Pete, I hope you don't mind my replying to the list.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Pete Carlton" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
> >> But even this goes way out in front of what we can possibly know. You
> >> say we have no idea what these feelings are like to experience--but
> >> why
> >> should we assume we even are entitled to ask this question?
> > And why assume that we are not? I prefer not to have
> > my right to ask waived. If I cannot ask it, then I should
> > understand why not, and that would be an answer in a
> > way.
> At first it seems like a normal question to ask, because we have a way
> of talking about our experiences that takes them to be simple entities,
> and why not ask "what it is like" for other beings?
> But you're asking the question in the same manner (using the same
> logical form) as when one asks what's inside a box, and expecting the
> same kind of answer. But the two cases are conceptually distinct. We
> are well acquainted with boxes and their contents, and thus have every
> right to ask what's inside when we see a box. But we have no such
> acquaintance with minds.
I have only followed the analogy. But of course I am aware
that the analogy is loose and that we cannot ask about qualia
in the same manner as about the contents of a box.
> I may have overstated a bit -- of course anyone has the right to ask
> any question they want! =) But when we explore the consequences of
> consciousness in a multiverse, as this list often does, we shouldn't
> overlook the fact that there are many views of consciousness and some
> may lead to fewer problems than others. Earlier there were posts about
> whether SAS-like patterns in a cellular automaton would really be
> conscious or not. It seems like this question is asking, "I can see
> how the thing behaves, but what I want to know is, are the lights
> 'turned on inside' or not?". But we already know that there are no
> lights -- so what is the question really asking? Maybe we can get away
> with ignoring questions like this, and have a better universe model as
> a result.
I don't agree that "we already know that there are no lights".
The thing is that we know what it feels like to be conscious.
We know what is the difference between red and blue, and
we know we cannot communicate that to someone who cannot
It is not as if we were unconscious beings asking if there was
something like 'qualia' (which we would have no idea about)
in the cellular automata. We are not merely inventing concepts
which have no correspondence in the real world. Each of us
knows exactly what it means, and talk about these
things using the assumption that other similar beings have
experiences similar to our own.
The fact that we try to ask this question in the first place
implies that there is something there to be explained, at least.
> >> <snip>
> >> know what is inside it. Now what is the logical conclusion here:
> >> a) There may or may not be something in the box.
> >> b) There's definitely something in the box, and I have absolutely no
> >> idea what it is.
> >> What on earth could possibly make someone conclude (b) here? It's not
> >> logical at all. Yet this is what people conclude when they bend over
> >> backwards talking about "qualia" and how ineffable they are.
> > And you seem to conclude a (c) hypothesis: "there is
> > definitely nothing inside the box". I stay with (a). And
> > to try to find out if there is something there or not, we
> > need to talk about it, and "qualia" is the word for the
> > hypothetical contents of the box.
> That would be correct if the analogy between boxes and minds were
> sound, but I don't think it is, and that's the point of bringing it up.
> About the only thing you can conclude is that something strange is
> going on because these people insist you can't know what's inside a
> box. You're right, though, I don't exactly embrace (a), I question the
> entire setup.
Neither do I think the analogy is sound, as I said above.
> > Suppose a blind man did understand all the chain of events
> > that lead from the light reaching the eyes to the retina, then
> > to the brain and finally to the qualia of red. Would he see the
> > red? Why not?
> Where is the path from the brain to the "qualia of red"? You're saying
> that the blind man is aware of trillions of neural changes occurring
> over time, and that at some point he can say, "Now, here's where things
> leave the brain and start to become qualia.".. Is this before or after
> the neural changes that modify behavior, i.e., to cause someone to say,
> "I'm seeing red now"?
I have no idea. I don't claim to understand how qualia arises.
> In any case, I grant that the blind man's experience would be quite
> different from someone who's actually looking at the color red. This
> is just because the functional states of someone who is seeing red are
> different than those of someone who just understands what it's like--
> you can't stimulate your optic nerve just by will alone. It isn't
> clear that someone could drive their brain into the state of someone
> who had seen red merely by understanding everything about the process
> of seeing red. This is also how I respond to Frank Jackson's
> colorblind Mary experiment..
So you agree that you cannot "drive someone's brain into the state of
someone who had seen red merely by understanding everything about
the process of seeing red.". That is, you agree that you cannot "see red"
unless you do physically "see red". Isn't that somehow in contradiction
with your claim below, i.e., that there is nothing else to know beyond the
explanation of the physiological response? One thing you seem to agree:
you cannot know how red looks like unless you see red. A blind man
cannot possibly know that.
Now I am aware that "know" may not be the correct term. Maybe
experience would be better.
> >>> I suppose there will still be some who insist that if you know all
> >>> about the physiology etc. behind the alien response to gamma rays,
> >>> then you know all there is to know. I think this response is
> >>> analogous
> >>> to the "shut up and calculate" attitude to the interpretation of
> >>> quantum mechanics.
> >> Yes, I am one of these people. You say "if you know all about", and
> >> you must be taken seriously here: you would really have to know >all<
> >> about it. But if you did, you would be able to entirely trace the
> >> causal pathway from the receipt of the gamma rays, to whatever
> >> internal
> >> responses go on inside the alien's body, to the subsequent report of
> >> "I
> >> feel that pleasant, odd-multiple feeling". Let's say you had that
> >> entire explanation written out. And "subjective experience" doesn't
> >> appear anywhere on this list. So what reason on earth do you have to
> >> assert that it exists?
The reason is that you are yourself (I suppose) a conscious being
who has those experiences, and once you come to the conclusion
that you cannot possibly communicate the difference between red
and blue, you must accept that there is something beyond the
causal chain of events.
> > When the alien says "I feel that pleasant feeling", he is just
> > saying that he knows that chain of events is happening
> > in his body right now. Suppose you are watching him with
> > equipments that let you know that same thing. Could you
> > also say "I feel that pleasant feeling" too? Why not, if there
> > is nothing beyond the chain of events? What could make the
> > alien's knowledge different from yours? One obvious answer
> > is that "he is the organism where those events are happening".
> > But this means that each organism is entitled to "feel
> > something" about himself , an experience that is inaccesible to
> > others, no matter how comprehensive their knowledge is. But
> > that is something that you are claiming that does not exist.
> > How can we explain this without something as "qualia"?
> Can you please explain how that situation is relevantly different from
> this one:
> A snack vending machine has a sensor that can tell when a dollar bill
> has been placed inside it. If it's a genuine dollar, a sign lights up
> that says "Accepted". If it's fake, another sign lights up that says
> "Not accepted".
> Which sign lights up is just a report of the chain of events that
> happens. Let's say you built the machine, and you know exactly how it
> works, and you are monitoring the machine and are aware of all its
> states. Could you say, "I also do not accept the dollar."?
> What could make the machine's knowledge different from yours? What
> reason would I have to posit some special knowledge the machine has
> that I can't access?
You cannot say that you do not accept the dollar in the same way
that the machine does, because for the machine the verb "accept"
has a different meaning than for you. Actually, the machine cannot
say that it does not accept the dollar, it can only light some sign, but
it does not interpret what is written there. It doesn't know what a
dollar is and what it is good for. It doesn't know what it means 'to
accept' nor any other verb. I am not even sure if we can say it 'knows'
anything at all. You just used the verb loosely here
making an impression that the machine goes through the same states
than a human when trying to figure out if the dollar is acceptable.
Besides, you are talking about thoughts (accept), or in the case of
the machine, behaviour. But not experiences, which is what qualia
is about. This makes this situation totally different. We don't talk
about "the qualia of accepting".
> And why would I posit that an alien or another person has special
> knowledge that I can't access? All I can say is that the events are
> too complicated for me to understand .. this doesn't mean there's
> anything metaphysically interesting going on.
Then try to explain what is the difference between red and blue.