Doesn't (a) cause (c) directly? On the other hand, if (a) and (b) are identical, how do you explain that the physical interactions in the brain are qualitatively different from the qualia that they give rise to (e.g. that one cannot see a direct "picture" of a visual quale – or experience a non-visual one – by looking into someone's brain)?
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Positor,

IF—

(a) are physical interactions in the brain;

(b) are releases of energy of a very special sort;

(c) are qualia; and

(d) are physical interactions in the EEG device as shown on the graph: THEN:

(1) (a) causes (b).

(2) (b) = (c).

[(c) is (b) taken as private knowledge (“subjective” perspective). (b) is (c) taken as public knowledge through shared data, which are usually visual qualia. (“objective” perspective). Each is a different way of knowing the same spatio-temporal process.]

(3) (b/c) causes (d).

[Because qualia, however manifested, are physical (part of the total mass/energy of the universe), they cause the physical changes in the EEG device that are revealed on the graph.]
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

OK, so this is the heart of the matter:

Neri wrote:[(c) is (b) taken as private knowledge (“subjective” perspective). (b) is (c) taken as public knowledge through shared data, which are usually visual qualia. (“objective” perspective). Each is a different way of knowing the same spatio-temporal process.]

Let's look at this in a strictly logical way. "(b)=(c)" and "(b/c) causes (d)" imply that (b) and (c) are identical, which means they share all their properties. But this cannot be so if "each is a different way of knowing the same spatio-temporal process". There must be something true of (c) that is not true of (b). So we can say:

1. From an objective perspective, (b) is sufficient to cause (d).
2. From a subjective perspective, we can infer (b) from (c), and hence move to the objective perspective.
3. Therefore, either perspective leads to the conclusion that (b) is sufficient to cause (d).
4. Now, if (b) is sufficient to cause (d), and (c) is in any way different from (b), then (c) is unnecessary for a causal explanation of (d).
5. Therefore, it is not necessary that qualia be physical.

You say "Each is a different way of knowing the same spatio-temporal process". I would prefer to say that (b) is the spatio-temporal process, and that (c) is a private representation of it, i.e. an epiphenomenon. That is to say, (b) is the process itself, and (c) is a "way of knowing" it. From "X causes Y" it does not follow that "knowledge of X causes Y".

Another reason for holding that (b) and (c) are different is, as I suggested before, that the contents of visual qualia are (as far as I am aware) not structurally identical to any neurological interactions, releases of energy or the like. And the contents of non-visual qualia are qualitatively completely different from such interactions, releases etc.

I think your phrases "taken as private knowledge" and "taken as public knowledge" conflate the thing itself with knowledge of that thing. If (b) and (c) are different ways of knowing the same spatio-temporal process – different perspectives on that process – then, logically, neither of them is that process; and it is the process itself, rather than (b) or (c), that is the true cause of (d). (However, as I said above, my preference would be to identify (b), but not (c), with the process itself.)
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Briefly, in the OP Neri examines the following argument: "Mary knows all physical aspects of color but has never experienced color so she does not know what seeing color is like: then this latter aspect (a quale) is not physical"

Neri says "Sir, you are begging the question", and he/she certainly is correct.

Then Neri proposes the opposite argument "since Mary does not know how seeing color feels like, she does not know all physical aspects of color: so the quale is also physical". However, this also begs the question!

If I may, I'd like to propose an analogy.

Let an amplifier feed an electrical signal to a speaker, with a RMS of, say, X mV.
The energy implied is X2/R (resistence of the circuit), independently of whether the signal is random noise of sublime music. Music then is not a form of energy. Is it physical?

Think of entropy and information content (negentropy):
any degree of order in a pattern is a departure from the most probable condition, because some of the bits in the pattern are not free to assume any value they wish or to freely change their value.

Thus, to produce any kind of order in a pattern requires work, physical work = $RT \times [log P(ordered) - log P(no order)]$, where R is Boltzman's constant (Joule/degree K) and T is absolute temperature (Kelvin degrees).

Consistently, any interference with the environment will tend to corrupt the pattern: an electrical pattern produced in a wire to transmit a message might get degraded due to any kind of environmental electromagnetic interference; and even a word written on a sheet might get slowly or abruptly degraded.

Qualia are an aspect of information. However, in the examples above, they do not correspond to the RMS of the electrical signal (energy) or to the degree of order in such signal (negentropy = energy), but rather to the fact that the information content of the signal is music rather than speech; similarly, they can be likened to the fact that the same amount of ink has been used to draw similarly complex shapes which are characters rather than geometric shapes.
In other words qualia do not constitute additional information (in entropic terms) but rather a qualification of the information (i.e. the same amount of sound information in terms of music rather than speech, or the same amount of graphic information in the form of words rather than geometric shapes).

This would suggest that there is no reason why they would require or produce any releases of energy of any very special sort; they would simply reflect some modifications in the pattern of energy (electromagnetic signals) generated in the brain.

In this perspective, the process of perceiving qualia is a physical process, and it can be physically studied, quantified and correlated to subjective experience. The same subjective experience can even be induced by appropriate electrical stimulation of the right neuronal circuits (Mary in the OP could have been exposed to the perception of color by simply stimulating her optic nerve in the appropriate way). If we were to build a "Matrix"-movie-like system which were able to reproduce the activity pattern that occurs in a region of the brain into another brain, then we would be able to transfer the perception of the qualia.

Still, perfect knowledge of the process of perceiving qualia does not imply having the experience of qualia. Such experience can be in principle reproduced by reproducing the underlying physical process, but, at difference with any physical entity or process, qualia have the distinctive property of needing a subject which experiences them in order to exist. The use itself of the term "qualia" seems to aim at referring to this privateness to a single brain/mind.

Thus, each of us may choose whether to call them physical or not: qualia are generated by the brain and reflect a physical process in the brain but they are not such physical process.

Whether what they are still is something "physical" or not, boils down to the usual conflict between monistic or dualistic views of the brain/mind.

On the other hand,
Is information physical, provided physical systems can produce and use it?
Is geometry physical, in that we have neurons that innately recognize geometrical shapes?
Is mathematics physical in that it arises from every physical relation and process?
Is logic physical in that it can be implemented by machines?

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Positor,

If I understand you correctly, you say that (c) is a way of knowing (b), but (b) is not a way of knowing (c). By this analysis, you assume that (b) is the thing itself and that (c) is just the experience it engenders. Thus, you say that to equate (b) and (c) is to equate knowledge of a thing with the thing itself.

You are quite correct that if both (b) and (c) are taken only as knowledge, they cannot, in that limited sense, be identical. However, my meaning is different. I argue that (b) equals (c) in the sense that each represents, in its own way, the same spatio-temporal process. They refer to the same thing from different perspectives. In other words, I was equating that to which both (b) and (c) refer, not to the way they instantiate that reference. Indeed, to say that (c), but not (b), represent the thing itself, requires that there be a ghostly entity independent of (c) that experiences (c)—and this is wholly unwarranted.

The world is physical, because it is spatio-temporal. It is no accident that not only (b), but (c) as well, are experienced in spatio-temporal terms. Qualia, like all else in the world, cannot exist without some expense of time. Indeed, a quale with no duration is no quale at all. Further, we are aware that conscious experiences are spatially located in the head and travel through space with the body. One cannot properly say that qualia do not belong to the world of time and space, simply because they cannot be weighed like a pound of meat. Light, for example, has no weight (no mass whatsoever), yet it is physical because it is a spatio-temporal process. Light may not have the “same structural qualities” as a pound of meat, yet light is manifestly physical. The same may be said of that to which both (b) or (c) refer.

“Qualia” is, in a way, an unfortunate expression; for it equates two basically different kinds of conscious experiences—(1) those that are triggered by real conditions outside the central nervous system and (2) those that are not. (1) are representational sense impressions providing a means of recognizing things in the external world and are the ultimate source of all so-called objective knowledge. We say that the latter is “objective,” because it is shared-- a matter of public knowledge.

On the other hand, (2) consist of “raw feels,” dreams, sensory hallucinations and the like. These represent nothing outside the central nervous system. Certainly, they provide some knowledge, in their own way, of energetic processes within that system itself. Because these experiences are private, they are called “subjective.” Some (but not all) knowledge of a these same processes can be obtained by objective qualia such as sight (as augmented by scientific instruments). A reasonably sufficient understanding of any conscious process can only be gained by both the subjective and objective qualia that refer to it. In either case, one is probing the same physical process, all the properties of which are not necessarily accessible in this way.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neuro,

You misunderstand my position. I argue that Jackson’s mind experiment does not itself EXCLUDE the possibility that the quale of color is physical—not that it establishes that it IS physical. I base my conclusion that qualia are physical on the other grounds which have heretofore been set out. Principal among these is the argument that a physical condition cannot cause a non-physical one [where “physical” refers to that which is spatio-temporal and “non-physical to that which is not].

You seem to be saying that the realm of time and space (the physical world) can cause an effect lying outside that realm. Yet, you do not explain how causation itself can have any meaning absent time and space--that is, how causation, in any form, can have any reference to that which is non-physical. This problem disappears if one admits that qualia are physical.

However, you raise an interesting point. It is true that nature, at least temporally, can move against the tide of entropy and yield order. This indicates a kind of creative freedom that has made our existence possible. This is mirrored in the freedom of our will. However, to make us free, nature had first to make us conscious. It is this freedom, with consciousness as a necessary attendant, that provides the illusion that our conscious experiences somehow transcend the physical world and that we are a "subject" standing above that world.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri wrote:Neuro,
....
You seem to be saying that the realm of time and space (the physical world) can cause an effect lying outside that realm.

Not quite so. I am just suggesting that this depends on what you define to be inside or outside such realm.
Actually logic is generated in our brain. Mathematics as well.
My question was: is logic physical? is mathematics physical?

My impression is that "yes", "no" and "maybe" all are acceptable answers to such questions, depending on your metaphysical perspective.

I am sorry that you are so fond of your own metaphysical view: I was just trying to instill some doubt in you.

I'll make a last attempt.

Suppose you are in an fMRI machine. Would you agree that I would record from your brain some signal, if I tell you "1+1=2" or "1+2=3", which won't be there if I tell you "1+1=3" or "1+2=2", and vice versa, although the sounds are the same, simply combined in different sequences?

So, "true" and "false" mathematical statements produce specific physical signals in your brain.
Does this mean that mathematical truth and falsity are physical?

You may well answer YES. I don't think anybody would find a way of DEMONSTRATING the contrary.
But you might as well answer NO. And I would guess that most people would viscerally agree with this latter answer.

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neuro,

If you are saying that both the spatio-temporal and non-spatio-temporal can be physical, you make no distinction between the physical and non-physical. In such case, the whole discussion becomes meaningless.

I do not consider mathematics and logic to be qualia. To me a quale is an immediate, direct conscious experience and typically a short-term memory. Logical and mathematical principles are inferred from long term memories—things no longer experienced but (by a process not yet fully understood) retained as information we can call upon at will.

Numbers themselves, as opposed to numbered things, are arrived at by this sort of inference. For example, in the traditional Japanese language, there is one word for two cats and another word for two tables. When the cats and tables are added up, we do not get four of anything. We still have two cats and two tables. However, the Japanese have long since made the inference that there is such a thing as “2” independent of any particular thing. The Arabic symbol, in English as in Japanese, denotes that number in all its purity.

The world consists of spatio-temporal relations that we directly experience as Happening [by which expression I include all action and change]. These relations we call “logical.” By reflecting upon long-term memories, we infer time and space as the ingredients of Happening. Time and space are discursive and not intuitive.

Our method of understanding the logical relations that constitute the world is to delineate Happening by means of metrics of time and space. This already presumes an understanding of pure numbers. Such a method may not determine with certainty the relations that belong to the world, but it does provide a close-enough approximation for almost any purpose.

The neurological processes that equate with inference consist of spatio-temporal (physical) relations, simply because those processes are included in the world. Everything about us is included in the world of space and time. Indeed, that world is the only world.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Thank you for your lecture, Neri.
I see that having you doubt about any of your ideas is above my power.
Actually, I'd have preferred not to enter this discussion at all, given how slippery I consider it.

so:
Qualia are conscious experiences which belong to short term memory and are physical.
Logical principles belong to long term memory and are not physical.

Good to know in case you ask again.

But I myself will keep my doubts.

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neuro,

Thank you for your contribution.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri wrote:Positor,

If I understand you correctly, you say that (c) is a way of knowing (b), but (b) is not a way of knowing (c). By this analysis, you assume that (b) is the thing itself and that (c) is just the experience it engenders. Thus, you say that to equate (b) and (c) is to equate knowledge of a thing with the thing itself.

Yes, that is what I am saying.

Qualia, like all else in the world, cannot exist without some expense of time. Indeed, a quale with no duration is no quale at all.

Agreed.

Further, we are aware that conscious experiences are spatially located in the head and travel through space with the body.

This is true of the neural processes that correspond to the conscious experiences, but not of the subjective contents of those experiences. If we take your two categories of conscious experiences, then the contents of (2) are in some cases not experienced as being located anywhere. And the contents of (1) are in most cases experienced as being located outside our head, and mostly outside our body.

One cannot properly say that qualia do not belong to the world of time and space, simply because they cannot be weighed like a pound of meat. Light, for example, has no weight (no mass whatsoever), yet it is physical because it is a spatio-temporal process. Light may not have the “same structural qualities” as a pound of meat, yet light is manifestly physical. The same may be said of that to which both (b) or (c) refer.

Light is an objective physical phenomenon; it has a particular location and speed. But what of, say, one's thought of a man walking along an imaginary street? What is the actual (physical) speed of this "man"? Is it (a) the speed of our body plus (b) the man's speed relative to the "street"? No, that would be absurd; the two "speeds" are incommensurable. Yet we cannot simply say that the "man's speed" does not exist; we have a (real) quale of a man, one of a street, and one of their relative motion. The "man's speed" is a fact about the thinker's mind, and hence about the thinker, and hence about the world. But it is not in itself a physical fact, because (unlike light) it cannot be mathematically related to the speed of the thinker.

“Qualia” is, in a way, an unfortunate expression; for it equates two basically different kinds of conscious experiences—(1) those that are triggered by real conditions outside the central nervous system and (2) those that are not. (1) are representational sense impressions providing a means of recognizing things in the external world and are the ultimate source of all so-called objective knowledge. We say that the latter is “objective,” because it is shared-- a matter of public knowledge.

On the other hand, (2) consist of “raw feels,” dreams, sensory hallucinations and the like. These represent nothing outside the central nervous system. Certainly, they provide some knowledge, in their own way, of energetic processes within that system itself. Because these experiences are private, they are called “subjective.” Some (but not all) knowledge of a these same processes can be obtained by objective qualia such as sight (as augmented by scientific instruments). A reasonably sufficient understanding of any conscious process can only be gained by both the subjective and objective qualia that refer to it. In either case, one is probing the same physical process, all the properties of which are not necessarily accessible in this way.

A full description of the spatio-temporal features of the world can, in principle, be made without reference to qualia (although, as you say, we may in practice – at least in the present state of scientific knowledge – need subjective qualia to access (indirectly) some of the spatio-temporal neurological facts). That is to say, we can state that the world includes "whatever neurological facts" correspond to the experienced qualia. But this will not be a complete description of the world, since it will not include the directly experienced contents of qualia. These contents appear to have spatio-temporal features (e.g. the man walking along the imaginary street), but such features cannot, it seems, be directly correlated with objective (including neurological) ones by some mathematical formula. As far as I am aware, the apparent speed and direction of motion of particular objects in the imagined scene do not (wholly) correspond to the actual speed and direction of motion of particular objects/patterns/processes in the brain; there is no simple mapping between the two.

So the contents of qualia are (indirectly) features of the world, but not genuine spatio-temporal features.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Positor,

In your example of a man walking on the street, you apparently make a distinction between (A) the “phenomenal speed” of his motion in the quale and (B) the “real speed” of his motion in the world. This is based on the notion that what is “real-in-itself” is perfectly measurable and what is phenomenal is not. This overlooks the fact that all measurement is phenomenal.

Consider this counter-example.

I have a quale which I believe is of type (1). The quale has the following content:

A man is standing on the street. I mark the position where he is standing as “point (s).” I am in possession of a very accurate stopwatch. I ask the man to walk, and I start the stopwatch at the very moment he begins to walk. There is a group of my friends watching everything I do. When exactly one minute has elapsed according to the watch, I ask the man to stop; he stops at the same moment, and I mark the position where he stopped as “point (f).” I am also in possession of a metric tape measure. I measure the distance between points (s) an (f) and determine it to be exactly 25 meters. Therefore, I conclude that the man travelled at the speed of 25 meters per minute and announce the same to my applauding friends.

When this quale is concluded, I awake to find myself in bed. Later, I ask the friends who appeared in the quale if they remember my little experiment. All of them, without exception, declare that they remember no such thing-- that I must have been dreaming. Therefore, I am forced to conclude that I was, in fact, dreaming and that the speed of the man’s walking was “phenomenal” and “not real.”

This example poses a seemingly insurmountable problem yet, at the same time, suggests a solution.

The problem is: How do we escape the trap of solipsism if my awaking in bed and consulting my friends also turns out to be a dream? In other words, how can I possibly be equipped to distinguish objective speed from subjective speed?

My answer is this:

A quale that represents objective distances, times and speeds is one that enjoys public assent. More than this, we cannot say. Public assent is itself real, because others are real. They must be real and not part of the qualia of a single subject, because any subject experiences qualia that are unknowable to others unless they can be expressed linguistically.

However, none of this means that objective metrics are mind-independent. Indeed, they are only tools of thought; for time and space are ideas derived from the shared experience of happening. Things in the world really happen, but not in fully determinable measures. Thus, the correspondence between experience and reality [which constitutes qualia of type (1)] is a correspondence between the experience of happening and happening itself—and not between the experience of measure and measure itself.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri wrote:In your example of a man walking on the street, you apparently make a distinction between (A) the “phenomenal speed” of his motion in the quale and (B) the “real speed” of his motion in the world. This is based on the notion that what is “real-in-itself” is perfectly measurable and what is phenomenal is not. This overlooks the fact that all measurement is phenomenal.

Even if all measurement is classed as phenomenal, it does not follow that (A) and (B) are commensurable. They may be two qualitatively different sub-classes of the phenomenal world. So (B) would be a physical phenomenon and (A) a non-physical one.

The problem is: How do we escape the trap of solipsism if my awaking in bed and consulting my friends also turns out to be a dream? In other words, how can I possibly be equipped to distinguish objective speed from subjective speed?

My answer is this:

A quale that represents objective distances, times and speeds is one that enjoys public assent. More than this, we cannot say. Public assent is itself real, because others are real. They must be real and not part of the qualia of a single subject, because any subject experiences qualia that are unknowable to others unless they can be expressed linguistically.

I don't think the question of how to distinguish dream experiences from waking experiences is really relevant to the question of whether qualia are physical. The objective speed/subjective speed distinction does not correspond to the dream/waking distinction; the "phenomenal speed" of a man's motion in a quale is still subjective even if it represents a real event. Nevertheless, the distinguishing of dreams is an interesting subject in itself.

On the matter of public assent, how would you deal with experiences that are never publicly reported? There must be some other criterion of objectivity.

Also, public assent is a problematic criterion, because it relies on (long-term) memory to verify it in retrospect. One has to assume that such memory is reliable. Public assent cannot be verified immediately, because (as you show in your example) it sometimes appears to be present even in a dream. Moreover, even long-term memory is not a wholly reliable guide to the reality of public assent. For (as you also point out) all our remembered experience so far could be part of a nested set of dreams.

However, none of this means that objective metrics are mind-independent. Indeed, they are only tools of thought; for time and space are ideas derived from the shared experience of happening. Things in the world really happen, but not in fully determinable measures. Thus, the correspondence between experience and reality [which constitutes qualia of type (1)] is a correspondence between the experience of happening and happening itself—and not between the experience of measure and measure itself.

See my comments on your first paragraph above.

I would appreciate any comments from others.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Positor,

(1) If (A) and (B) were not in any way commensurable, the senses (and consequently the qualia they cause) would serve no purpose. Clearly, the only reason the senses were naturally selected was to preserve us from danger and thereby promote our survival. The senses could not do this if the conscious impressions they provide did not, at least in a dynamic way, correspond to reality. Further, to say that sensory experience is not in any way commensurable with reality is to say that the brain “cuts reality out of whole cloth,” and that would be a descent to solipsism.

(2) If an experience is not publicly reported, it remains private and therefore purely subjective. Public assent provides the basis for the notion of fully determined intervals and periods (perfect metrics of time and space) upon which the notion of fully determined speeds is based. It is important to remember that although such things are objective by reason of public assent, they are not mind-independent. It is only Happening itself that is mind-independent.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Neri,

There are two separate issues here:
(a) the spatio-temporal relationship between qualia contents and brain processes;
(b) the spatio-temporal relationship between qualia contents and the external events they represent.

In referring to natural selection, you seem to have shifted your focus from (a) to (b). (I agree that qualia must correspond closely to real events, but the problem is in determining the nature of the correspondence.)

For (a), we need to ask: Are qualia contents spatio-temporally identical to brain processes – i.e. do the two things occupy an identical position on the same spacetime grid? If the answer is yes, it follows that all qualia are physical.

For (b), we need to ask: is the relationship between qualia contents and external events analogous to that between a physical picture and the physical scene it depicts – i.e. do the two things occupy a different position on the same spacetime grid? If the answer is yes, it follows that qualia of your type (1) are physical.

So there are two ways that (at least some) qualia could be physical: (i) they could be identical to brain processes, or (ii) they could be commensurable mappings of external events, mediated by non-isomorphic (code-like) brain processes. By "commensurable", I mean that there would need to be an objective distance between any object in a quale and any object in the world (not only the object represented by that quale object) – just as there is an objective distance between any object in a picture and any object outside that picture. In other words, the quale contents themselves would need to exist in a determinate set of positions, which would be different from those of the corresponding brain processes because the latter would be of a different "shape".

One problem with scenario (ii) is that visual qualia are presented 2-dimensionally. It is therefore not clear how qualia contents could be full mappings of 3-dimensional events.

I am not convinced that the requirements of either (i) or (ii) are satisfied. Therefore, I doubt that qualia are physical.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Positor,

Although “occupying positions in a space-time grid” may be objective in the sense that it is derived by public assent, it is not “mind-independent.” In other words, it is no part of the real world.

External reality consists of things that happen in complete continuity and not in ways fully determinable by points, instants, intervals and periods. The notion of fully determined intervals and periods is not a quale but an inference derived from the experience of Happening. However, like everything else, such a notion is rooted in qualia.

From sensory inputs the brain generates experiences with recognizable intervals and periods. Because these seem to correspond to the real world, we assume that we can measure them perfectly by means of publicly-agreed metrics.

Although this approach is well-founded in reality in the sense that it reflects Happening, it does not coincide with reality “on a space-time grid;” for such a thing belongs to “minds” and not to the world. At best, this method provides only an approximation of reality.

Because we are included in the world, our brain processes are included in it, as well. Consequently, these processes are perfectly continuous, like everything else in the world. Because “space-time grids” do not belong to the real world, it makes no sense to ask if qualia coincide in time and space with the brain processes that yield them.

The energy released by those processes is subjectively realized. Therefore, a space-time grid cannot be devised that will apply to qualia that are not shared.

A space-time grid requires the idea of a fully determined metric. This arises when the quale of a thing being measured or timed is shared, and the quale of the metric being used for this purpose is also shared. Thereafter, the quale of the metric-used is accepted by consensus as a perfect standard of measure. This assumes that everyone has experienced the metric in the same way. More than this, it assumes that there can be such a thing as a perfect metric.

When we seem to be measuring an object in the real world, we are, in fact, attempting to measure that which cannot be measured—namely, the quale itself. Thus, the whole idea of a space-time grid is illusory.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Oh brother. Okay, let's get our bearings a bit..

Qualia are at the very heart of the mind-body problem.

The status of qualia is hotly debated in philosophy largely because it is central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness.

I shall take it for granted that there are qualia. Consider your visual experience as you stare at a bright turquoise color patch in a paint store. There is something it is like for you subjectively to undergo that experience, etc.

Moving right along, the literature on qualia is filled with thought-experiments of one sort or another, and here, we have the case of Mary, the brilliant color scientist. As time passes, Mary acquires more and more information about the physical aspects of color and color vision. Indeed she comes to know all the physical facts pertinent to everyday colors and color vision. One day her captors release her. "So, that is what it is like to experience red," she exclaims, as she sees a red rose. "And that," she adds, looking down at the grass, "is what it is like to experience green."

Our grasp of what it is like to undergo phenomenal states is supplied to us by introspection.

Now, what if I add, that the mind is needed to organise qualia into separate spatial and temporal locations. And, that the mind is also needed to join associated qualia into the objects we recognise. Can we assert, that, as Descartes stated, the mind must necessarily be a unified whole. I'd have no problem with any of this, so 'are qualia physical'? doesn't really 'hook' me. The point of this debate, for me, is the message that some people have tremendous difficulties here.

Much of the difficulty, is that materialism has made a great deal of progress in explaining the mind in terms of a completely physical process happening in the brain, a point that has come up here. The assertion is made, that qualia prove that the mind can’t be explained in materialist terms. The response, is that there are many good reasons to believe that the mind must have such an explanation.

Cognitive science is materialistic in orientation, and clearly so in scope. Yet, issues regarding qualia fall into the domain of the philosophical phenomenologist, not the cognitive scientist.

Qualia--the "what it's like features" of minds--are taken to pose a great challenge to a materialist view of the world. However, challenges to a materialist view of the world, are cheap shots, anyways. And, to show my cards, I judge 'qualia' to be just philosophicese--never heard of philosophic-ese?

I can allow, that it's common for many people in the sciences—not all, by any means—to take the position that qualia do not exist, that they are an illusion. And, qualia are often discussed with respect to certain thought experiments that purport to demonstrate the falsity of representationism, functionalism and cognitivist approaches.

But I, do not feel the powerful attraction, of the naturalistic/materialistic orthodoxy of the current philosophical climate. I am amused, that materialism seems to be the sanest metaphysics by far, like we need one.

Our overriding intellectual goal is to have one.

It will provide, the general framework, within which one arrives at an understanding, of various phenomena, that one takes to constitute the world.

I would say, rather more, than that there cannot be anybody who still thinks, that materialism is not a negotiable position? Who would not consider giving up materialism? Of course there's lots of these anybodys.

I would say, rather more, than that materialism doesn't even have any features worth wanting. There is one, let's tick Searle off.

But my point would be, that there is an alternative, of embracing an anti-metaphysical program. To quote Interview with a Vampire: 'Because you ask all, the wrong, questions'.

I'll respond to this:
Jehu wrote:It is easy to assert something like: “ Give a machine of the appropriate level of complexity it will achieve conscious, and experience qualia.”, but it is quite another thing to produce such a sentient machine.

I'm not particularly skeptical of the idea of a sentient machine. Such a machine, might, however, be skeptical of the idea, that we are sentient.

And this:
Neri wrote: Logical and mathematical principles are inferred from long term memories..we infer time and space as the ingredients of Happening. Time and space are discursive and not intuitive.

I'll keep it brief, I disagree. I recall the line from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: 'It's my happening and it's freaking me out'.
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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

Since color qualia come from the physical e/m waves then they are physical, too, even in their new face painted upon these waves as re-presented. It is of the brain perceiving itself.

In fact, everything is guaranteed as physical. As for anything intangible or non-physical, it, of course, could not react with the tangible/physical, for how could it even talk that talk.

Now, is there a difference between physical and material?

Would space just be physical, as it has the single quantity of volume, and thus not material?

Or is space material, as well, if indeed it can curve?

I'm not speaking of anything that occupies space.

Another point is that time and space may be wrapped up in 4D spacetime, although it seems to us as 3D space and 1D time separated.

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### Re: ARE QUALIA PHYSICAL?

DragonFly wrote:Since color qualia come from the physical e/m waves then they are physical, too, even in their new face painted upon these waves as re-presented. It is of the brain perceiving itself.

I'm not particularly invested in the notion, that your experience of thinking, happens in your head. The brain is in the head. But that's not, in my view, that's not why it 'feels' like 'you' are in your head. I actually also have some difficulty with the notion, that e/m waves are physical. They are on a cartesian graph, I figure. I'd allow that a chair, is physical.

dragonFly wrote:In fact, everything is guaranteed as physical.

You don't simply mean, that every 'thing' is physical. Objects are physical. Is energy physical? What, then, is it made of? It's made of energy? And what is potential energy made of? Here's an easy one, what is heat made of? Heat?

dragonFly wrote:As for anything intangible or non-physical, it, of course, could not react with the tangible/physical, for how could it even talk that talk.

'You', can talk that talk. Are you, then, tangible, physical? I'm not so sure. I suppose you are, in the sense that at the mall, you look at the map, and it says 'you are here'. I even suppose that your memories, are physically stored in your brain. But if you are physical today, then what were you, 100 years ago? What will you be, in 100 years? Are the cells which compose your body, which are the 'physical' component, I take it, have they always existed, as part of your body? How much of 'you', was literally part of you, you the physical object that can shake my hand, five years ago?

dragonFly wrote:Now, is there a difference between physical and material?

I suppose that we can work up a more technical, robust philosophical vocabulary, here. I think that numbers, are not physical, they're not in a place in space/time, they're abstract. But they 'exist'. Do they count, as part of everything?

dragonFly wrote:Would space just be physical, as it has the single quantity of volume, and thus not material?

Big subject, that you've got a hold of, there. I wouldn't offer space as being physical, but I fear being misunderstood.

dragonFly wrote:Or is space material, as well, if indeed it can curve?

Space can't curve, if it doesn't absolutely exist, which is something like my view, though again, I fear being misunderstood--I'm not a skeptic of relativity.

dragonFly wrote:I'm not speaking of anything that occupies space.

What is your position, is space physical, material?

dragonFly wrote:Another point is that time and space may be wrapped up in 4D spacetime, although it seems to us as 3D space and 1D time separated.

As I say, I'm not a skeptic of relativity. I'm intrigued, by the relationship of mathematics, and space, and time. A geometric space, can be 2D. Does it, then, 'exist'?
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