Talk:Eliminative materialism

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Good article Eliminative materialism has been listed as one of the Philosophy and religion good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
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This program seems to want to get rid of phlogiston theory by proposing that fire does not exist. (talk) 12:57, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

Let me know[edit]

Bryan and Adam, Since Fred allowed me to have a link to Occam's Sword at Wikinfo for the Occam's Razor entry, I thought it would also be alright to have one here. If its not ok with either of you let me know. Phil 14:36 Jun 25, 2004

Odd expression - "objectors's premise"[edit]

Hey guys, While I'm not a native speaker of English, the last sentence seems to be convoluted:

"Furthermore, the eliminativist's claim that folk psychology cannot explain phenomena such as mental disorders or many memory processes has become often the objectors's premise, namely that it is not at all the task of folk-psychology to account for these phenomena."

I couldn't find any mention of what is "objectors's premise" (nor "objector's" or "objectors'"). It should be changed to at least a grammatically correct version, however since I'm not sure which version is proper I can't change it. --olya 04:57, 2 May 2006 (UTC)


To the hanged man: I noticed you made some changes to my last edit here. I'm wondering what you found inaccurate about what I said. Could you please explain? Alienus 06:37, 8 December 2005 (UTC)

Two major inaccuracies: First, the claim that "eliminative materialists and their allies argue that qualia don't exist." This isn't true. For example, Paul Churchland fully admits that there are qualia, he just denies the arguments that they can't be identified with physical states. Second, it doesn't seem to me that the old gloss on Dennett was entirely accurate. At least, it makes some very broad claims about a subtle view. Does he deny that beliefs exist? Well, on the intentional stance, there is a sense in which he doesn't, though they certainly don't have the kind of ontological status that has traditionally been ascribed to them. --The Hanged Man 20:30, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
I think this is definitely a matter of trying to fit subtle views into broad categories. If I remember correctly, Churchland's view of qualia does not feature the elements that make it incompatible with materialism. In contrast, Dennett rejects qualia outright because his definition does include these features. As for beliefs, Dennett is a realist, but not as hard as some. He would say that beliefs are as real as center of gravity, which brings up the issue of just how real that is.
Ok, I didn't keep the line about denying qualia, since it's a fine point depending on the definition. I put back a little to distinguish Dennett's view, though. Alienus 21:34, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
As of today, this 'eliminative materialism' article still suggests that Paul and Patricia Churchland deny the existence of "consciousness and phenomenological qualia." Could the author(s) of this article please change this? As The Hanged Man has pointed out, this is false. For references, see Churchland, P. M. 1985. "On the speculative nature of our self-conception"; as well as various chapters discussing consciousness and qualia found in Paul Churchland's books, "A Neurocomputational Perspective" (1989) and "The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul" (1995). The eliminativism espoused by the Churchlands is largely about belief-desire folk psychology; they take a more reductionist (not eliminativist) stance with respect to consciousness and phenomenological qualia.
I second this request (indeed, perhaps I'll just make the edit myself). As a PhD student at UCSD, I specifcially discussed these issues with Pat and Paul and this is one area where they specifically see their version of EM differing from that of Dennett. Roughly, you could say that the Churchlands are reductive materialists about qualia, but eliminative materialists about propositional attitudes, while Dennett is an eliminative materialist about qualia, and a reductive materialist about propositional attitudes. Edhubbard 14:07, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Recent edits NPOV?[edit]

Recent edits seem to stray a little from a NPOV... e.g. "In the end, Eliminative Materialists must acknowledge that their theory is self-defeating, or simply cease to engage in dialogues with their opponents."

Perhaps someone with a little more knowledge of the area can address the issues here.

- Vaughan 22:03, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

It looks as if someone has pasted their Philosophy of mind 101 essay into the article. Yes, I agree, it is POV. It is also poorly formatted and needs wikifying and references. Banno 22:23, 9 January 2006 (UTC)
The eliminative materialism argument nears that of the mental state of denial. Oh yea, mental states will be eliminated by neuroscience, at any rate, humor a novice.
The eliminative argument, as presented so far, mirrors the psychoanalyst's argument of a client's state of denial; allow me to explain. The psychoanalyst has a client before him on the couch. The discussion turns on the client stating that he has no bias or prejudices regarding homosexuality. The analyst then counters that because the client harbors no prejudices against homosexuality, that he must then have homosexual tendencies. The client asserts that is not so. The analyst then concludes that the client is in denial over his homosexuality. The client offers proof of his position as a firm hetrosexual by explaining that he has a wife of twenty years and six children, plus a mistress and a girlfriend(s), and has no physical attractions to other males, only feels unqualified to judge people on their sexual preferences. The analyst turns the clients proof into a reinforcement of the state of denial. The more the client proves his case, the more the analyst's conclusion of denial is reinforced. The eliminative materialism argument turns upon the same principle.
In order to discredit the eliminative materialism argument, the argument would only reinforce the theory that science can eliminate theory. Arguing that a theory can be eliminated by science is not an argument at all, but merely a subjective observation. The fallacy, if any, is that science mandates not only an explaination, but a prediction. Any theory that turns upon the undefinable, has no place in any scientific discipline. Scientific discipline is not developed to prove a theory; rather, the scientific discipline is developed to inform the fallacy of theory.
Or do I have this wrong? Jentingh1 (talk) 13:29, 14 February 2009 (UTC)
I don't know, but let me remind you that talk pages are for discussion of possible improvements to an article, and any changes should be attributed to high-quality sources. So regardless of whether right or wrong, your argument is not useful here. Looie496 (talk) 18:17, 14 February 2009 (UTC)


I expanded the article, but we still need a better "Arguments for eliminativism" section, further explaining the theory-theory. --Kripkenstein 12:42, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

Expanded arguments for, but not the "theory" theory. --Lacatosias 13:57, 14 February 2006 (UTC) {{}}

Self contradicting statement[edit]

"Eliminativists believe that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire and that behaviour and experience can only be adequately explained on the biological level."

In case you didn't notice, neurons are on the biological level. Either the first half of the sentece is right, or the second half is, but not both.

You're missing the point of the sentence. The first part refers to the the fact that EM proponents argue that belief and desire cannot be explained on the biological level as they are incoherent (and hence, there is no coherent neural basis for them), the second part to the fact that all experience and behaviour should only be explained in terms of biology.
- Vaughan 07:08, 17 May 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps, since some people are having difficulty with the sentence, it could be rewritten to be more clear. How about, "Eliminativists believe that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behaviour and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level." Edhubbard 14:10, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Bickle: PsychoNeural Reduction[edit]

Is anyone familiar with Bickle's (1998) ideas about "smooth" versus "bumpy" reductions? In his book, Psychoneural Reduction: The New Wave, Bickle lays out a framework in which reductions are the main framework, and the question is just how much the two frameworks need to be modified so that they fit together. So, in the case of reductive materialism, he would suggest a fairly smooth reduction, while in the case of eliminative materialism, a fairly bumpy reduction. The bumpier the reduction, the more theory change required, and the more likely that one of the two frameworks is likely to be eliminated (the extreme case of a bumpy reduction). Paul Churchland finds this framework quite useful, and has used Bickle's book as the starting point for one of his grad philosophy classes. Perhaps some mention of that would be useful here? Edhubbard 14:15, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Interesting. I haven't Bickle's book, but I have read some of his articles. It seems more appropriate to add to an article specifically on reductionism or perhaps physicalism. You might even write it up as part of an article on John Bickle, seeing as we don't have one yet!! But, if you feel you can work it in here somehow, try to simplify/syntheize it and make into some kind of argument for or against EM. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 18:09, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, I think you might be right, in that Bickle's book isn't really an argument *for* or *against* EM, but really more of a metaphilosophical excersise, giving a framework to make sense of where EM falls on the spectrum of possible reductions. I'll have to go back and think a bit about how it might be added. Edhubbard 18:18, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

New EM Image Proposal[edit]

Eliminative Materialism2.png

Hi, I've created a new image for the EM framework. Essentially, I've added some shading to the Folk Psychology box to illustrate two things 1) Different EM theorists make different bets about which bits of FP will be eliminated and which will be reduced (see my additions re: Dennet v. the Churchlands), and this new version illustrates that range of positions and 2) My reading of Dennett and the Churchlands suggests that they do not believe that neuroscience will completely eliminate all higher level theories, of vocabularies. Therefore, there must be some higher order vocabulary, even if it is radically different from the vocabulary of FP that we currently employ. If people think that this image and this discussion could improve the article, I will be happy to change the main page. If not, no worries, it only took a few minutes to add the gradient. Edhubbard 21:56, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Propositional attitudes[edit]

I have re-added in the term "propositional attitudes" in reference to the Churchlands' views. since there is a subtle distinction to be made here. In general, there are different ways to concieve of the Intentionality relationship between our mental contents and the objects in the world. One common way, related to Searle's thinking (drawing on speech act theory), Fodor's language of thought, and many others, is to think of the Intentionality relationship like a set of sentences (propositions) whose content is identified with a "that" clause. Joe belives that X, Rene assumes that y, etc. However, there are other ways to concieve of the intentionality relation, for example as an imagistic isomorophism between mental contents and physical objects in the world. The Churchlands are opposed to this propositional view of Intentionality, but do not deny that there is something like an intentionality relation that needs to be satisfied between our mental contents and the objects in the world. Pat Churchland's PhD student (and now UCSD faculty member) Rick Grush dealt with the "architecture of representation" in his PhD dissertation, and how a non-propositional attitude system could still be thought of a representational or Intentional system. Edhubbard 22:57, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

I'm aware of all that. See my failed FAC Jerry Fodor. Please remember that this is Wikipedia and not the SEP, though. Simplify radically!! --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 06:52, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
I know you know, Lacatosias. I've spent a lot of time looking at all of the impressive work that you've done, on wikipedia. But, there's no guarantee that eveyone else coming to this discussion will know these disticntions as well as other people do. My concern is that if we simplify too radically, then we run the risk of caricature. One of the common caricatures/misrepresentations of EM is that they deny the need for any high-level mental vocabulary, whereas the hypothesis (or at least the one advanced by the Churchlands) is that *our current* high-level vocabulary will be eliminated. So pointing out this subtlety, we briefly indicate that there are bigger issues, even if we cannot dive into every subtlety in the philosophy of the mind. Edhubbard 07:07, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
Well, thanks for the compliment, first of all. Secondly, I'm not suggesting that such information be left out. The Churchland's position has definitely changed somewhat over the years (like almost eveything in philosophy).And Dennett's ideas are often delibaretely intended to be difficult to pin-down into simple categories and definite positions. Iìve read some interesting arguments that Dennet is only eliminativist about a certain subset of qualia ("sensory qualia"), while being realist about others, and istrumenalist about intentional attidudes. But that sort of thing could go on ad infinitum. The main thing is to try to keep it as comprehensible to the average reader as possible (although it's not likely that such a person would read this page anyway (0;) and to document all the claims made. This is all I'm suggesting. I will come back at some point and add in-line cites for the parts that I wrote. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 08:34, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

GA Re-Review and In-line citations[edit]

Members of the Wikipedia:WikiProject Good articles are in the process of doing a re-review of current Good Article listings to ensure compliance with the standards of the Good Article Criteria. (Discussion of the changes and re-review can be found here). A significant change to the GA criteria is the mandatory use of some sort of in-line citation (In accordance to WP:CITE) to be used in order for an article to pass the verification and reference criteria. Currently this article does not include in-line citations. It is recommended that the article's editors take a look at the inclusion of in-line citations as well as how the article stacks up against the rest of the Good Article criteria. GA reviewers will give you at least a week's time from the date of this notice to work on the in-line citations before doing a full re-review and deciding if the article still merits being considered a Good Article or would need to be de-listed. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us on the Good Article project talk page or you may contact me personally. On behalf of the Good Articles Project, I want to thank you for all the time and effort that you have put into working on this article and improving the overall quality of the Wikipedia project. Agne 01:40, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

I think we're just about there on this one. Another four or five cites will do the job. Anything else?--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 15:34, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
Done. Also expanded lead section. Now I just need to add refs to lead section. Anything else?--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 12:17, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

It's about time!![edit]

I'm glad to see this small improvment in the GA process actually. It shuld not be limited to just references though. I was going to delist this myself, even though I wrote the whole thing!! I don't have the time or desire to do the in-line cites now though.--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 07:50, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

I agree with Francesco. It is good that the GA process is becoming more defined. I will have more time this weekend to start to add some in-line citations, so if we can hold off on delisting until this weekend, perhaps we will be able to avoid having to at all. Overall, it's not too bad, as many of the important references are in the references section, and most arguments are referred to with in text names, if not citations. So, it just seems like a matter of cutting and pasting the references into the appropriate place. I'm happy to do what I can. Edhubbard 09:04, 26 September 2006 (UTC)
Yes, this one shouldn't be much of a problem. I'ìll start working on it today and tommorow. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:09, 26 September 2006 (UTC)


Does anyone oppose eliminativism on the grounds that folk psych not a theory but more akin to a system of classification that ( despite intial appearances) makes no actual emprical claims?

Yes, for example Peter Hacker, in Bennett/Hacker Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience --Davidlud 04:37, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Oh Christ, yet another interesting book I have to order from the States? I'm NOT RICH, damnit!!--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 11:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)


In addressing the issue of self-refutation, the article states that exponents (not proponents, which implies a truth-value) of the theory state it in a way that not does require a truth value. However, the introduction appears to completely ignore this, describing the theroy entirely in terms of the truth or falseness of a proposition. Perhaps the introduction should refrain from formulating the theory in terms of any propositions with truth values. Otherwise, it would seem to be taking an express position on the self-refutation argument. If the theory isn't really saying that consciousness is false -- if it's just asserting non-consciousness, without making any assertion about the truth of consciousness as a theory -- this should be made clear. Best, --Shirahadasha 22:51, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

I agree that better wording is needed--and I sometimes do wonder why wikipedia tries to have articles like this when places like the Stanford Philosophy encyclopedia have a fully flushed out description (with citations) of the theory. As for the end of your comment... no one is saying "consciousness is false", and I have no idea what that is supposed to mean anyway--ditto "non-consciousness". Please cite where these terms are employed, or how I may be able to better understand what you mean. To be clear, what you wrote at the end there makes almost zero sense to me.

Suggestion for qualia section[edit]

Some are eliminativists about qualia but not propositional attitudes, and vice-versa. This should be included.

Be my guest.1Z 22:03, 11 June 2007 (UTC) already is included, folks. From the article:

One way to summarize the difference between the Churchlands's views and Dennett's view is that the Churchlands are eliminativists when it comes to propositional attitudes, but reductionists concerning qualia, while Dennett is a reductionist with respect to propositional attitudes, and an eliminativist concerning qualia.[16] --Francesco Franco 08:14, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Dennett is most certainly NOT a reductionist about propositional attitudes. There would be no reason for him to create his "stance" theory of various types of predication if the functional and intentional vocabularies were reducible from the latter to the former or from either to the physical. Dennett is not an eliminativist about qualia because he doesn't think there is any coherent notion to eliminate--"Quining Qualia" is not his attempt to suggest that we not countenance the objects of qualia-laden vocabulary on the grounds that such vocabulary simply isn't adequately explanatory; Dennett is trying to argue that the notion of qualia is simply incoherent. (talk) 21:17, 30 August 2010 (UTC)Nathan Zimmerman


Skinner was a materialist. I think mentioning the psychologist without noting others and explanation of the differences among them is misleading. --Kenneth M Burke 21:18, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

Help on Reductionism Page[edit]

Anyone want to help with the eliminativism section of the reductionism article? It's unsourced and I know next to nothing about it. Some cleanup and citations would greatly improve that section of the page. Thanks. Cazort (talk) 20:25, 26 November 2007 (UTC)


Is there any empirical evidence for this? It's seems to me that Churchland has no real arguments or evidence to support his hypothesis, and that his argument basically boils down to not much more than that he belives most people are stupid, therefore what most people belive can not be true. I see nothing in the article that suggest that this is anything but a crackpot theory. Passw0rd (talk) 19:06, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

False definition of atheism and materialism.[edit]

I edited the false atheism definition and materialism definition.

Original: Eliminativism about a class of entities is the view that that class of entities does not exist.[3] For example, atheism is eliminativist about God and other supernatural entities; all forms of materialism are eliminativist about the soul;

Atheism does not equal denial of other supernatural entities (and weak atheism does not deny God).

Materialism does not deny the soul if that is defined as material, which it sometimes is. Materialism can only be said to always deny non-material entities. --Deleet (talk) 08:04, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

The material soul is a very unusal claim, a ref would help. 1Z (talk) 10:16, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
I have to agree... a material soul is pretty strange. I have seen some neuroscintists refer to the brain as "the seat of the soul" (Churchland) or the "astonishing hypothesis" that your soul is nothing more than a pack of neurons (Crick) but this is a sort of verbal wordplay, as neither of them believe that the material brain has the properties normally ascribed to the soul (i.e., that it survives bodily death, etc). To my knowledge, no one actually defends the idea of a material soul that survives bodily death. Until you can provide a reference for this, I think that we should go back to the previous version. Edhubbard (talk) 16:23, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Philosophical zombie[edit]

From what I can gather, eliminative materialism is basically the belief than humans are philosophical zombies, at least parts of the article seem to depict eliminative materlialism that way. I think the article should be more clear on some things, such as what is meant by the statement that there is no class of mental entities for the subjective experience of pain. Does that mean that pain can not be experienced, i.e. we are philosophical zombies, or does it just mean that pain is a poorly defined word that can refer to a range of experiences resulting from the activation of different neuronal networks whose activation leads to a range of subjective experiences of different types of what we collectively refer to as pain.

Amen. If reductionist physics describes all phenomena - even the behaviors and reports of your neighbor, then you have not explained consciousness, nor have you claimed that mental phenomena are caused by the brain, or anything of that sort. Instead what you have done is removed any requirement to invoke concepts such as "mind" or "consciousness" in describing what your neighbor is. Consciousness, it needs to be repeated pointed out, is NOT a phenomenon. Therefore it cannot be invoked to cause anything, nor can it be an effect of anything. - MistySpock (talk) 22:13, 5 February 2015 (UTC)

GA Reassessment[edit]

This discussion is transcluded from Talk:Eliminative materialism/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the reassessment.

GA Sweeps: Kept[edit]

As part of the WikiProject Good Articles, we're doing Sweeps to go over all of the current GAs and see if they still meet the GA criteria. I went through the article and made various changes, please look them over. I believe the article currently meets the criteria and should remain listed as a Good Article. Altogether the article is well-written and is still in great shape after its passing in 2006. Continue to improve the article making sure all new information is properly sourced and neutral. If you have any questions, let me know on my talk page and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. I have updated the article history to reflect this review. --Happy editing! Nehrams2020 (talkcontrib) 20:05, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Bold revision[edit]

I've reverted the recent bold revision per WP:BRD:

  1. As the edit summary “re-order to avoid duplication” was misleading, material was removed, altered and added;
  2. Attempting to preserve any of it was extremely difficult and time consuming because diffs are useless after that much shuffling;
  3. I don't think the shuffling, removal, alteration and addition of material improved the article. It met the criteria for good article status.

Please propose changes and seek WP:CONSENSUS for them. Thanks.—Machine Elf 1735 11:37, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

Attempting to preserve any of it was extremely difficult and time consuming because diffs are useless after that much shuffling Please do spend the time. To revert because you have not got the time to check is an assumption of bad faith or bad editing.
As the edit summary “re-order to avoid duplication” was misleading, material was removed, altered and added - Only duplicated material and small amounts of obvious editorialism has been removed. No alterations made to arguments. Nothing significant added - and remember you are free to question any addition, removal or alteration, but you have not done so, so I cannot tell in what way you think the article has altered - in fact I had understood you to say you had not the time to tell how it had altered, which is why I have taken the time to point out that, as far as I know, your fears are misplaced. It is possible to shorten the article by a quarter simply by making sure criticism is properly incorporated throughout the article so that arguments are presented not twice but once, and together with their counter-arguments, under subheadings. Since you have no edit history in the article and you have not raised any specific objections, it is not possible to seek consensus on any issue, and neither is it legitimate to disrupt editing without specific reason. Redheylin (talk) 00:06, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
You've reverted twice now, back to the exact same text, with another misleading edit summary: “(how about this then? nothing added, nothing taken away - copy edit)”
I didn't say I reverted because haven't "got the time to check". I said it was extremely difficult and time consuming! That was no "copy edit". You made significant deletions, alterations, and additions. What assumption of bad faith, exactly, are you accusing me of?
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you when massive changes to a good article with high importance are reverted. You'll need to address the changes you'd like to make in reasonable portions, so other editors can participate.
No, you didn't just remove “duplicated material”. Most editors manage to post a single edit without shuffling the entire article to such an extent that the diff is completely useless.
Please read WP:BRD and follow the guidelines rather than edit warring. If you insist on trying to discuss everything at once, nothing's going to get done—meanwhile, the article stays reverted. They're your edits, it's up to you. As you've admitted to deletions, alterations, and additions, maybe you'd like to address some of them—rather than repeatedly suggesting I didn't look, or that I imagined them?
“It is possible to shorten the article by a quarter simply by making sure criticism is [[WP:Crit|properly incorporated throughout the article]] so that arguments are presented not twice but once, and together with their counter-arguments, under subheadings.”
In less general terms, can you elaborate on how you'd like to go about that and how it would improve the article? It might help you take your mind off my edit history. I have raised specific objections Redheylin, and you've responded with edit warring, ad hominem, and outright dismissal: “it is not possible to seek consensus on any issue, and neither is it legitimate to disrupt editing without specific reason.”
I'm not the only editor who reverted your overhaul. Why do you think that edit summary said: “(rv: actually, Machine Elf made pretty clear objections on the talk page)” ?
I just assumed it was due to the clear objections I made. I'd suggest you try to build WP:CONSENSUS by WP:FOCUSING on the content you'd like to delete, alter and add. It's not going to happen in one fell swoop… do not revert a third time.—Machine Elf 1735 15:00, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Despite repeated requests you have cited no specific "deletions, alterations, and additions" to which you object. Care has been taken to preserve all valid data. I cannot find any policy provision to support reversion because the article's order has been changed or because that makes it difficult to follow changes. The article's order has been changed in order a) to migrate well-cited general statements towards the top, b) to remove duplication, OR and editorialisms, c) to merge the deprecated "criticism" section per wiki policy - particularly necessary in a philosophy argument. A "good article" designation does not preclude such editing. Please raise or amend actual specific objections to the text as it stands, otherwise your argument is simply an objection to the application of wiki policy on the grounds that you cannot be bothered to find anything wrong with it, and therefore no consensus can be reached. Redheylin (talk) 23:15, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Is qualia equivalent to subjective experience?[edit]

In the introduction, the article appears to equate qualia with subjective experiences, but I am not sure whether or not they are indeed similar. For instance, I often hear that Dennett does not deny subjective experience, though he denies immaterial qualia, suggesting there is a difference that is being overlooked. I won't edit the article right now, but I want to know if there is there is any justification for doing so. (talk) 16:45, 26 May 2012 (UTC)