Dennett and others on qualia
1) Schroedinger on qualia.
"Examples of qualia are the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, the
experience of taking a recreational drug,
or the perceived redness of an evening sky. Daniel Dennett writes that qualia
is "an unfamiliar term for
something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem
to us." Erwin Schrödinger,
the famous physicist, had this counter-materialist take: "The sensation of
colour cannot be accounted for by
the physicist's objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist
account for it, if he had fuller
knowledge than he has of the processes in
the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve
bundles and in the brain? I do not think so." 
The importance of qualia in philosophy of mind comes largely from the fact that
they are seen as posing a
fundamental problem for materialist explanations of the mind-body problem. Much
of the debate over their
importance hinges on the definition of the term that is used,
as various philosophers emphasize or deny the existence of certain features of
qualia. As such,
the nature and existence of qualia are controversial.
2) Dennett on qualia
"In Consciousness Explained (1991) and "Quining Qualia" (1988), Daniel
Dennett offers an argument against qualia that attempts to
show that the above definition breaks down when one tries to make a practical
application of it. In a series of thought experiments,
which he calls "intuition pumps," he brings qualia into the world of
neurosurgery, clinical psychology, and psychological experimentation.
His argument attempts to show that, once the concept of qualia is so imported,
it turns out that we can either make no use of it in the
situation in question, or that the questions posed by the introduction of
qualia are unanswerable precisely because of the special
properties defined for qualia."
Is this the height of arrogance or what ? Dennett essentially says
that qualia do not exist because he cannot explain them.
3) The Nagel argument. The definition of qualia is not what they are, but what
what role they play ion consciusness. On the same page as above,
The "What's it like to be?" argument
Main article: Subjective character of experience
Although it does not actually mention the word "qualia," Thomas Nagel's
paper What Is it Like to Be a Bat? is often cited in debates over qualia.
Nagel argues that consciousness has an essentially subjective character, a
what-it-is-like aspect. He states that "an organism has conscious mental states
if and only i
if there is something that it is like to be that organism — something it is
like for the organism."
Nagel also suggests that the subjective
aspect of the mind may not ever be sufficiently accounted for by the objective
reductionistic science (materialism). He claims that "[i]f we acknowledge that
a physical theory of mind
must account for the subjective character of experience, we must admit that no
available conception gives us a clue how this could be done." Furthermore,
he states that
"it seems unlikely that any physical theory of mind can be contemplated
until more thought has been given to the general problem of subjective and
4) The zombie argument (from the link already given)
The zombie argument
Main article: Philosophical zombie
" A similar argument holds that it is conceivable that there could be physical
duplicates of people,
called "zombies," without any qualia at all. These "zombies" would demonstrate
precisely similar to that of a normal human, but would not have a subjective
It is worth noting that a necessary condition for the possibility of
philosophical zombies is that
there be no specific part or parts of the brain that directly give rise to
qualia—the zombie can only
exist if subjective consciousness is causally separate from the physical brain."
Roger Clough, rclo...@verizon.net
"Forever is a long time, especially near the end." -Woody Allen
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