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Dana R.
user 2673220
Group Organizer
Berkeley, CA
Post #: 49
I have a hard time imagining that qualia could not be causally effective for the simple reason that we can talk about them. If they were not causally effective, then where does the impetus to discuss them come from?

Though we may be consciously aware of some aspects of qualia, there are likely other aspects that are not easily accessible to consciousness, but still contribute to their distinct flavors. I believe that these unconscious traits that give qualia their distinct flavors can exert influences on how our minds work in subtle ways that we rarely consider, such as facilitating the formation of unconscious associations, or influencing the ways our attention wanders when we are not consciously trying to direct it.

One day, science may shed some light on the material basis of the actual experiences of qualia. Our minds cannot be completely understood by working from the inside out (this is how I describe pure introspection) because we have so many cognitive blind spots. It remains to be seen if we can completely understand the mind by starting on the outside and working our way in, with perhaps the occasional introspective hint from the inside.
James H.
user 13603321
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 157
I’m afraid I don’t understand why you have difficulty imagining us talking about something (in this case, qualia) unless the thing we’re talking about has causal powers. We often talk about things that don’t exist and therefore don’t have causal powers: Zeus, Wolverine, Santa Claus, and Mighty Mouse. Now, you ask: where does the impetus come from to talk about qualia, if they don’t have causal powers? Well: the way a sunset looks to you, the way a favorite symphony sounds to you, the way the aroma of coffee in the morning smells to you, the way an orgasm feels to you, the love that you feel for your girl/boyfriend, parent, best friend, or son/daughter, the gratitude that you feel when someone helps you out, the joy that you feel when you get a promotion at work, the giddiness that you feel when you’re laughing at a very funny joke, the warmth that you feel from the fireplace on a cold night—these are all things that make LIFE WORTH LIVING. Now: where does the impetus come from to talk about qualia? It comes from the fact that qualia is what makes life worth living.

Now, why doesn’t qualia have causal powers?

Qualia is not identical with any physical event; because of this, if qualia is the cause of a physical event, then it is a non-physical cause of it.
A physical event that has a cause has a sufficient physical cause. (The Causal Closure Principle of the Physical Domain); because of this, if qualia is a non-physical cause of a physical event, it cannot be a necessary non-physical cause, but it must be a sufficient non-physical cause.
But a physical event that has a cause has a sufficient physical cause.
So, a physical event that has qualia as a sufficient non-physical cause must also have a sufficient physical cause.

There is no systematic causal overdetermination of physical events (The Exclusion Principle) (Definition: an event is causally overdetermined if it has more than one sufficient cause)
If a physical event has qualia as a sufficient non-physical cause, it must also have a sufficient physical cause.
But then there would be many physical events that would have both a sufficient non-physical cause and a sufficient physical cause (for example: my intentionally raising my arm, my intentionally kicking the ball, my intentionally typing a reply to what you wrote, etc.)
But there is no systematic causal overdetermination of physical events
Therefore, the physical event that does have a cause must have qualia or some physical event as its sufficient cause (but not both).
But a physical event that has a cause has a sufficient physical cause.
Therefore, the physical event that does have a cause has a physical event as its sufficient cause, and not qualia.
Therefore, qualia has no causal powers, at least with respect to mental-to-physical causation.

However, qualia might have causal powers with respect to mental-to-mental causation. In the next post, I will make the argument as to why it doesn’t.

Dana R.
user 2673220
Group Organizer
Berkeley, CA
Post #: 50
It seems to me that what you are arguing is that the reason your physical body reports the existence of qualia is that your physical body is capable of imagining that there is probably this thing called qualia, just as it can imagine the existence of Zeus. But while your physical body admits that Zeus is in fact imaginary, for some strange reason it reports that qualia is real and that it is experiencing the qualia, even though your physical body cannot access that qualia because of its immaterial nature. And it is just a crazy coincidence that the imagined qualia that your physical body reports as being real, really does in fact exist, unless it doesn't because you are just a zombie that is able to lie about experiencing qualia.

While this may not be strictly impossible, it seems to me to be astronomically unlikely.
James H.
user 13603321
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 158
When you’re having a discussion about a complicated matter in philosophy or any domain of science—physics, chemistry, molecular biology, genetics, etc.—you have to be as nonliteral in your use of language as possible—if you speak nonliterally, you should do it to illustrate a point you already made literally. Now, am I claiming that my physical body reports the existence of qualia? No. I’m claiming that my neural states cause my qualia. The problem with “reporting” is that “reporting” suggests the use of language: I report to you my belief that today is Thursday by uttering the sentence, “Today is Thursday”. The claim that my neural states cause my qualia is very uncontroversial—if you have an argument against it, I’d love to hear it. Am I claiming that my physical body is capable of imagining that there is probably this thing called qualia? No. My physical body doesn’t imagine anything. My neural state causes me to be in a state of imagining something, yes. But that’s not the same thing as saying that my neural state is imagining something. Why not? Because the subject of the imagining is me, not my neural state. The neural state causes me to be in a state of imagining. But that particular neural state isn’t the same thing as me. Why not? Because if you got rid of that one neural state, I’d still be around, having other neural states and mental states. Now, if you’ve got an argument for why I’m the same thing as the one neural state, I’d love to hear it. It it true that my neural sate can cause me to imagine something about Zeus too. Now, where are you trying to go with this? You say:

But while your physical body admits that Zeus is in fact imaginary, for some strange reason it reports that qualia is real and that it is experiencing the qualia, even though your physical body cannot access that qualia because of its immaterial nature.


No neural state is reporting that qualia is real or that it is experiencing qualia. Because no neural state is reporting anything. I have a neural state; that neural state causes me to be in a mental state (for example, the state of desiring food); that mental state has qualia (the felt quality of desiring); and it is in virtue of my having that mental state that I have that qualia. Now, if you want to make an argument for why I’m not experiencing that desire, go ahead. But you haven’t made one. The fact that I can’t see, taste, touch, hear, or smell my experiencing that desire is irrelevant. I can’t see my experiencing of seeing, and I’m surely seeing. I can’t see, taste, touch, hear, or smell gravity, magnetic fields, or electric fields, and they exist. If you want to test to see if qualia is real, grab a hammer and smash your thumb. If you have a feeling of pain shooting up your body, that’s qualia.
James H.
user 13603321
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 159
Qualia is first-person observable. The other features of the brain (the material features) are third-person observable. What’s the difference?

X is first-person observable if and only if X is observable to only one person, and since the observation of X is the instantiation of X, the person observing X would also be instantiating X. For example, my experience of pain is first-person observable; when it is observed by me, it is instantiated by me.

X is third-person observable if and only if X is observable to more than one person. The neural state that I have that causes my experience of pain is third-person observable because it is observable to more than one person.

The claim that my experience of pain is first-person observable is DISCONFIRMABLE. A bona fide telepath could disconfirm it if the following held:

She is able to observe my experience of pain;
When she observes my experience of pain, she also instantiates that experience of pain: that is, she has that experience of pain, and her having that experience of pain is the same thing as her having the experience of pain; so, then, my experience of pain would be the same thing as her experience of pain—this is analogous to my car being the same thing as her car, if we both happened to be sharing the same car)

If there were such a telepath, that would mean that some qualia are third-person observable. That would also defeat the argument I made against identifying qualia with material features of the brain.

I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t discover aliens who were telepathic.
A former member
Post #: 3
Although there are some really interesting philosophical points here, I think you were discussing the difference between "neglect" which is the ability to sense without consciousness/recognition of it; and the original topic which was a study of an aphasia.
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