Today I chose to be a writer

Tomorrow I think I'll Be a Fisherman


2 Comments

Unquining Qualia

Any quantification assumes that a given ontological entity is divisible, if in fact one were even to exist.
Said quantification is also, as far as phenomenal experience goes, completely immaterial and subjective. The act of attempting to quantify a phenomenal experience and extrapolate some “data” (if you want to call it attribute data) still only frames this experience using lexical or numerical values.
A phenomenal experience such as the qualia of consciousness (the what it’s like to be conscious as perceived by an introspective observer) cannot be defined per se, any attempt to do so results in an effect similar to the observer effect. The experience decays into abstraction much like a particle will interfere with itself and appear as a wave.

Could it be that the material and the phenomenal are reflections of the same process? Abstraction becoming conscious of itself then collapsing into a single form subject to a sentient observation?


3 Comments

The Great Demise of Objectivity

 

What a brilliant talk, I have to say that in terms of philosophy this applies to a great extent. This obsessions with devaluing the phenomenal, the subjective and an entire aspect of the pathos, logos, and ethos trinity has unavoidably led to this question.

Does this infatuation with the material and mechanical inhibit our general advancement in terms of philosophy, medicine, science and general personal and cultural evolution?

I think so. It is time for another enlightenment era, one that moves us far away from the industrial revolution and technological rut we are presently in.


Leave a comment

On Dualism

“My mind is your mind and your mind is my mind…”
-Random transient, overheard in Golden Gate Park

 

There are several examples that come to mind when considering the separation of body and mind, but I will focus on Descartes 6th meditation.

In Descartes 6th meditation, he mentions that god is capable of bringing forth everything the he is capable of perceiving- including “infallible” mathematics, he claims:

“In so far as they are a subject of pure mathematics, I now know at least that they can exist, because I grasp them clearly and distinctly. For God can undoubtfully make whatever I can grasp in this way, and I never judge that something is impossible for Him to make unless there would be a contradiction in my grasping the thing distinctly”.

Descartes then goes on to claim that imagination is different from pure understanding using the visualization of a chiliagon as an example and true to that claim is the fact the he would have remained the same individual had he lacked one, albeit a less creative one.

In his thinking Descartes keeps going back to god as a creator and separator of things, he imagines god as an entity separate from him in true bondage with his Roman Catholic upbringing, I imagine he nurtured a healthy fear of hell and so could not break through the idea that god, as he calls it, was a part of his mind. (Descartes was a catholic, part of a sect whose symbol is a sun (son)… In fact I have many rebuttals against his argument concerning the existence of god, but that’s not the issue here)
Since god carries too much cultural and theological baggage, I will use the word Mind with a capital M when I refer to cosmic consciousness or Descartes’ sexed, fear inspiring “creator”.

Let us consider what a body is. A body, when observed appears as a singular object. Although a body is not a singular object, a body is composed of organs, organs are composed of cells, which are in turn composed of organelles and a nucleus which carries a double helix of information we call DNA, which is composed of chemical compounds which are composed of atoms which are composed of other microcosmic elements. The Body is a reflection of that pattern, nucleus as to brain and organs as to organelles (actually I think that it may very well be that this pattern goes even further in both directions, modern quantum physics is attempting to reach the miniscule end of that pattern, while astronomers look out and attempt to see its progression and eventual end). Each of these different things all separated within the body to form and allow the body to exist, the cells within just so much a part of the body as the Mind which created it. It may very well be that when Descartes claims understanding to be apart from imagination, or that mind and spirit are essentially distinct from everything else that he is mistaken because if the pattern mentioned above exists, then our body is in fact a part of an even larger body, and the space between is an illusion brought on by the expansion of an initial body (material or immaterial, a thought is also a thing (like money) but is immaterial), separation becomes a question of scale, things only appear separate depending which scale and which perspective is being observed (I remember seeing mating frogs before I understood what mating was and thought they were one really strange frog). Following this logic leads to the conclusion that all is one, and that separation is an illusion necessary to uphold this cosmic occurrence- a very necessary illusion, one which must exist, it Is.

I think that that makes the brain different from the mind, but still a product of it. In accordance to Descartes’ claim as quoted above, Mind could very well have created the brain to perceive itself.


Leave a comment

On Qualia as Intrinsic Properties of Experience

The nature of Qualia, or the qualitative feel of an experience, and their philosophical insinuations have been widely debated in modern philosophy of mind. To attempt to cover all the different views concerning the broad subject of Qualia might be somewhat tedious. Rather, the focus of this paper will be an analysis of Sydney Shoemakers ideas in “Phenomenal Character and Introspection” and an argument for the importance of qualia when considering experience through representationalism and any other theory of consciousness. This seems to be the most plausible place to start in order to display just how vital qualia are to properly understand the nature of subjective experience. For if qualia can be representationally or functionally defined in one way or another it would bring us a little closer to understanding the subjective phenomena that IS[1] consciousness, rather than the phenomena that is human being.

What it’s Like 

The “what it’s like” of an experience is something we can come to understand intuitively, can a person who has never been on a roller coaster completely appreciate what it’s like to ride it just by observing someone else or being told about it, e.i by experiencing it vicariously? Maybe they could tell you what they thought it was like but they could never tell you what it’s actually like, the person riding the roller coaster might find quite a lot of trouble attempting to explain it concisely to the person who has never ridden before. They might use words like: exhilarating, great fun, frightening, etc.. to frame the experience, but that still does not capture the phenomenal character of riding a rollercoaster. Considering this, it can be safe to assume that it could be the case that every single person who gets off the roller coaster would have experienced something completely different than anyone else who has ridden the rollercoaster before. Despite the representational content of the roller coaster itself (fun, speed, loops, twists, steep descents) having more or less similar representational values to those who present themselves before it, we cannot safely say that the physical and cultural properties are the only qualities that shape the experience. Otherwise, it would not be the case that some people appreciate them, and some don’t, even when the people share similar representational attitudes. This is due in part to the qualitative feel of their introspective appreciation of the phenomenal experience. It could be that while riding a person laughs and screams along with the rest of them, but upon finishing the ride they are introspectively aware about the contents of that sensory experience and find that the intrinsic qualities of the phenomenal character were not something they enjoyed. Not for any particular reason, it just wasn’t enjoyable to them. Despite knowing exactly what it’s like to ride one and knowing that the experience ends when the ride ends, something only known to the person who is introspecting results in the experience holding a certain quality. A friend, however, was sitting right next to them and is insisting to go again. The question here is who perceived the rollercoaster ride veridically, with no chance of misperception or misrepresentation? It doesn’t help that we have physical proof how it should feel to go fast then drop, roll, twist, and do loop de loops; if one was to crunch the numbers and find out how much force per square meter was being exerted all along the ride, at each interval, or if one was to ride with electrodes attached to the head to point out which parts of the brain were being activated, would that help to communicate or show the real (veridical) experience of a rollercoaster to the observers in white lab coats who wish to get an objective idea “what it’s like” and maybe compare the results and find a general consensus what it’s like to ride the roller coaster? Even then, wouldn’t that make for a pretty boring and dull ride if the phenomenal character of an experience was somehow known?

Ned Block argues that qualia are non-representational contents of experience, and thus since qualia don’t supervene on representational content, there is no misperception because the nature of the quale is not a representational quality (Lycan, 2000). Is there any way to bridge this gap, and find a tangible approach that will also aid in displaying what role Qualia play without dismissing them as subjective noise?  Shoemaker’s Paper is aimed to provide an example where spectrum inversion is possible and where awareness of representational phenomenal states is accounted for.

Why reject Qualia

Representationalism claims that our experience of an object would be a representation of a property that the object itself has and that that property itself is also perceived representationally. One could call on Qualia to weaken the argument that phenomenal character is a form of representational content, though Sydney shoemaker argues that qualia play an important role in representationalism about phenomenal content, and that it is the case that phenomenal character is  “self-intimating” representational content brought about upon reflection; “it is of the essence of a state’s having a certain phenomenal character that this issues in the subjects being introspectively aware of that character, or does so if the subject reflects” (Shoemaker, 2002).

In order to understand why Shoemaker argues to incorporate and invigorate the role of qualia when considering representationalism in his paper “Phenomenal Character and Introspection” one must understand why representationalism rejects certain forms of qualia. Representationalism assumes that intentionality (or the minds capability to form beliefs, and grasp aboutness) is composed of representational concepts related to the objects and culture in the environment (Jacob, 2003). That is to say, given the above example with the coaster; that an intentional state occurred at the end of the experience is partly due to the particular representation of “Rollercoaster” that was already beheld in the subject’s mind, including the representational sensory input. One does not see a strange thing composed of many different parts, that bears a moving object full of bodies which are making loud noises and guttural sounds as they woosh by. One sees these collections of objects, and occurrences, is conscious of the environment in which they are found, and is aware of the representation “Rollercoaster”, and along with that come all the representations that this entails, depending on previous experiences, culture, age and other such factors. As per some philosophers like Micheal Tye’s views (Tye, 2002), the subjective qualities of phenomenal experience, or qualia of the sensory data in that experience play little to no part in the outcome of the experience. Qualia are rejected because they cannot be functionally defined. There have been numerous debates and much philosophical bickering on how one can prove the existence of qualia, let alone show what role they play in the functional and representational sense. Much of this philosophical bickering takes the form of thought experiments meant to display the existence and meaning of qualia, or their lack thereof.

Shoemakers “humble” Inverted Spectrum

In the original experiment, X’s color experience when viewing a red object is phenomenally identical to Y’s experience when viewing a green object Tom is a special guy whose visual experiences are inverted in respect to his fellow men and women. When Tom looks at red objects, he experiences what it’s like for other people when they look at green objects (Tye, 2002). This inversion is non-detectable by people because Tom has learned the correct words for colors and he uses them normally. This means that when he sees a Tomato, his phenomenal experience differs from ours but the representational one is the same. The difference is the Quale of the visual experience Tom is having. If this case is possible, Representationalism proposes that since both experiences have individually different qualia, they should also have different representational content. This is where some philosophers like Micheal Tye refute the argument by denying the existence of qualia as nonrepresentational, introspectively accessible qualities of experience. They claim such a definition for qualia is a philosophical myth, and that undetectable strong color spectrum inversion is an impossibility; someone in the case is misperceiving (Tye, 1997, 2002).

Shoemaker instills that what is often an issue of discussion concerning spectrum inversions is the possibility of behaviorally undetectable spectrum inversion. This is problematic because it “aggravates the problem of knowledge of other minds”, and because such cases seem to imply that qualia are not functionally definable. His challenge to these problematics is to claim “that it is possible for the visual experiences different creatures have of objects of certain colors to differ in their phenomenal character without any of these creatures thereby misperceiving the colors, and for the visual experiences of two creatures to be alike in phenomenal character when they are viewing things of different colors, again without either of the creatures misperceiving the colors” (Shoemaker, 2002). He goes on to assume that, given the physiological traits of a subject, sensory input can vary and no misrepresentation occurs. The presented example in his paper is of unique hues, as it is known that certain hues are perceived as unique due to the rate at which lights of various wavelengths are absorbed in the retina, since these pigments vary, so do the perceptions of unique hues. There is no good reason to say that some observers correctly get which shades are unique and some of them don’t. Shoemaker claims that this is a valid example of a behaviorally detectable spectrum inversion, he deduces that how things look to us must be in part determined by the nature of our visual and central nervous systems as well as the nature of the circumstance.

If phenomenal character of perceptual experiences entails representational content which consists purely of representational objective properties, then experiences that share the same objective representational content would also share phenomenal character, whether or not the physiological and psychological mechanism of the subjects were similar. This ends up showing that inverted qualia are impossible, since the phenomenal character should be the same as the representational content. so to reconcile the claim that they are possible, Shoemaker holds that among the properties being represented by perceptual experiences are “Phenomenal properties” (not to be confused with the synonym for Qualia, in a note Shoemaker claims this might not have been the best choice of words since they describe an external state) that are represented in the phenomenal content of experiences. According to Shoemaker, “These properties are perceiver relative, in such a way that perceivers can differ in what phenomenal properties they are perceiving the same objects to have while veridically perceiving these objects to have the same objective properties, and in such a way that different perceivers can, when veridically perceiving different objects, perceive the same phenomenal properties even though the objective properties they perceive are different” (Shoemaker, 2002), this means that we perceive colors by perceiving a phenomenal property that is associated with the object. It also holds that different subjects can have different associations with the phenomenal property being veridically perceived as an objective secondary property. Qualia fit into this by taking up the determinant role in terms of the types of phenomenal properties that are being singled out by individual subjects.

This primes the notion that things look a certain way to us when we see them, and if this lingo is used in a color inversion case, we can safely say that things which are red look green to the inverted subject, though the subject says and thinks they look red. There is no difference in the objective properties of the object’s appearance, so there must be another kind of property other than the color (or other objective property). If things look a certain way to someone, there is a type of property which corresponds to that “certain way” and is a property of the object looking a certain way to the observer.

In an attempt to pinpoint these phenomenal properties, Shoemaker gives an account of a case in which a subject is observing a table’s uniformly colored surface, partly covered in shadow. The different parts of the surface will look different to the subject, with no misperception. It is not the case that the objective representational content of the experience when observing one part of the surface differs from the experience of observing the other. The part in shadow, although appearing different, will not look to have a different color. It may look like one part of the table has the objective property of being in shadow or of having a different hue, where the other one lacks that property, but lacking any clues concerning the illumination of the table, the decisive factor is the difference in the way alternate parts of the table’s surface look to the subject. “If their looking different in this way consists in there being different properties they appear to have; these won’t be objective properties, they will be candidates for phenomenal properties”, as per Shoemakers thinking.

Appearance properties
These phenomenal properties, according to shoemaker, contain, or rather include Occurent appearance (OAP) properties, and Dispositional appearance properties (DAP). OAPs are properties that “cause, in a certain way, an experience of sorts”; they are instantiated when the observed object has a direct property that makes it look a specific way to the observer. DAPs are capable of producing an experience of a certain kind, in the correct observer who has the correct relation to the property. Dispositional appearance attitudes are borne when the observed property is inclined to produce a certain experience in some observers if the observer happen to bear a dispositional relation to that property. In previous papers that shoemaker has written concerning the subject of qualia inversion, he hadn’t taken that into consideration when choosing an observer or observed property, oversimplifying the thought experiment. Since each shade of color will have several different occurent appearance properties, observing it to have one of these many OAP’s is enough to say it has that specific shade. The observer will also have dispositional attitudes which should be considered, and the observer will experience a DAP if they are the right sort of observer and have some relation to the object in the correct way, as well as the correct circumstance. These dispositions will always implement the instantiation of an DAP, given the scope of possibility here, it is safe to say that there are as many if not more dispositional appearance properties as occurent appearance properties, due to the fact that sometimes it is the same OAP that instantiates different DAP’s in diverse observers.

In the case of colors, some will have OAP’s that bear a close relationship to it, relative to the kind of observer perceiving it. So, the certain way a color appears to look to someone observing it will be representative of a certain OAP that the specific color has in relation to the dispositional character of the observer and their environment. Appears to look, is to say that something is looking a particular way, and as there have been many arguments on the subject of the epistemological use of these words by Fred Dretske, Shoemaker goes through three ways things might look to an observer. He gives the example of a particular shade that looks blue, meaning there has to be an imagined way blue shades should look in the observer’s mind as a base to compare, this he calls the “canonical” sense of looking a certain way. If we are looking for an objective point of reference though, this can seem to be a very ambiguous term, hence the introduction of the “Doxastic” way of looking; the observer believes that shade looks blue, and the observer’s experience is taken at “face value” when they say that shade looks blue to them. Even then, describing a shade in such a fashion is still very vague and does nothing to point out which OAP it has that is currently being observed. By discussing these different epistemologies of the term, shoemaker is attempting to figure out which OAP is giving the experience its phenomenal character. It pertains that the focus for Shoemaker’s train of thought is the “phenomenal” sense of “looking” a certain way to the correct observer. “if F is a color then something looks F in the phenomenal sense if a painter would use F pigment to represent how it looks” (Shoemaker, 2002). He then goes on to say that things appearing (in the doxastic sense) to have certain objective properties is grounded in their looking phenomenally a certain way, but that the transition from the way things appear in the phenomenal sense, to the objective properties they have, and appear to have, rests on several contingencies. Such as facts about illumination conditions, the spatial relation of object and observer, and how these combine with the objective properties of a thing to determine how it will look phenomenally to the observer, depending what kind of visual system the observer actually has.

It is apparent that there are many things to take into consideration other than simple facts about why and how an object is perceived or misperceived, especially when considering this under representational ideals, and especially when attempting to find a phenomenal property that our experience represents.

Shoemaker’s Veridicality

Unless one was unwittingly dosed with a psychedelic entheogen and was hallucinating, there is something (an OAP) that phenomenally appears to have a certain quality in their perceptual experience of a given thing, and claiming otherwise would seem to be implying that they were constantly in a state of hallucination. Hence, since we are not hallucinating when we say, something looks a certain way, and the correct appearance properties are observed, we are still having a veridical experience. The appearance properties have to be taken into account. If something that is not blue appears blue in the doxastic sense, this is a fair case of misperception and can be said not to be veridical. We cannot say the same for the case of it appearing blue in the phenomenal sense, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a case of misperception. One example given in Shoemakers paper is that snow often phenomenally looks blue depending on the circumstances, and it is not a case of misperception, nor one of dispositional attitude. It is a case of observing a white surface under a certain circumstance, and its having the phenomenal appearance of the canonical way blue things look.

Veridicality, according to Shoemaker, can now be defined like this: “for an experience of a thing to be veridical, the way the thing appearsp must be such that a thing’s appearingp that way to an observer of that sort in those circumstances would not count as misperception” (Shoemaker, 2002).  Appearsp being the way something looks in the phenomenal sense. The thing being experienced then, must also have a dispositional property of sorts that can be experienced in that phenomenal sense when being observed by an observer who is correctly oriented/related towards it (given that the observer has a normally functioning perceptual system). Now we can put all these different variables together and say that the veridicality of a phenomenal visual experience (appearancep) requires that something has the OAP of appearingp that way, as well as the DAP of appearingp to someone who is viewing it under the correct conditions for that OAP and DAP to coincide. This reasoning can lead to the notion that such an experience represents the instantiation of both sorts of properties.

Shoemaker goes on to mention yet another appearance property that

could be shared by all things that are disposed to appear, in the way mentioned above, to observers situated in a certain way respective to the thing being observed. “This will be the higher order property of having one or another of the dispositional appearance properties which can manifest themselves in an instantiation of a given occurrent appearance property, and will be a property that a perceived thing will have just in case it has that occurrent appearance property” (Shoemaker, 2001).

These “Higher-order” DAPs along with the associated OAP’s, can be said to be the properties that may be represented by our experiences. Shoemaker argues that If something appears phenomenally a certain way, it is imperative to the veridicality of the experience that the thing have the higher-order DAP of appearing phenomenally in such a way. He argues that having an experience such as that puts the observer in a position to judge that the perceived object does indeed have that property.

Shoemakers concluding argument

Even if the above mentioned appearance properties were denied to be perceived and represented in perceptual experience, it will still hold to say that because things appear phenomenally to us in certain ways, do we perceive them as having distinct properties. It will also be true that the introspective awareness we have concerning the nature of our experiences will reflect the way things look to us. Shoemaker proclaims this with much conviction: “If anything deserves to be called the phenomenal character of our experiences, it is the part of their introspectable nature that reflects how things look, feel, taste, smell, or sound to us” (Shoemaker, 2001).

I would like to give an analogous example to support this, let us assume that a given person who has no access to wine, has read all there is to know about drinking and tasting wine. This person has accumulated all the possible knowledge that concerns this field, and has introspected about the subject to no end. This person also has a normal nervous/perceptual system in respect to their species. Is this enough raw data for the person to credibly say that they might as well have tried wine and can tell you the subtle differences in their types as well as describe their taste with accuracy? I would think not, since what is lacking is the raw feel of the wine itself on that person’s tongue, the taste of it and the phenomenal character of the sensory experience as well as the qualia of it all, it could be that upon tasting wine they find the taste to be nothing like what has been described in the literature, or that it’s more like Author X’s interpretation than author Y’s. This is not misperception; neither him or the authors are wrong. The objective representational content is all present, but the phenomenal character along with the appropriate appearance properties were purely imagined by the person. In a sense, the doxastic appearance properties were represented in the literature and as a result represented in the reader’s mind canonically rather than phenomenally. The phenomenal aspect of it does not exist and so the representation is not valid or sound until the experience is phenomenally validated. According to Shoemaker, if phenomenal character is part of the represented content of our experiences then the aforementioned appearance properties are the only candidates for being the properties that are represented. If it is not the case that they are being represented, then representationalism about phenomenal character is false.

The essential argument of Shoemaker’s paper is not to only to argue for representationalism about phenomenal content, but also for representationalism to be acceptable, it must primarily allow that the properties whose representation provide phenomenal character are phenomenal properties in Shoemaker’s sense. Secondarily, that in allowing such properties, representationalist must allow for phenomenal character to be independent of the objective representational content of experience in a fashion that would allow for cases of inverted and non-human qualia.

Shoemaker’s take on Qualia

          One could say that Shoemaker’s view on phenomenal character so far, can be applied without the introduction of qualia. He pertains that this can be done by claiming that the appearance properties in question are instantiated from a state of being appeared to, which are states that represent these appearance properties, and cause this state of “being-appeared-to”. This seems like a very circular argument, and to break out of it while holding true to his premises, he fine tunes the definition of appearance properties to simultaneously define both the appearance properties and the states of being appeared to, by using the Ramsey-Lewis technique. This technique as developed by Frank Ramsey and David Lewis, allows for terms found in a theory to be defined by the assertions of the theory itself (Lewis, David, 1970). Though, while doing this, Shoemaker points out the problem of not accounting for states of being appeared to in “creatures” of another kind and not accounting for the distinction of appearance properties and intrinsic objective properties. Also, this definition invokes the notion of sameness when considering appearance properties, that essentially means that the object itself has to have the same potential for a given appearance property given the correct conditions. Shoemaker suggests that this notion be applied intrasubjectively in order to support the definition, this would aid in extending this definition to the case of color inverted qualia and alien qualia by taking into account the psycho-social relationship between a given creature and the rest of their social niche. The unrefined product of this thinking yields the following definition as per Shoemaker:
“The state of being appearedp blue to and the property of appearingp blue are the unique state S and the unique property P such that S represents P, someone is in state S just in case the way something looks to him is the way blue things look to us under optimal conditions, and something is P just in case it is producing state S in some observer (in a way that does not involve misperception), or is disposed to produce S in some sort of observer.”  This is still rough and in need of refinement. But plainly any account of these properties and states needs an account of sameness of state of being appeared to.”

As quoted, there has to be a kind of sameness applicable to states of being-appeared-to which is not only defined in respect to which property is being represented. Shoemaker thinks that the only acceptable sense of sameness is one that is defined in terms of qualitative character, and is functionally valid. This is where qualia come in as the media which deliver the representations of a perceived object’s appearance properties, they are properties in “virtue of which they stand in relations of qualitative similarity and difference” (Shoemaker, 2001). These relations will be defined in functionalist terms when they are considered intrasubjectively.

I think This is clear when one considers the socially agreed upon similarities and differences we constantly use to differentiate between experiences and to recognize objects, if qualia aid to bring these qualitative similarities or differences to light, their functional role is hard to refute. Shoemaker is saying that Phenomenal experiences of the same objective property may differ qualitatively, but once illumination conditions and the relation of the observer to the observed is determined, so is the sameness of the objective representational content, and so is the sameness of qualitative phenomenal content. What needs to be further pinpointed is how realization of qualia in instantiated properties occurs. Shoemaker does this by discussing the contingency, in the case of objective properties, that a given quale will represent a particular instantiated property and that this quale is “multiply realizable” depending on the introspective, intrasubjective nature of the observer.

In a functionalist sense, perceptual experiences were categorized in respect to an evolutionary history by being attributed to certain vital functions, representative of the functional (not physical-according to Shoemaker) environment in which they were experienced- aiding in the generation of beliefs about that environment. This obviously helps determine, to some extent, how a given subject discriminates and recognizes these experiences, thus allowing for “Multiple realizability” of phenomenal properties and heterogeneity in objective ones. Thus according to Shoemaker, “it is qualia that type the experiences, and thus it is that qualia contingently represent the objective environmental features they do”.

Why are qualia so important?

          To sum up Shoemakers ideas, his view in the paper “Introspection and Phenomenal Character” can be vitalized by his claim:

“Contents of perceptual experiences include representations of properties of external objects (or parts of our bodies) which things have in virtue of appearing to us, or being disposed to appear to us, in certain ways, these being what I Call phenomenal properties, and that the phenomenal character of experiences that we are introspectively aware of is this part of their representational content.” (Shoemaker, 2002)

Now that we have functionally defined Qualia in shoemaker’s sense, and found the properties in which they are represented, we can surmise that qualia and experiences are intrinsic to each other, and that how things appear to us and the different and similar ways they do appear shape our reality. On the topic of Conscious Experience, Fred Dretske mentions that what makes experience conscious is that the experience makes us conscious of something else – namely our bodies and the world we live in (Dretske, 2002). Shoemaker argues that we are also introspectively aware of the phenomenal properties that shape these experiences. Given all the ideas that shoemaker presents to support that the intrasubjectivity involved in the matter takes on a rather important role in fixing a point of reference for qualia to be defined, and especially in determining the outcome of the multiple realizablility of phenomenal properties. Can we objectively lead discussions concerning the nature of consciousness and one’s phenomenal experience therein without accounting for all the possible forms of creature (and perhaps other, yet unknown forms of) consciousness?

If you were a representationalist, it would not make much sense to say that you are objectively discussing something so grand as consciousness in terms of one facet of its representation, or discussing only the contents of OUR perceptual experiences, respectively; the represented phenomenal properties intrasubjectively and introspectively accessible to us. This is one reason I was so attracted to Shoemakers paper, as it took into consideration Alien/inverted Qualia and phenomenal character and attempted to integrate these notions clearly in the representationalist view as well as show that they can be at least conceptually possible. It was my firm intuitive belief that phenomenal character is intrinsic to understand the nature of experience and I think that Shoemaker was able to fit phenomenal character and representationalism logically together, confirming my belief. It is also strange to see functionalists such a Daniel Dennet quickly dismiss an idea due to its subjective nature. After all, according to ancient sophist dogma, there are 3 parts to philosophy Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. Why choose to ignore a facet of that trinity due to its subjective and intimate nature? Pathos can be related to the nature of qualia, in that it is essentially a type of feel, a way to look, or at the ontological level a way to Be. If as Shoemaker suggests our introspective awareness of that deep ontological level is available to us in terms of the qualia that aid in representing what we sense and experience, then it is no wonder that there are so many different ways to look at the same thing, even if that thing is consciousness. To attempt to unify a Universe (or possibly multiverse) worth’s of possibility under one theory of consciousness using only representational content known as logic and the objective credibility of science without considering and revaluating the intuitive and intimate would be the equivalent of the man in the above example who thinks he might as well have drunk wine, despite never having actually drunken any.

 

Bibliography

Chalmers, D. j. (2002). Philosophy of mind classical and contemporary readings. New York : Oxford University Press.

Dretske, F. (2002). Concious Experience . In D. j. Chalmers, Philosophy of Mind classical and contemporary readings (pp. 422-433). New York: Oxford University Press.

Shoemaker, S. (2002). Introspection and Phenomenal Character. In D. j. Chalmers, Philosophy of mind classical and contemporary readings (pp. 457-472). New York: Oxford University Press.

Tye, M. (2002). Visual Qualia and Visual Content Revisited . In D. j. Chalmers, Philosophy of mind classical and contemporary readings (pp. 447-456). New York: Oxford University Press.

Lycan, W. (2000). Representational Theories of Consciousness. Retrieved September, 2016, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-representational/

Tye, M. (1997). Qualia. Retrieved September, 2016, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia/

Jacob, P. (2003). Intentionality. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intentionality/

[1] Parmenides- Being IS “Never must you think that nothingness can be”


Leave a comment

Functionalism and Qualia

I have chosen to write this essay in hopes of displaying the importance of non-absolution, abstraction, and subjectivity when it comes to considering topics in the philosophy of mind. many philosophers today try very hard to utilize objective methods to try and grasp a very subjective field. In fact some philosophers like Daniel Dennet consider Qualia and the subjective experience a nuance and go so far as to say we don’t experience colors. There is a certain rigidity when analyzing these complex philosophical issues with the intention of determining an absolute truth while persistently utilizing demo-labels to decorate said truths. This essay will explore functionalism and its constant struggle with qualia, and whether or not qualia even matter anyway. There will be a few allegorical examples onto which functionalist ideas are imposed, as well as a few criticisms concerning the idea of a unified theory of mind.

When considering functionalism, it seems that a fundamental quality, shared by all living things (yes all living things, plants and microscopic eukaryotes and prokaryotes, all things which contain Nucleic acids or other yet unknown elements of life), is left out of the equation; perception (wahrnehmung in German, literally translates to truthtaking).  Perception takes the form of qualia when viewed in terms of physical and mental states, experiences and thoughts possess different qualities for each of us. Let us observe a short scene, please do excuse its graphic nature.

A person, shackled and bound hangs from a chain in a dark cellar, their back is bloody because it is being whipped. Echoing in the background is the constant sound of nails being dragged against a blackboard, it goes without saying that the person’s genitalia is also being abused in some way. The person is begging for it NOT to stop, and despite wincing facial expressions they giggle each time they’re whipped because that person is a masochist and actually enjoys the feeling of pain. Marquis de Sade wrote volumes about this.

What would a functionalist have to say about that scene?

A functionalist might claim that in this case the mental desire of wanting to be in pain (inner state) is caused by some deviation in psychological development which brings forth an anomaly in their folk psychology, and that actually feeling pain fulfills the function of correcting that deviation or compensating for it. Fine, but does the functionalist actually account for the fact that maybe the person in question actually feels pleasure from that pain, that maybe the sensation actually possess a different quality to it and that’s why it is sought out? A functionalist might then not call that pain, but rather pleasure since it is fulfilling the role of pleasure, though then again all the signs of pain are there: bodily injury, wincing, being bound in order not to flinch, severe bleeding etc. The functionalist wants to call this pleasure without acknowledging that its pain the masochist seeks. In fact this is a great example to speculate on why trying to find an absolute truth is redundant when considering states of mind. The reason being; we are not empathic enough to experience another state outside ourselves. For the bound masochist, pain and pleasure overlap to form a sensation no non-masochist could experience. Pain and pleasure are both sensations, sensations are bodily reactions to the physical world, the very individual quality of those sensations is what gives these sensations form.

If there was a chance for a functionalist to account for qualia, they might have to be machine functionalists. The biological nature of being promotes self-preservation, and it may be the case that self-preservation is the essential role of avoiding a negative sensation such as pain. Taking that into consideration, along with the idea that there is a sort of Turing Machine in the brain that accounts for every single possibility out there and is fine-tuned enough to detect the perceptions of the individual and their present physical/mental states, could explain why our masochist is enjoying themselves. A machine functionalist might state that the person has a set algorithm in their brain (set by whom? Or what? Mayhap the all-seeing meyedia and their consumption engine’s superstar representatives which the person follows on twitter) which dictates- when feeling –Ax1 (pain for person x1) under circumstance Bx1 (sexual stimulation for person x1) then +Ax1 (pleasure for person x1) will be perceived. Though even then, we are not taking into consideration the very essence of the qualia, or what makes it so different for that person, obviously the sensation would vary from masochist to masochist, some might even appreciate different, more brutal forms of pain or mutilation-consider auto-erotic asphyxiation as an example where pain does not serve its primary function of keeping a body alive. How many deaths have occurred thanks to that fetish? My point here is that one needs to be careful not to be tricked into allowing Mind to be categorized under a programmable objective thing, which can be observed using the old rigid scientific method.

The idea that Qualia exist puts a large dent in schools of thought that assume to place an absolute law onto the conscious phenomena. As Ned Block displays in his Chinese giant homunculi experiment, despite the homunculi being a functional robotic being, it is unlikely that it will experience a qualia, the china-robot cannot have an inner experience. This is also displayed by the inverted qualia thought experiment, where 2 functionally identical people with inverted qualia are asked to look at a color or shape and describe it. The internal experience is different to the qualia-inverted person and no one can tell because the informational output is exactly the same. We cannot know for sure that we all share the same qualia even though most of us are functionally similar. The taste of broccoli is a testament to that fact. Experiencing Qualia happens when sensory information is processed through the mind’s eye and is reflected off the many mirrors of the self, presenting the sensation in a frame we can egotistically perceive. Qualia make us who we are, but are they necessary when considering ideas that go beyond our simple humanity? Daniel Dennet would have us believe they aren’t and that we were all qualia-negative philosophical zombies, a convenient rationale (Dennett, D. C. Consciousness Explained). I have to disagree, strongly. Qualia are what shape our collective state, or reality, they are the key to understanding the very notion of a collective experience, think the Chinese robot, only sentient, on a universal scale sending all that collective input to a universal MIND (the universe as an inner state?), while venting the output through life.

Functionalism can’t account for qualia when experiencing a mental state under another frequency of consciousness, namely the psychedelic experience; where qualia take on a much more pervasive form and make absolutely no sense to the outside observer. A person in the midst of an intense psychedelic experience will be immersed in that state and might be unable to differentiate between collective reality and personal qualia. This type of experience as elicited by external and internal sources (according to M.D Rick Strassman the body produces N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, one of the strongest psychedelic substances known to man) puts a dent in the attempt to find some kind of unified theory of mind because it proves the utter importance of qualia when it comes to perceiving reality and differentiating between inner and outer states. On a personal note, my experiments with psilocybin mushrooms had me feeling a little psychic, experiencing bodily sensations I never thought possible, and seeing things in a whole different light. During a psychedelic experience, the way things look to you become very clear very quickly. This can be seen in Huxleys doors of perception as he begins describing the quality of the objects in his surroundings whilst under the effects of mescaline, he mentions how the flowers he was looking at seemed alive and breathing, their color magnificent and somehow belonging to the very essence of the flower itself. He remarks then “These are the sort of things people ought to look at. Things without pretensions, satisfied to be merely themselves.” Remark the attribution of self to something like a plant, how do you feel about that? Another great Academic example is the experience of Daniel Breslaw, a student who undertook a documented psilocybin trip. His notes state that at one point the room he was in was fifty feet tall, then suddenly shrank to two feet. The doctor who was observing seemed to Breslaw to have lice crawling over his face. To him the hallucinations were more vivid that real experiences, their reality only questioned due to the knowledge of his intake. Many functionalists and scientist claim this is due to an abnormal activation in the visual system and the brain, caused by the substance and dopamine excess. None of them touch onto something all psychedelic users learn as soon as the ego collapses, Life is but a grand hallucination and we are very curious. Perception is important! The mind perceives what it wants when it wants how it wants. Daniel Breslaw’s most notable and applicable remark was “With eyes closed, one is not here but inhabits a distant world of abstractions. But with eyes open, one glances around the physical universe with curiosity.” It is this distant world of abstractions, that we are so interested in and continually grasp for, alas, using concretion. How can such a subjective and abstract notion be put under objective and scientific constraints?

Can a functionalist account for qualia? My understanding is only if qualia is a byproduct of function. Internal thought processes are there to serve a specific function, if possessing qualia increases the ability for said function to be performed successfully then it could exist, but it exists thusly in respect to folk-psych and is mostly parasitic in nature, it also complicates things a lot when considering things from non-human or non-typical human perspectives.

This is why I would like to stress a little on why empathy is important. Pain is a word we humans made up to describe that state to other humans, try and explain that your head aches to an alien, what kind of language do you use? Do you point at your head and wince? Wincing might or might not be an exclusively human behavioral response to pain. Do you point to your head and make a chopping motion with your hand? You might get decapitated, no headache anymore. Do you moan and groan while holding your head in your hands? That could mean “I am happy and want a belly rub” to them. Ideally the way to bring this information forth to an intelligence/sentience that bears no resemblance to your own could be to share the state itself telepathically and/or empathically. Though alas, we have not fine-tuned that ability yet. Seems to work with dogs and cats who learn to recognize and respond to our consciousness and sentience, (remember Lassie?) sadly our fuzzy friends appear much more empathic and intuitive than we, but hey, we have smart phones!

Here again, we have a point against labeling and searching for absoluteness. There can be an infinite amount of individual consciousness in the universe, and trying to apply one idea to that entire physical and metaphysical space is, to be polite, megalomaniacal. Labeling an idea and attributing it to a certain type of individual or individual perception doubly so, it is utter fallacy! Yes, I use this word very knowingly, and will not be swayed by an appeal to authority, it is fallacious to claim any absolution in this school of thought. As Socrates once said all I know is that I know nothing. The point being is that unless Functionalism, or Identity-type theory, or monism, or dualism, or any ism, y or ist makes room for individual anomalies and constant change as well as applications to non-human beings then they are no closer to being empirical truths or relevant theories than the phrase “these snozzberries taste like snozzberries”. This means nothing to someone who has never had a snozzberry and the dirty joke will go past anyone with a pure human mind*.

My personal view is that beings are naturally not function-filling machines but rather living, growing entities, constantly changing and occurring, regardless of logical processes, causal law or folk-psychology. Free Being led by Will. To me functionalism seems like only a small improvement on behaviorism and cognitivism. Having taken note of free will and the internal space in which we exist (cognition) is a great improvement, Pavlov would have had a fit! In fact, I feel like many of these modern ideas concerning the nature of mind and consciousness suffer not only from a lack of objectivity but also from what Nietzsche would have called slave mentality rhetoric. These ideas appear to be rooted in the need to find an exclusive, absolute truth for sake of the metaphysical solace extrapolated from portraying ourselves as the almighty Sentient Human being. It seems like an endeavor to seek egoistic perfection and social status as opposed to searching for and composing an intrinsic, holistic, non-separatist, lateral solution to these philosophical issues without designating socio-anthro labels (isms) and glorifying anthropomorphic fallacies. It is true that egocentrism is key in developing a theory of mind and identity, this is apparent in the human growing process as well, but in order for us to collectively grow and understand things, democentrism must be overcome.

References

Chalmers, David John. Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

 

Sacks, Oliver. Hallucinations. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Print.

 

* see Roald Dahl’s hidden Snozzberry joke from “My uncle Oswald” and “Charlie and the chocolate factory”, he apparently uses snozzberry as a synonym for penis.


Leave a comment

Quantum Craziness and the Pre-Socratics

Quantum Craziness and the Pre-Socratics
Ancient Philosophy
Fouad Bocti
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
-Douglas Adams

At the center of all great Pre-Socratic’s (PS) is the notion of the one. The premise that at an inconceivable level all things exist in a state of singularity. Now, this concept creates an irrefutable loop; if all things are one, and consciousness is the product of division then how could conscious beings conceive the singularity?

Despite all their tools and particle colliders; modern day scientists have ignored this ancient truth, they have hit a wall- for to observe is to consciously affect the results. Try as they may to find their god particle, they are forgetting Parmenides; we cannot rely on our senses to come to an understanding of Being, reason is the only tool we possess to do so. This paper is an effort to combine the wacky world of quantum mechanics and the lucidity of pre-Socratics in order to further understand this being called the universe.

Using reason ancient philosophers discovered accurate principles about cosmology and physics without the use of scientific paraphernalia, a truly amazing feat. Not to undermine the ingenious efforts of theoretical physics, but PS were able to imagine such ideas as quantum entanglement (Heraclitus’ Tension), Planck scale (IT IS), atoms (Anaxagoras seeds, Socratic forms), and the works. This is proof that a true understanding of being can be achieved through the use of pure reason.

The different philosophers that were covered all had their own perk to overcoming this ultimate gap between man and the cosmos. One cannot know an illusion for if the illusion is known it ceases to be! Ironically that is exactly what has occurred. An electron pops in and out of existence, and mass is mostly empty… the illusion is no longer… or is it?

Observation and its Side Effects

“Observing the process will change it. And afterwards even if you subconsciously rearrange it, it doesn’t seem any less true” – Built To Spill, In Your Mind

Ever wonder how cameras affected people? Well, lets think about this. A photographer has a reason to be filming. For him/her the moment is probably a happy one, or a majestic one, and as the flash goes off, everyone is smiling regardless of the level of happiness they are experiencing, the beauty of life is captured in an instance. Chances are most people smile for the picture, because they are aware that a picture will be seen by others, meaning they have to be a part of the happy moment regardless of their actual involvement in it. A photographer will venture into the wild for days to capture a preconceived moment, and find it, the singularity which is consciousness will react to the call of Intention One way or the Other.

The same goes for a particle. In a famous experiment called the double slit experiment, which involves a particle beam of electrons passing through two closely-spaced slits onto a screen which would reflect the fashion in which the particles pass through the slit. If marbles were used to represent this particle beam, the marbles would pass through the slit and create a slit shape on the screen. This seems rational enough, but the results were not so rational when electrons were used, the electron beam that passed through the slit created an interference pattern Instead of a slit shape on the screen. An interference pattern is a property of waves not particles, and is the result of waves colliding with one another and forming a pattern.  Dumbfounded, physicist figured the electrons from the beam were interfering with one another and creating this interference pattern. So they created an apparatus that could fire one electron at a time, hence no interference from random electrons. To their surprise, there was the interference pattern again, being reproduced one particle at a time! “The conclusion was inescapable, the single electron left the projector as a particle, became a wave of potential, passed through both slits, interfered with itself and hit the screen as a particle” *1 (Fred Alan Wolf, Down the Rabbit Hole, 2003). In order to understand how this was happening, they attached a detector to try and see which slit the particle was actually going through because it couldn’t logically be going through both. What happened next really freaked some people out and caused huge debates among the scientific community. As soon as the particle was observed, it acted like a particle again! So no interference pattern, meaning there were two bands of electrons behind the two slits. The only different variable was the act of observing the electron to see which slit it went through. The electron somehow knew it was being watched, and as if to appease the scientists that expected it to act as a particle, it acted like a particle! Just like the subjects of the photograph are appeasing the photographer’s expectation of happiness in that moment when the picture was taken, or the way nature will show its beauty to those who seek it, the electron appeased the logical result expected by years and years of Newtonian wired brains, truth is always camera shy.
This has been coined by modern cosmologists as “the collapse of the wave function”, a wave of potential collapses upon being observed onto one of many potential possibilities.

The point here is that electrons qualify as a substantial part of matter, since science is about the documentation and observation of matter and its attributed phenomena, and electrons are sensitive to our preconceptions, no observation or documentation is Truth because electrons are formidable pranksters. Also, we can surmise that observation is sensory, and since observation changes the process, senses are redundant in knowing the process. This puts quite a large dent on our accumulated knowledge of physics. We can now assume that proof has become irrelevant, the IT IS cannot be measured; it can only be experienced. Using reasoning we can now deduce that Oneness, due to the “entanglement” or meshing of consciousness and matter as proposed above, is in fact very real and that separation and division is an illusion necessary to uphold intelligence.

*1) The electron goes through all the possibilities simultaneously: both, neither, one then the other. A “wave of potential”, it is in a state of superimposition.

My Mind is your Mind and your Mind is Mine

“So crucify the ego, before it’s far too late
And leave behind this place so negative and blind and cynical
And you will come to find that we are all one mind
And capable of all that’s imagined and all-conceivable
So let the light touch you, so let the words spill through
And let them pass right through
Bringing out our hope and reason” – Tool, Reflection

Parmenides claims that Being is still and unchanging, he claims Being IS, it cannot become, and cannot be born. Still-Being according to Parmenides goes even deeper than the physical universe; it prevails in a level of existence that is inconceivable. Why then, did Parmenides claim “truth did not reside within mortals”? If IT IS, then what IS “there” logically should also BE “here” because IT IS, or it may just not be at all. In the poem “On Nature”, Parmenides warns “Never must you think that nothingness can be” This is diametrically opposed to Heraclitus’ view; “Things which are put together are both whole and not whole, brought together and taken apart, in harmony and out of harmony; one thing arises from all things, and all things arise from one thing” (Fragment 10).  If we applied the observation effect, It Is when its being observed and It Is Not when no ones watching, very much like Schrödinger’s cat, who isn’t dead or alive until someone peeks. This is where it gets tricky, Explaining a superimposition clearly is likely to make my brain hemorrhage, but Heraclitus describes this state using the conjunction “and” to illustrate the link between the two which are one. Nothing and something are both things, when something ends and nothing begins then something would have begun and must eventually end becoming nothing, which is still something which…. you see where this goes? The key is in the link of the two, this ability to zone into the infinite, it Is within the infinite that nothing and something merge to become Some-One.

Essentially the universe is experiencing itself subjectively through us and other intelligent observers (I mean all Life in the universe! not just humans), and we are experiencing it experiencing itself (John Archibald Wheeler designed a visual representation of this, the universe as a u shape with an eye on one ending observing at its other end). This would mean that we exist within a self-conscious entity- Anaxagoras’ Mind- the Nous.

Mind is universal; our consciousness is a fractal of this universal Mind. Although, according to Anaxagoras, Mind is separate of the ingredients of Everything, but has caused everything to become in motion or in revolution. “nous controlled the whole revolution, so that it started to revolve in the beginning. First it began to revolve from a small region, but it is revolving yet more, and it will revolve still more… And whatever sorts of things were going to be, and whatever sorts were and now are not, and as many as are now and whatever sorts will be, all these nous set in order. And nous also ordered this revolution, in which the things being separated off now revolve, the stars and the sun and the moon and the air and the aether. This revolution caused them to separate off.” (59 B12,). Unity and oneness still exist but separate of Mind.
For sake of this paper, Mind is now going to be referred to as Intelligence; intelligence being the force that creates order and understanding. So it is Intelligence that is separate of the singularity, it is intelligence that causes the need for the illusion of separation because intelligence cannot survive with out it. It needs to create order from chaos. Imagine a world where things were really all one, all our minds connected so that no thought was private, a world where all possibilities are all true simultaneously a world with only men or only women. Truthfully, nothing would exist if that were the case because everything that does exist would exist in the same time/space. Remember Einstein: “no two things can occupy the same place at the same time” “the big crunch” as cosmologists say.

In the “mortal realm” all things exists in duality. So if the nous is 1 and the physical Universe is 0, then  as a result all things in the physical realm are paired in such a fashion; “opposing polarities” (man-woman, hot-cold Etc). Something strange happens at this point; all things that are paired in such a fashion meet occasionally and are either unified or blown to smithereens. And it is in that unification that a glimpse of the singularity is caught, be it war, love, the meeting of great minds. Our fashion of reproduction is an affirmation of this pattern after all; two lovers create one entity (considering twins as one entity) and that one entity will spend its life seeking to reconnect in one way or another, two great minds will reach an agreement that each will hold against another mind. This is similar to Hegel’s ideas regarding the Progression of history being the clash of thesis and Antithesis, once harmony is reached there is no more history.

This creates the ultimate paradox; that knowledge of Singularity cannot be applied to our dualistic reality. When knowledge is not applied, it is lost and becomes irrelevant. The secret of the Universe has no value in our subjective reality! No wonder mankind is so lost and misled; the most important hindsight is meaningless to our materialistic endeavors- maybe that’s the reason that regardless how many times the nature of our existence is scrutinized, it is ignored and the process of discovery is repeated, after all someone needs to watch the universe be, otherwise the universe would cease to be. Douglas adams, author of Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy says: “There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” And so we people are players in an everlasting struggle that can be found in the bulk of Heraclitus’ ideas regarding Logos and the Unity of Opposites “As a single, unified thing there exists in us both life and death, waking and sleeping, youth and old age, because the former things having changed are now the latter, and when those latter things change, they become the former.

Citations

Curd, PC. (2007). Anaxagoras. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved January 19, 2011, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anaxagoras/

Hooker, RH. (1996). Heraclitus. Greek philosophy. Retrieved January 19, 2011, from http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/HERAC.HTM

Hooker, RH. (1996). Pre-Socratic Philosophy. Greek philosphy. Retrieved January 19, 2011, from http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/HERAC.HTM

Gerard, R.G.B. (2007). Parmenides and the way of truth. New York: Monkfish.
Gerard, R.G.B. (2007). Remembering Heraclitus. New York: Monkfish.
Gerard, R.G.B. (2007). Anaxagoras. New York: Monkfish.

Custer, R.W.C. (2007). Gods quantum code. New York: Richard W. Custer.