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Dennet's RoboMary[edit]

I do not want to forget this, so I will leave it here for somebody to pick up on if they can. Dennet's argument that RoboMary could simulate seeing red and therefore see red seems to be a fancy way of saying that Mary could leave the black and white room and look at a rose. The argument is that no amount of knowledge about physics could give Mary the experience of seeing red, but if non-robot Mary were to graft a color-capable third eye-ball into her brain she is cheating because she is not gaining knowledge but a new experience. RoboMary is basically doing this by directly running a simulation and then inserting the mental states directly. Certainly somebody could find a source for this argument (I've run across similar arguments before, about how you cannot experience somebody else's point of view because in that moment it becomes YOUR point of view), but I cannot edit the article without some source to cite (or could I just put a Citation Needed on it and hope somebody else does it?) (talk) 11:07, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

qualia within me[edit]

Beholding the topic itself creates qualia within me. I'll attempt to describe it. I think of the topic, and a sensation of great dissatisfaction arises within me. The feeling has no discernable origin, and cannot be localized. It is just there. It is suspended within me as a low energy hydrogen atom in a Tokamak environment. I feel certain that it came from some physical base, though without proof, but I am also totally certain that it is some physicality that we do not yet know how to isolate. Dr. Thomas Ofner —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:47, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

Scientific Perspectives[edit]

Hi, the paragraph in this section says this:

"Once the representation is created, what can be done with it is open-ended. You have the luxury of choice, e.g., if you have the percept of an apple you can use it to tempt Adam, to keep the doctor away, bake a pie, or even just to eat. Even though the representation at the input level is immutable and automatic, the output is potentially infinite. This isn’t true for, say, a spinal reflex arc where the output is also inevitable and automatic. Indeed, a paraplegic can even have an erection and ejaculate without an orgasm.

This is just way too much a ridiculous non-sequitur to be included. I mean, it does make sense if you think about it, but I would be surprised to find a reader who didn't first think "wtf???". I think someone should find a better replacement example. I just think this example is encyclopedic, both because of the unnecessary sexual reference, and also because it's obscure; there is too much to figure out about what is meant (that erection and ejaculation are controlled solely by the spine, but orgasm by the brain -- or something) that may not make sense for all people.

All other things considered, this sentence is likely to completely derail the reader from the topic at hand. Language and examples should only add to the primary content, not distract from it.

-- User:Xiphoris

The opening paragraph of this section says that three rules were proposed, but four are given. Miscount? Mistaken inclusion? James barton (talk) 11:15, 30 September 2008 (UTC)


Is the IPA correct? Anyone with enough knowledge? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 14:59, 4 December 2006 (UTC).

Confirmed. You can hear an audio file here. Richard001 02:36, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Paul Churchland[edit]

That argument isn't an argument against qualia, but against concluding that dualism is true from the mary thought experiment. I have taken classes with him, he believes qualia exist, just not that dualism is the only way to explain them. --student of PMC — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:39, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Yep. A direct quotation from "reduction, qualia, and the direct introspection of brain states": "In short, the difference between a person who knows all about the visual cortex but has never enjoyed a sensation of red, and a person who knows no neuroscience but knows well the sensation of red, may reside not in what is respectively known by each (brains tates by the former, qualia by the latter), but rather in the different type of knowledge each has of exactly the same thing. [...] Knowledge in (1) seems to be a matter of having mastered a set of sentences or propositions, the kind one finds written in neuroscience texts, whereas knowledge in (2) seems to be a matter of having a representation of redness in some prelinguistic or sublinguistic medium of representation for sensory variables, or to be a matter of being able to make certain sensory discriminations, or something along these lines" --Extremophile (talk) 06:46, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

The discussion of feral children under the Paul Churchland heading needs a lot of work. I don't know his argument here so its a little hard for me to edit. The actual heading needs at the least to be integrated into the text. As its stands its not clear that Churchland even made this argument. Of course Feral Children suffer from social not sensory deprivation so they are quite unlike Mary. patrickw 14:48, 21 December 2005 (UTC)

Yeah, the Churchland section needs attention. It especially needs some source citing. - Jaymay 08:10, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

Wouldn't "red looks hot" be a metaphor, rather than an analogy? kostmo 20:37, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

This article has problems. First of all, these lists are terrible. Entries like "8. Junction points between being and experiencing" and "9. Starting points of becoming" are so vague as to be meaningless, and the entries under "Qualia in Practice" are completely unexplained. (I think that the reference to Sony might be nothing more than a poor pun.) Would anyone object if I deleted these? --Conover 05:27, Apr 6, 2004 (UTC)

Do it... Evercat 11:27, 6 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Done and done. --Conover 20:12, Apr 6, 2004 (UTC)

Giant Rewrite[edit]

I just did a giant rewrite of this article. I tried to keep everything I could, but unfortunately a large part of the previous version struck me as unsalvagable. Of course, I admit that I could be wrong about a lot of it, so I encourage everyone to check the last version of the page and integrate anything you think worth keeping.

Also, I am concerned that the explanation of Jackson and Dennett's arguments may have gone on a little long to be truly encyclopedaic. If necessary, they could be moved to the pages of the philosophers themselves, or to specific pages about their arguments.

What does everyone think?

--Conover 23:32, Apr 6, 2004 (UTC)

"Those who dispute the existence of qualia would therefore necessarily dispute the existence of philosophical zombies"[edit]

This statement is patently false. There is the trivial posibility that to whatever ever extent p-zombies can exist, they are us.

If this is so it implies that we don't really feel, that we just act like we feel and are wired to believe that we really do feel while we respond to "pain signals" or "colour signals" that have no 'qualianess' attached to them.

This would make p-consciousness a slight of hand; real p-consciousness(the kind people desire) would thus be the kind that doesn't really exist, while the kind of consciousness that really exists is the kind that's fake('p-zombieness'). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:27, 4 October 2009 (UTC)

Bizarre definition[edit]

The article begins: Qualia (singular: "quale") are most simply defined as the properties of sensory experiences by virtue of which there is something it is like to have them. ...What on earth does that mean? --Jorend 21:55, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)

it (above) is a fairly classic philosophical definition. Qualia are what distinguish the various types of sensations that we experience. Your personal experience of the "redness" of red differs from your experience of the "blueness" of and blue objects act by way of your visual system to produce different qualia. Some people deny that the "redness" of red can be accounted for in terms of physical brain activity. Biologists like Gerald Edelman propose theories of mind in which qualia do result from brain activity. JWSchmidt 18:54, 21 Apr 2004 (UTC)
This current definition is supposed to be less "vague" (quoting Conover) than its previous definitions!? -- 04:27, 2 Jun 2004 (UTC)
It's true that this definition is vague, but unfortunately that problem comes with the territory. I have thoroughly researched the definition of qualia, and this much is widely agreed-upon. Adam Conover 20:53, Jun 15, 2004 (UTC)
The problem is that if you aren't familiar with the phrase "something it is like to ..." (ie, if you haven't read much philosophy of mind), then the sentence is impossible to parse.
It might be better not to restrict the group of people who can derive meaning from the most important sentence on the whole page to such a small group of readers. Until the thought experiment further down the page, there is no way for somebody who doesn't know what "something it is like to" means in a philosophy of the mind context to know what qualia are.
Isn't Wikipedia supposed to be an encyclopedia anyone can use, and not only philosophers of mind?? Seriously, there has to be a simpler definition you can put which says the same (and common people could understand)! Kreachure 17:22, 1 October 2005 (UTC)
Actually, I did modify the article at one point to offer a variation on the plain English dictionary definition. The Random House Unabridged defines a quale as, "as quality, as bitterness, regarded as an independent object". I think the definition I offered was, "A quality or feeling, like redness, regarded independently of its effect on behavior; a raw feel." Alienus 23:15, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
It would probably be helpful to include some version of this definition in the introductory section. N6 05:00, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
Ok, I just updated the intro to lead with a version of the simplified definition above. Hopefully, it'll keep people's eyes from glazing over immediately. Alienus 06:08, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
My eyes did glaze over a bit the first time I read the article, and it took some of the thought experiments further down the page to illuminate the definition. I feel I do understand it now, and I've clarified the introductory definitions a little further in an attempt to help those who might have been similarly confused. I'm no expert on this subject, though; please feel free to revert my edit if it seems incorrect. N6 06:55, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
I notice you've removed the reference to "physical properties". Could you explain why this is misleading? (for my own understanding) I added it because I felt that mentioning effect on behavior as the only reference point was unilluminating at best and misleading at worst. As I understand it, the question of qualia is not so much "Does consciousness affect our behavior?" as "Does consciousness affect our understanding?" N6 07:10, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Qualia vs. Experiences[edit]

Aren't qualia the same thing as experiences?  If not, what's the difference? — Monedula 09:16, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)

In a nutshell, qualia are properties of experiences, just like colors are properties of objects. Specifically, qualia are the properties of experiences which describe what it is like to have that particular experience. Adam Conover 20:53, Jun 15, 2004 (UTC)
Then, what aspect of experiences is not covered by qualia?  If we know what it is like to have a particular experience, then we know everything about that experience, isn't it? — Monedula 21:25, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Well, first I should tell you to go read the primary source material, just as Frank Jackson's "Epiphenomenal Qualia" and Dennett's "Quining Qualia" -- both should be available in any good phil mind compilation. But in a nutshell, no -- even if we knew the qualia of an experience, we would not thereby know anything about its other properties, such as its intentional properties, its causal properties, and its capacity to cause certain behavioral responses. Adam Conover 23:39, Jun 15, 2004 (UTC)
I would rather say that qualia are not properties of experiences, but the material they are made of, a sort of "mental substance".  And the intentional and casual properties have more to do with the "outside world" than with experiences themselves. — Monedula 11:31, 18 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Larger scale phenomena - refactoring[edit]

I'm not certain what happened, but I signed up for an account, logged in, and the bottom section of the article is no longer visible. It was fascinating, talking about how qualia could be experienced differently at higher metabolic rates. I was going to ask if anyone could provide references to this idea. Now it's gone. I think it also talked about the idea of 'refactoring'. Can anyone help?

Scroll up the page to the link to the old page before the large rewrite.Second section. ---Steenies 16:59, 16 Jul 2004 (UTC)


This article bears little resemblance to normal, balanced approaches to this subject. The excessive attention given to Dennett and Lewis is not at all typical of more balanced approaches. See:

The history should start with Descartes. There should be some mention of Kant. Nagel should be prominent. loxley 19:01, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

I fully expected you to stalk me here. Please understand that, as usual, I will revert any harmful changes you make without the slightest bit of remorse. Alienus 19:05, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
No, not "stalking", you introduced this article as an "argument" in the talk for consciousness where you were pressing home Dennett's ideas. When I referred to it I discovered it was very lightweight. It is of little use to any student of philosophy. Encyclopedia articles on philosophy should say "this movement thinks this.." and "this movement thinks that..". They should not be trying to impress a particular worldview on the reader. However, I have noticed that wherever you go in the philosophy of mind category you fight tooth and nail for a particular, naive realist idea of Dennett's work, foisting it on our readers. How old are you? loxley 09:33, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for proving my point. As I said, I will quickly revert any damage you cause. Alienus 15:52, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
I've just read that page [1]. I agree that it's far superior. And I'd prefer to remove any attempt to define qualia. Aaron McDaid (talk - contribs) 03:09, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
Why would you prefer to remove any attempt at definition? Remember that this is an encyclopedia article, not an article in a philosophy journal or a chapter in a philosophy text. N6 04:45, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
I would normally agree, but it's difficult with qualia. I would use something from the first few lines of [2]. I probably went too far when I said "remove any attempt to define qualia.", but I do think we should stick to a simple paragraph. Qualia probably only make sense to the reader after much discussion, and contemplation of thought experiments, so I don't think a precise definition is possible that will help someone who's new to qualia. I'm not even sure that Dennett would describe his 4 properties as a 'definition' - the 4 things listed are properties he might attribute to qualia, but that's not the same as a definition. For example, if you say "2 is an even number", that doesn't mean that all even numbers are 2. Aaron McDaid (talk - contribs) 13:01, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
If you agree that "remove any attempt to define qualia" is going to far, I don't think there is anything for us to disagree over. Your edits seem quite sensible to me, at least. N6 21:13, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

Waita not answer his question numbnuts. This article is biased and needs to be cleaned up. Block Alienus and then get it done. (Unsigned by

As it happens, I've answered these repeatedly. Loxley has proven unwilling to listen or unable to understand. Instead, he prefers to edit war and whine to admins. As for blocking me, I think I'd rather block you for your insults and lack of positive contribution. Thank you for meddling cluelessly and goodbye. Alienus 19:40, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
This speaks for itself: Alienus 19:46, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
Alienus, in your edit summary for the preceding comment[3], you referred to the 'The quality of Loxley's supporters'. I can understand your frustation at's tone, but I'm sure you'd agree that if an idiot supports somebody, that doesn't mean that all his/her supporters are idiots. I'm an idiot who supports lots of different people, often across the spectrum of opinions, so that could only mean that everybody is wrong :-) ! Aaron McDaid (talk - contribs) 13:07, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
If an idiot says the sky is blue, that's not an argument against the sky being blue. But if only idiots say a thing, that does suggest that idiocy is a requirement for belief. In any case, I'm not suggesting that you're an idiot (though you probably shouldn't ask me what I think of
I just did a cleanup of the changes you made, and I think that any possible contentions of POV have been addressed, so I'm removing the badge of shame. If someone disagrees, they can bring it up again in Talk. Alienus 05:39, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

How about making the connection to qualities, as in Aristotelian philosophy? I mean, instead of simply assuming a modern dualist position, how about fairly treating the longstanding belief that we can actually have valid knowledge of the world?

Aaron McDaid's changes on the 4th Feb[edit]

Hi guys, as you can see I've made a lot of changes over the last hour. My aim is to show that there are many definitions and that the philosophical debate is much richer because of this. It's not just a pair of homogenous groups of philosophers arguing that they do or do not exist. Some philosophers might have multiple arguments and viewpoints, depending on what definition is used. I'm sure I've made many mistakes and would be grateful of any constructive discussion of things that could be improved or fixed, and will be happy to fix them myself if they have not been fixed already. I will assume good faith and try to be civil and hope that we can all do the same, moving on from recent arguments that some of you have been involved in. If I am unable to respond promptly to your suggestions, it does not mean that I am ignoring them — instead I may be experiencing [or not experiencing, depending on your point of view :-) ] the 'eating tasty food' quale. Aaron McDaid (talk - contribs) 19:40, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

P.S. Some of my comments in the history aren't very well written. Please consider the content of my changes, not the rushed description I've put into the history. Aaron McDaid (talk - contribs) 19:41, 4 February 2006 (UTC)


this "hard problem of sconsiousness" is nothing but the same old grounded down debate about the existence of qualia in our selves and other minds. he just rephrased it. there is not addiitonal information here exept a praise to this David fellow. I opt for merger or deleletion.Procrastinating@talk2me 11:11, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

That's not unreasonable, and I would support it. Al 05:37, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
I am against merging. The hard problem is not only the problem posed by the existence of qualia but also the problem posed by the existence of a self for which qualia exist. (Changing "existence" into "apparent existence" won't make any difference here.)
The Hard versus Easy problem does not itself do critical philsophical work. But it is a very useful distinction to keep in hand when explaining the "interesting" problems of consciousness to non-philosophers. The term "consciousness" has so many subtle conotations that keep meging and blending together. Philosophers learn to keep technical distinctions distinct (usually). But it is harder to do without that background. The Hard/Easy categories help. Recommend Not Merging. Jdclevenger 22:45, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

Confusion over physicalist ideas of qualia[edit]

"One key consequence of the claim that such things as raw feels can be meaningfully discussed — that qualia exist — is that it leads to the logical possibility of two entities exhibiting identical behavior in all ways despite one of them entirely lacking qualia. While very few ever claim that such an entity, called a philosophical zombie, actually exists, the mere possibility is sufficient to refute physicalism. Those who dispute the existence of qualia therefore necessarily dispute the existence of philosophical zombies."

This sounds wrong to me. In my understanding, physicalism suggests that the human mind could, in theory, be explained in terms of physical reality: that mental processes are not ethereal, just unillucidated.

In any case, it makes little sense to say that a theoretical possibility (like philosophical zombies) can be used to refute a philosophical position in this way. It might make more sense to put it the other way round — to say that a certain philosophical position refutes a certain possibility — but in this case, I think it would still be misleading. Physicalism doesn't 'refute' the possibility of a zombie mental state; it suggests that there is no difference between it and the other, non-zombie state. Physicalists argue that our minds are based in physics, and that our seemingly metaphysical properties (like sentience or selfness) are the apparent products of extremely complex physical systems that we don't yet understand.

I'd like to know if people agree with me: that this paragraph needs to state that physicalists refute the idea of philosophical zombies as being different from normal people, not that they refute the possibility of philosophical zombies, because that misses the point. And certainly not that the possibility could be used to refute physicalism. That just doesn't make sense. If anything, it's the other way round (and it's not, anyway).

Maybe I just don't understand physicalism properly... If anyone thinks so, please tell me why.

Callum85 19:55, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

The argument that the mere possibility of philosophical zombies constitutes a refutation of physicalism is due to Kripke, from his: 1971. "Identity and Necessity", In Identity and Individuation, edited by M. K. Munitz. New York: New York University Press. Incidentally, he was a physicalist (at least at the time). I don't recall the precise details of the argument, but the paper isn't that long if you want to just track down a copy yourself and read it. --Wclark 07:45, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, the zombie argument against physicalism sounds absurd at first, because it seems like the possibility of some zombie character cannot refute a thesis such as physicalism. But you have to realize that physicalists are making a modal claim, because they are committed to saying that such zombies are (metaphysically) impossible. That is, the physicalist claims that in every world in which the physical facts are the same, all the mental facts will be the same as well. So if there is even one possible world in which there is a zombie (physical duplicate with only a difference in mental state), then physicalism is false. Qualia is just a key candidate for such a mental state that more easily seems to elude physical characterization. So, the existence of qualia in a possible world does not refute physicalism. Physicalists can admit that qualia exist in lots of worlds. Qualia in a possible world only refutes physicalism insofar as it is mental state that is something over and above a physical state--that is something that can differ among possible worlds with the same physical facts or states or whatever. - Jaymay 19:05, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
How is it an argument at all though? Physicalists don't refute that something causes what we perceive as qualia, or that they don't exist in some form, but just that our perception of them in itself isn't 'real'. A zombie of such sort, though obviously a rather dubious idea, would not act the same, because it would not be able to respond to any external stimuli. Physicalists believe that qualia are perceived in some physical way, just that the actual 'qualia' themselves are not real. In other words for example light is perceived, it has an effect on the brain, and the brain maps it in a picture-like way, using 'colour' as a way of visualizing the data (how it creates 'colour' out of nothing, and whatever colour is on a physical level, I do not understand, though I cannot imagine visual perception if a colours system wasn't used). Physicalists would simply argue that the quale itself (e.g. 'redness') does not exist in the real world, therefore it is just an illusion of some sort corresponding to some other physical process. How a zombie character (real or theoretical) can be used to refute this is beyond my understanding. If anyone could explain the concept to me I would be most grateful! Richard001 10:09, 26 August 2006 (UTC)
First, I personally don't think that the zombie argument is sound (that is, I think that one of it's premises is false, so the conclusion isn't true). However, the zombie argument is valid (that is, if it's premises are true, then the conclusion must be true). What some people seem to be thinking is that the argument isn't even valid--that it's not a good argument. As I was saying, this is a reasonable thing to think, because it's such a clever and quick argument. It's sneaky like the ontological argument for the existence of God. So, let me try to show that it's valid, since many seem to be wondering why philosophers think it's worth talking about. I'll try to make it very simplified (probably too simplified) but just to get the logical structure of the argument going.
Physicalism (P) = the view that physical things, facts, substances, whatever are all there is in the world (so, what we call "mental" is really physical--that is, most physicalists think that we will be able provide a sufficient physical characterization or explanation of mental states). The zombie argument is supposed to show that P is false as follows:
  1. If P is true, then there is no possible world in which all the physical facts are the same as the actual world, but something else is different. (This is because, according to P, there are only physical things, so there is nothing to be different; any world that is physically identical to our world is just simply identical to our world, so nothing can be different about it.)
  2. But there is a possible world in which the physical facts are the same as our world, but in which there is a difference in something else. (I'll describe one for you. Take, for example, a zombie. It's possible that there is a world exactly like ours in every physical respect, but that one person (or every person) does not have a certain mental state, namely any phenomenal experiences or qualia. The people there look and act just like use, but they don't feel anything; when one gets shot, for example, he yells out as if he is in pain, but he doesn't feel any pain.)
  3. By a simple application of modus tollens, P is false.
That's the structure of the argument. The devil is in the details, of course, especially in the second premise. Is a zombie or a zombie world really possible? Is it really possible in the same sense as in premise one? Well, most agree that the relevant possiblity here is not so weak as logical possibility; surely a zombie world is logically possible (there is no logical contradiction in the scenario), but that is not what is meant. Most agree that it is some sort of metaphysical or conceptual possibility. What the proponent of the zombie argument claims is that we can tell from the armchair, just by the power of reason, that such a zombie scenario is conceptually possible--that is, it's a coherent scenario.
Now a physicalist might respond in several ways, but all responses deny premise two (that is, they deny that a zombie scenario is possible). They cannot deny premise one and still remain a physicalist (since it requires denying something that most physicalists think is part of or an implication of physicalism). One response is to claim that the idea of qualia (and related notions) is all screwed up, it's actually not a coherent concept, and thus the zombie scenario is incoherent. Daniel Dennett and others take this line. They argue that while consciousness/qualia/subjective experiences exist, in some sense, they are not as the zombie argument proponent claims they are; pain, for example, is not something that you can just strip off a person's mental life without any behavioral or physiological differences. Another line is to provide some sort of error theory about the intuitions of the possibility of a zombie scenario. Many have taken this line and argued that our concepts about what is physical and is possibly physical adapt over time, so while conceptual analysis is reliable in some areas of philosophy, it is not reliable here... so on and so forth.
The zombie argument is difficult because it gets right to fundamental disagreements that philosophers have about the method and scope of philosophy itself. It gets right down to disagreements about what conceptual analysis is and what it can do. People who are proponents of the zombie argument (e.g. David Chalmers) think that conceptual analysis is pretty much all philosophy does or is supposed to do and that it can certainly do a lot--e.g. it can refute physicalism. However, others, such as Dennett, Paul Churchland, W.V. Quine, and so on, have fundamentally different views from Chalmers about the nature and scope of philosophical analysis. So, anyway, the point is: If you really want to appreciate the zombie argument, you have to really dig deep into hot topics about the nature of philosophy. It's not as simple of an argument as one might think. It's quite sophisticated, and Chalmers's stuff on it is pretty impressive, even quite difficult and technical at times. I hope that helps. If you want to see Chalmer's side, he's got an overview paper on his site called Consciousness and its Place in Nature (PDF) that's pretty good. - Jaymay 19:45, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

SidW 23:11, 10 October 2006 (UTC)== two comments: ==

1. I think someone already said this right, but to be more specific, supervenience physicalism is what the zombie argument turns on. Other versions of physicalism e.g., token physicalism, could be compatible with the mere possibility of a zombie.

2. The section on inverted qualia and the "neurosurgical prank" is wrong. See in Dennett's online Quining Qualia, "In this version, intuition pump #5: the neurosurgical prank, the experiences to be compared are all in one mind. You wake up one morning to find that the grass has turned red, the sky yellow, and so forth. No one else notices any color anomalies in the world, so the problem must be in you. You are entitled, it seems, to conclude that you have undergone visual color qualia inversion (and we later discover, if you like, just how the evil neurophysiologists tampered with your neurons to accomplish this)." How could a neurophysiologist tamper with neurons and we say there is no physical basis for the inversion? Why call it it the "neurosurgical prank" if there is no physical basis? From SEP: Inverted Qualia, it appears (though they don't reference the "prank" specifically) that the prank was probably designed (by Block and Fodor?) to refute functionalism, not physicalism. Note that SEP and Dennett both quote Block and Fodor but Dennett leaves out the next sentence, "..against Functionalist accounts.."

opening paragraph[edit]

This makes no sense to me, requires correction - "qualia are properties of sensory experiences by virtue of which there is something it is like to have them." Bards 22:02, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree that that characterization could use clarification. It's instantly comprehensible to anyone who's read "What is it like to be a bat?", but probably obscure to anyone who hasn't. --Trovatore 00:04, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't see much wrong with CI Lewis' definition
"There are recognizable qualitative characters of the given, which may be repeated in different experiences, and are thus a sort of universals; I call these "qualia." But although such qualia are universals, in the sense of being recognized from one to another experience, they must be distinguished from the properties of objects. Confusion of these two is characteristic of many historical conceptions, as well as of current essence-theories. The quale is directly intuited, given, and is not the subject of any possible error because it is purely subjective." 1Z 21:01, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

"arguments against" section unbalanced[edit]

It strikes me that, first of all, the "arguments against" section is longer than the descriptions of the arguments for, which is a little odd to start with. More troublesome is that the part of the article describing why some thinkers believe that qualia exist is always worded very carefully to say things like supporters of the existence of qualia argue that..., whereas in the "against" section, the argument is presented as direct discourse. Each style is defensible in isolation; what I worry is that the contrast makes the article as a whole appear biased against qualia. --Trovatore 00:10, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

falsifiability argument[edit]

This one strikes me as completely bogus, as a criticism of the idea. As the section itself says, all it's doing is trying to show that the existence of qualia is not, by Popper's criterion, a scientific hypothesis. Well, whoever said it was a scientific hypothesis? The qualia argument is explicitly metaphysical on its face. Obviously if you're a Wittgensteinian who thinks "metaphysical" is another word for "meaningless", you won't be interested in the argument, but that doesn't in any nontrivial way count as a "criticism".

If this argument is one that has actually been made by notable critics of the argument, then it should be sourced to the ones who have made it. Otherwise the subsection should be removed. --Trovatore 18:28, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree entirely with the criticism. However, I was thinking more a long the lines of adding a counter-argument.1Z 20:07, 14 January 2007 (UTC)


"A scientific criticism of the ideas of qualia might point out that an argument for the existence of qualia cannot be disproven via experimental evidence, and that thus an assertion of their existence does not constitute a scientific hypothesis, since in, for example, Karl Popper's philosophy of science, a hypothesis or theory must be falsifiable. Furthermore, as the philosophical zombie argument demonstrates, qualia cannot be considered as describable in empirical terms, and science attempts only to characterize objects and events that are empirically-describable or which are demonstrably connected to empirically-describable things. However, this only makes qualia inadmissible scientifically; it does not make the inadmissible philosophically or simply non-existent. The qualiaphile can simply respond that the inability of science to handle qualia is to be expected since they are non-physical".
1Z 20:24, 14 January 2007 (UTC)


Suggest amending to:

"It is possible to apply a criticism similar to Nietzsche's criticism of Kant's "thing in itself" to qualia: Qualia are unobservable in others and unquantifiable in ourselves. We cannot possibly be sure, when discussing individual qualia, that we are even discussing the same phenomena. However, it can be objected that psychological phenomena in general are vague, and qualia fare no worse than others."1Z 21:20, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Causal Effcicacy[edit]

"Qualia have also never been proven to interact with any observable or quantifiable things."

They havent' been proven not to. There are simple arguments to show that they must be causally effective. One's tastes and preferences are based on how things seem to one, and therefore on qualia, and One's tastes and preferences also influence one's beahviour.

" If some given thing can neither be observed nor be deduced from the observable,"

The idea that qualia cannot be inferred is dubious. The knowledge arguments, if correct, shows that qualia cannot be inferred from descriptions alone. Even so, it might be possible to correlate qualia with brain-states (even using ones own qualia and scans of one's own brain).

" and if any quality that might distinguish it from nonexistent things is itself unobservable or inexpressible, then Occam's Razor would suggest that we eliminate that thing from models and descriptions of phenomena like consciousness since those models would function perfectly well without it in predicting observable events."

Whilst functioning dreadfully in describing subjective experience. It is easy enough to dispense with qualia if you have first decided you don't care about subjectivity.

"While various aspects of conscious experience have not been completely correlated with physical activities in the brain, this does not amount to evidence of the existence of qualia. "

Why should it? The writer seems to think qualia are non-physical by definition (wrong), and that 'non-physical' means having no correlates -- wrong again. The truth of the knowledge argument is quite compatible with subjective states having stable neural correlates.

"The negation of conscious experience is correlated with a complete cessation of brain activity (e.g., such cessation occurring at death) in any model where consciousness is characterized in terms of measurable (or at least precisely-characterizable) properties (such as the ability to communicate with others, complex reactions to various stimuli, etcetera)."

All in all, I don't think there is much that can be rescued in this section as it stands. However, there is a need to discuss epiphenomenalism, etc.1Z 21:36, 14 January 2007 (UTC)


"Qualia might be explicable at least in part by memetics, which can attempt to show how vague descriptions, definitions, and characterizations can lead to self-replicating ideas arguably of little or no scientific or philosophical value. If descriptions of qualia can be considered as memes, then it can be argued that a major reason for the continued presence of such descriptions is that they include features which promote self-replication: e.g., that the majority agrees with them, (although clearly this is not, by itself, evidence either of their truth or of their falsehood), or, more importantly, that people assume that they are speaking about the same things when in fact they very possibly aren't. (An everyday example of this phenomenon is the oft-encountered "You know that one guy?" "Yeah, that man who did that one thing?" "Yeah, that's the one. I like him." "Me too.", et cetera.)

The indeterminacy of the definition of qualia allows the idea of qualia to replicate without being subject to as much criticism as something more easily demonstrated to be false, such as a belief that the Earth is composed entirely of cheese. The latter idea is highly unlikely to replicate, while qualia-- the ultimate "that one thing that you already know that I'm talking about"-- are supremely likely to do so."

The fact that two people mistakenly agree about their qualia does no make the whole idea of qualia false.1Z 22:19, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Qualia lovers and haters[edit]

In the introduction it now reads: Philosophers who believe in qualia are called qualiaphiles, and sceptics qualiaphobes.

Are these words accurate? I've come across the word qualophile in this essay by Dennett, which is an entirely different spelling to that quoted above. How well known are these words in philosophy? If they are just neologisms that aren't in frequent use they won't be appropriate for the lead section. Richard001 00:27, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

The "O" versions seem more common, I have changed it.1Z 00:49, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

I think they should be dropped entirely as overly informal in tone. Dennett seems likely to have been using the word disparagingly. --Trovatore 07:16, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Done Richard001 21:26, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
The terms are used in papers by professional philosophers. What do you make of "zombies" by the way? 1Z 22:53, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Well, that's different, I'd say. It's a respected tradition to give technical meanings to ordinary terms, but that's in the "object language", where we're discussing the things we're talking about, and not the people who are talking about them. I see "qualophile" as part of Dennett's general reprehensible sneering tone of writing, which we certainly should not imitate, bound as we are to give fair representation to his views. --Trovatore 23:18, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
I had some examples of people other than Dennett using the terms, but they disappeared. BTW, why do you think he would want to insult both parties?
1Z 23:37, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
To be honest, he probably doesn't, nor intended to. It's just the way it comes accross. I totally disagree with the use of the words -phile and -phobe because philosophically they are used incorrectly. If they are used wideley by the philosophical community I'd be greatly dismayed. Can we remove the reference to them or at least cite somewhere they are used - it's quite a broad statement for the opening paragraph that doesnt seem to have any evidencial support. Should some come to light; by all means cite it.
Google Scholar knows about something like 20 papers by 11 authors. That doesn't include some badly indexed ones and duplicates, but might include document where the words appear only in references (namely J. Levine, 1994). I'd say that's just more than a few. trespassers william 17:00, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Well, yes, these terms have some currency. There seems to be only one person who has thinks they are insulting. 1Z 18:29, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Biology of qualia[edit]

Do other editors feel this side needs more attention? The article currently seems to be focussed mainly on the question of whether or not qualia exist, but doesn't seem to dig into why they exist. Do we feel focus on qualia in animals, their evolution, and relationship with learning and memorization would be a good direction for the article to take? Richard001 02:50, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Well, if you can find any referenced work that attempts to explain them biologically, it would be a good addition. My own view is that they can't be explained biologically, because they are not in fact physical; that's sort of the whole point of the argument. So in essence such work is an attempt to refute the argument. But that's fine; that's relevant to the topic, and would go in the "arguments against" section. --Trovatore 03:30, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Heh, I guess we have very different opinions there :)
As I understand qualia are a sort of neurological place-holder that has somehow evolved in our bodies basic molecular structure to allow us to learn (by remembering; we need something (i.e. qualia) as a memory) as opposed to acting like robots based on our instincts. This is why a baby chicken would have qualia but a tiny bug living in a compost heap would not.
It's a very interesting area, I'll try to research it some time. The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article has a brief overview on this matter under the section dealing with qualia in animals, which we could use as a starting point. Richard001 09:15, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
The role of qualia can be explained biologically [4], but of course that does not answer the ontological question.1Z 13:49, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Trovatore you are confusing belief in qualia with dualism. They aren't the same. This article is absolutely horrible written by someone that is simply confused. I would abort it. ----student of pmc

Qualia as an Undefinable Entinty[edit]

It seems strange to me that the question of falsification of qualia is even considered. Qualia should be considered the starting point for all emprical observations. Qualia can only be proved to exist in the eye of the beholder by definition. 16:40, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

March 8 Changes[edit]

I added several paragraphs to Daniel Dennett's section and a new section for David Lewis' argument. These may not fit closely with the rest of the article, but I think they explain clearly various parts of the arguments, and add something to the article. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Ppe42 (talkcontribs) 09:41, 8 March 2007 (UTC).


The article is lacking discussion of

  • Levine
  • Nagel
  • Qualia inversion
  • Indirect perception
  • The Hard problem
  • Qualiaphiles who don't like the word, eg. Searle.

1Z 01:26, 17 March 2007 (UTC)


  • zombies
  • Beetle-in-a-box

1Z 12:09, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Ramachandran's laws of qualia[edit]

Can anyone make sense of these laws, and try to rewrite them more clearly? I understand what they're saying, but I don't understand what's fundamental about them, or how the 2nd and 3rd laws relate directly to qualia. Thanks. — BRIAN0918 • 2007-03-19 14:24Z

V.S. Ramachandran et al have proposed four laws of qualia, or "functional criteria that need to be fulfilled in order for certain neural events to be associated with qualia" by philosophers of the mind:
  1. "Qualia are irrevocable and indubitable. You don’t say ‘maybe it is red but I can visualize it as green if I want to’. An explicit neural representation of red is created that invariably and automatically ‘reports’ this to higher brain centres.
  2. "Once the representation is created, what can be done with it is open-ended. You have the luxury of choice, e.g., if you have the percept of an apple you can use it to tempt Adam, to keep the doctor away, bake a pie, or even just to eat. Even though the representation at the input level is immutable and automatic, the output is potentially infinite. This isn’t true for, say, a spinal reflex arc where the output is also inevitable and automatic. Indeed, a paraplegic can even have an erection and ejaculate without an orgasm.
  3. "Short-term memory. The input invariably creates a representation that persists in short-term memory—long enough to allow time for choice of output. Without this component, again, you get just a reflex arc.
  4. "Attention. Qualia and attention are closely linked. You need attention to fulfil criterion number two; to choose. A study of circuits involved in attention, therefore, will shed much light on the riddle of qualia."[1]

BRIAN0918 • 2007-03-19 15:07Z

First, I like the broader/narrower distinction. But I am not sure that Jackson's definition should be included among the narrower ones: the bit about non-physicallity is a major stumbling block.

I don't think Rama.'s laws are definitions, and they should probably be elsewhere on the page. The point of 2 is that if something does not need to be dealt with in a conscious or high-level way, it does not need to seem like anything at all to consciousness. 3. Is a necessary precondition of a conscious high-level action as opposed to an unconscious reaction.

1Z 17:07, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Experimental evidence -- inverting glasses?[edit]

Results of the experiments done on subjects wearing up-down inverting eyeglasses continuously for some weeks seem to bear on the Mary question. I've heard they report their view of the world really does reverse in terms of up & down, not that they merely learn to cope. However, I'm not sufficiently versed to put this into an article that looks pretty well-researched so far, because I might bring its overall quality down, but maybe someone else knows more who could fit this in. 18:13, 25 March 2007 (UTC)

Time for B class?[edit]

Does anyone else share the view that this article is ready to be promoted to B-class? --- ÅñôñÿMôús Dîššíd3nt 05:47, 15 April 2007 (UTC)

Dear god no. This is awful, just awful. I threw up in my mouth from reading this POS. --student of truth — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:42, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Absent Qualia[edit]

I don't see any information on Absent Qualia. Acumensch 00:36, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

Meaning what? Zombies? Blindsight? 1Z 00:50, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

Inverted qualia[edit]

Should we not be a little more rigorous when talking about inverted qualia (e.g. colour). Inversion basically means red should be cyan, not green. The image at commons and the way it is presented in the article need to be a little more careful with treating this subject loosely. If by inversion you mean red>green, green>blue and blue>red, it should be said explicitly. Richard001 11:31, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

I think you should learn a bit more about color before accusing others of lacking rigor, because clearly you don't know what they are actually talking about here. Inversion here refers to the pairs of mutually-excluding opponent hues (red/green and yellow/blue) of the perceptual color model (how color is organized in the mind, at the cognitive level), because this is what is pertinent when dealing with the psychology of color. As such, it is perfectly rigorous to refer to green as the inversion of red (it's what you get if you "invert" the signal of the red/green opponent channel). It has nothing to do with the complementary colors of the retinal color model (the raw RGB-like tristimulus neural signal at the lowest level before undergoing extensive processing through bipolar and ganglion cells, cortical blobs, etc. that will turn it into something quite else before reaching the conscious mind, and thus of little to no relevance when talking about the psychological experience of color). (talk) 20:04, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
I, too, have been rather confused by this, since a picture titled Inverted qualia does not actually feature a color inversion. Thus, should the kind of "inversion" not be clarified, I will make a new picture (red/cyan? fuchsia/green?). --Zx-man 14:42, 28 August 2007 (UTC)
In the literature, colour inversion is usally though of as red/green. I don't think the details matter hugely.1Z 10:53, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
So how does it work exactly? Red is green, green is red? What about blue? Or is green blue and blue red? In the case red and green were switched, yellow would remain the same, so I presume the latter. In that case it isn't really an inversion but a 120 degree rotation (if we think of colours as forming a circle). Either philosophers are incredibly lazy when it comes to the specifics or they have a very poor understanding of colour. Richard001 11:00, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
Why would they need to be accurate about the specifics? 1Z 13:14, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
While it does not matter in the scope of the argument, I think that WP should be cautious about redefining of the standard terms. Since a red/green rotation is what those making the argument actually mean, we must add a footnote saying that. Don't you agree? --Zx-man 17:31, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
On the subject of the exact details of color inversion, and why many of the "inverted qualia" thought experiments are incoherent, see a very nice paper by Steve Palmer in Behavioral and Brain Sciences preprint here. In essence, he points out that the specifics that are being discussed here are relevant since they undermine the argument that such differences in qualia would be behaviorally undetectable. He notes that, for example, a pure red-green inversion would be behaviorally detectable, since red is closer to orange than green is to orange. So, a simple switch would be detectable. Similarly, since the color spindle is not symmetric, any rotation that preserved the overall structure of color space, and rotated red and green would also be behaviorally detectable. The most saturated blues are darker than the most saturated yellows, therefore anyone who says the opposite would be detectable as a color inverted subject. He goes on to address even more sophisticated versions of the inverted qualia thought experiment by noting that certain color names are "basic" than others, in a strict linguistic sense... and so on. Edhubbard 22:58, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
So the standard arguments are flawed. Is it the job of an enyclopedia article to improve on them? 1Z 13:24, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
Interesting Edhubbard... Well, to answer your question Peter, it's certainly our job to point out that they have been said to be flawed. Anyone want to take a swing at it? Richard001 23:08, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
I could take a swing at it, but I just looked again, and it occurs to me that perhaps here is not the place to get into all of the details of the Inverted spectrum argument. Perhaps the appropriate place is on the page that deals with the argument specifically. There is already the beginning of such arguments there, based on Hardin's earlier work, but those arguments certainly could due with some expansion. Since this is the qualia page, if we include additional details, we would need to make sure that those details are relevant to the arguments about the existence (or lack thereof) of qualia. In the end, if I remember correctly, Palmer does not decide against qualia. Dennett, on the other hand, cites Palmer's argument approvingly in one of his recent books, and seems to think that it's a good example of how to argue against qualia. Edhubbard 23:23, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
Yes, we do have a link to the main article, and this is a fairly long one as it is. What we have is probably adequate. Richard001 01:44, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

Move to quale[edit]

Was this ever discussed? It is the non-plural form, but qualia are almost always referred to by that name (see e.g. the SEP article). If we begin the article with 'Qualia...', why use a different name? Richard001 11:35, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

Because WP has a rule about using singular forms.1Z 18:22, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

There is a guideline, yes, but if it doesn't fit we shouldn't force it. Would any other encyclopedias call it 'quale' instead of 'qualia'? Richard001 09:20, 7 June 2007 (UTC)
If we begin the articel with Qualia, some other editor will change it back.1Z 10:54, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
Do it anyway! Quale is a stupid title for an article that anyone who knows anything about philosophy will search for as 'qualia'! Anarchia 22:04, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
It's done... Moved back to Qualia. Never should have been moved in the first place. Cgingold 10:20, 14 September 2007 (UTC)
But the same argument can be made for those wishing to learn more about automata theory. Why is that article titled Automaton when obviously it should be titled Automata as the subject matter of automata theory? I found this article by searching for "quale" and was surprised to see the plural form as the title. User:Anarchia's objection is backwards: anyone who knows anything about philosophy will know to search for quale, as I just did (and I'm not even a philosopher). Furthermore the search argument carries no weight because both forms link to the same page regardless of how it is titled, just as happens when searching for automata instead of automaton. This also holds when searching with Google, which is able to find both quale and qualia. Anyone working routinely with qualia who uses the singular form whenever called for is going to find the title "Qualia" disconcerting. The title should not pander to those who use "qualia" as a singular noun the way some people use "automata" as a singular noun. The whole point of an encyclopedia article is to inform with both clarity and accuracy. With regard to usage as a singular noun the title "Qualia" is inaccurate and misleading. --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 20:49, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
I would note that there are various exceptions to the rule about singulars that seem to be well-accepted. The Franks for example are not treated at Frank; this just seems like common sense. I think this might be a similar example — no one is very interested in a single quale qua quale (sorry), but in qualia collectively and what they imply. On the other hand an individual automaton might well be an object of study, and I prefer automaton theory to automata theory.
It would be distressing to see people start to use qualia as a singular noun (I haven't encountered this myself but don't doubt that it occurs; it seems to be a common pattern with such words). But it's not really our role either to promote or prevent linguistic change. Certainly we should guard well against any singular usages of qualia in the article, but I'm not convinced that that justifies moving the article title back to one that appeared to be a bit of pedantry rather than common usage. --Trovatore (talk) 22:52, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
You're quite right that relatively few people speak about an individual quale, but this is mainly because qualia don't currently play the practical role in psychology that automata play in computer science, where the occasion to refer to this automaton or that arises all the time. I can quite see that those who have never contemplated an individual quale per se could well draw the conclusion based on the literature that "qualia" must be the primary word, with "quale" playing the secondary role for qualia that "loaf of bread" plays for "bread." Historically however it was the other way round: Lewis introduced the notion of a quale and suggested qualia as its plural. In his book "Mind and the World-order," Lewis characterized qualia as schizophrenically having both physical and mental qualities, which proved to be so conceptually challenging that almost all the subsequent discussion has been on the nature of qualia, instead of on this quale or that as one would expect were qualia to enter the realm of practicality the way automata have. (The reason I care is that I've been working on a dualistic approach to ontology in which qualia serve as the gluons schizophrenically mediating interactions, and I refer to individual qualia in the singular about as often as in the plural, just as with automata.) --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 20:06, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

Private language[edit]

It seems strange not to have mention of the private language argument. Banno (talk) 21:18, 5 May 2008 (UTC)

Alternative Neurosurgery[edit]

What is this? If qualia can be changed by a physical process - its not qualia. This argument makes no sense. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:48, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

The experiment is designed to argue against the existence of qualia, so it makes perfect sense. I think he means that what we think of as qualia is just a side effect of how our analogous brain works. Contributions/ (talk) 21:36, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
Exactly, that's the primary point and it demonstrates it well.
          -- That Guy, From That Show! 07:34, 15 May 2017 (UTC)


I've started a discussion on the subject of qualia, using this article as a starting point, on the Philosophy forum of the Richard Dawkins website. -- (talk) 15:31, 13 August 2008 (UTC)

The picture is very helpful[edit]

At first, the physcialist explanation seems to make sense, but when you look at the red square, you really are just struck by a "redness" that i don't see that experience can be reduced to the electrochemical impules occuring inside my brain when it processes the wavelength of light. "I" "feel" the color and that in itself means something. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:14, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

Extensive edit[edit]

This is a fairly extensive edit of the entry on qualia. It was felt to be necessary particularly because it was in some respects out of date. I have tried to maintain a balance between arguments for and against the existence of qualia, as well as drawing attention to philosophers on both sides of the debate who ought to be acknowledged. Among those who oppose the notion of qualia, Michael Tye has recently presented an influential case, and therefore deserved to be included. On the other side, since there had been hardly any mention of those who are committed to the notion, I felt that a survey of them was needful in view of the space given to their opponents.

As the editor of the most recent collection in which arguments for qualia have been presented (The Case for Qualia, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2008), I felt that I was an appropriate editor. To affect neutrality would have been impossible in view of the controversial nature of this topic, and that is the reason why I have endeavoured to cast the entry in a balanced form, in which both sides of the case can be judged without a weakening of the expression of their views.

Edmond Wright (talk) 01:02, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

Proposed addition to the "Scientific perspectives" section[edit]

Hi Edmond. Great set of edits. We in the consciousness is representational and real camp propose that the following paragraph be added to the "Scientific perspectives" section where it discusses Ramachandran's "3 laws of qualia" paper:

This 3 Laws paper also was the first to propose the theoretical idea of 'effing' the ineffable (though they didn't call it such).[2] They proposed that the phenomenal nature of qualia could be communicated if brains could be appropriately connected with a "cable of neurons". If this turned out to be possible this would scientifically prove or objectively demonstrate the existence and the nature of qualia. This idea of effing the ineffable is being further developed in the Consciousness is Representational and Real camp at

We also propose this addition to the "Proponents of Qualia" section":

All Members of the "Consciousness is Representational and Real" camp[edit]

As listed above, these two lists of both qualia critics and proponents look fairly balanced. But how well does such a list represent the true amount of scientific consensus there is for each side of this critical issue? Is it possible that one side is being significantly underrepresented? Has the balance changed over the last decade, and is this change constant or maybe accelerating?

There is a new topic being developed at with the goal of concisely stating theories of consciousness and quantitatively measuring the amount of scientific consensus there is for all such supported theories. It includes a history mechanism so the popularity of various theories can be monitored from an historical perspective, and going forward as ever more scientific evidence comes in.

This survey process is just getting started but already the Consciousness is Representational and Real camp and its supporting sub camps have achieved a lead in the amount of scientific consensus it has compared to any other theory of consciousness. Members of that camp believe no other theory of consciousness will ever be able to surpass the amount of consensus this theory will be able to achieve and that ultimately demonstrable scientific proof will convert most everyone to this camp. And of course any camp achieving such would likely be THE ONE true theory of consciousness.

Since the theory being developed in this camp is centered around representationalism and the importance of qualia, it also implies that there is, at least at this tentative and not yet comprehensive stage, much more scientific consensus for the reality and importance of qualia than any critics have been able to achieve.

Brent_Allsop (talk) 04:58, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

It appears that everyone is in agreement that this would be a good change, so I'll be adding it soon. Brent_Allsop (talk) 14:44, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

It appears that no-one has actually agreed...

I repeat from Talk:Mind uploading:

1) is intrinsically biased by the way it is set up. it is not a neutral source that discusses all viewpoints in a single place. if citing it you would have to cite the opposing 'camps' and discuss their views on the topic as well, not just select one 'camp' that supports your views.
2) since anyone can sign up using any username, how on earth do you know that 'A. Expert' is actually who they say they are?
3)i'm sure some experts can contribute, but so can anyone. there is a lot of non-peer reviewed questionable material on there, that i've (flipantly) called crackpot science that make fringe theories look more notable than they are.
4)it essentially is a forum for discussion. forums are not a suitable source for Wikipedia, since they are not a verifiable or reliable source. see Wikipedia:Verifiability for more information.
5)this is not a form of peer review since articles are simpy not reviewed before being posted. neither are they necessarily reviewed by those who are working in the field. there are far more, reliable and verifiable, journals out there and plenty of people working int he subject area to validate the review process.

Jw2035 (talk) 07:11, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

I just took a look at this site, and it appears to be used by an extremely small number of people, who are presumably random web surfers like myself. Completely useless as a source of information. (talk) 17:43, 5 June 2009 (UTC), like so many, you've missed much of what is. If gutless anonymous contributors become a problem, it would be trivial to create canonizer algorithms, based on reputations, to filter and ignore them. So far, possibly because of this threat, it hasn't been a problem as most all contributors and experts all know each other personally.
Another goal is to survey and also compare diverse groups of people from the general population (see the one person one vote default algorithm) to various sets of experts (see info on the mind experts algorithm which uses a peer ranking system to quantitatively measure how much of an expert one is and to distinguish them quantitatively from the general population).
Also, the recruiting efforts have just been started and are mostly focusing on surveying the top experts in the field. Experts will quickly recognize the growing set of contributors like Steven Lehar, John Smythies, Jonathan Edwards, and so on. If you are not an expert just Google for them and you'll see. Arguably, these experts would be ranked higher by their peers than the somewhat arbitrary list of people currently listed in the critics and proponents section of this qualia article.
Jw2035 listed the above 5 reasons for censoring this information definitively documenting the beliefs of these growing number of experts, and he has copied these reasons to other Wikipedia articles where he has also censored similar information. A new topic has been created at to consolidate the discussion of these reasons from the multiple wiki talk pages to one location. It answers each of these 5 issues and shows how each is mistaken and just reveals the author doesn't yet understand all the crowd sourcing techniques employed to overcome such problems:
Regardless of what you feel on this issue, everyone is invited to help create a rigorous survey representation showing concisely and quantitatively what everyone thinks on this issue of whether things like explicit petitions signed be experts can be a trusted definitive source of their real time beliefs. Brent.Allsop (talk) 03:16, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

The style manual really does exist[edit]

Please. Wikipedia:Manual of Style exists. In these edits I changed headings such as

Other Issues


See Also


Other issues


See also

It is incorrect to capitalize an initial letter only because it's in a section heading. I also changed hyphens for ranges of years, pages, etc., to ndashes. This 1910–1998 and pp. 432–512 are correct, whereas 1910-1998 and pp. 432-512 are not. Michael Hardy (talk) 03:04, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Recent edits have made the article hard to read[edit]

1 The lead tells the reader practically nothing about the subject. The one statement that is offered to the effect that qualia are basically sensory is itself dubious, since some consider emotions to have associated qualia. see

2. The lead mentions C.I Lewis, but his definition, which is reasonably short and clear, is not included.

3. The section on Problems of definition is written in a very convoluted style. It badly needs the t-crossing and i-dotting removed. It also needs breaking into sub-sections.

4. The section is also somewhat POV, emphasising the "veil of perception" argument and ignoring other definitional issues such as Dennet's critique.

1Z (talk) 14:25, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

I agree. Also, the Michael Tye section sounds like it was written by his fan club. Indeterminate (talk) 10:06, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Smythies section needs rewriting[edit]

The section on Smythies goes on and on without making any attempt to describe his viewpoint beyond "advocacy of inner sensory experience" and "n-dimensional", which, I'm sorry, does not shed the slightest light on what his view is, since I think nobody is denying that we have sensory experiences, often related to some number of dimensions (often looks like 3). All the talk about random theories in physics and how others ignore Smythies should be greatly condensed, and some actual attempt should be made to describe Smythies' view. I'd like to decide for myself what I think of Smythies' view, rather than read some meta-argument about whether "radical" theories are worth consideration or not. (talk) 17:00, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

I completely agree. John Smytheis is currently concisely declaring his beliefs on this issue in the open survey system being developed by a group of volunteers at The current entry starts out great, and I propose the first paragraph be kept. I also propose the 2nd and 3rd paragraph be replaced with another paragraph like the below witch references this definitive declaration by John of what he currently believes on this issue:
"John Smytheis is currently concisely stating, collaboratively developing, and definitively declaring his current beliefs on this issue in the Smythies-Carr Hypothesis camp on the Theories of Mind and Consciousness topic at (User id: john lock) His beliefs also include that which is contained in and he has helped develop the Consciousness is Representational and Real camp, and all other parent camps above it. As ever more experts continue to contribute to this open survey on the best theories of consciousness the Representational and Real camp continues to extend its lead in the amount of scientific consensus it has compared to all other theories of consciousness. Though John is in the current consensus camp at this level, his particular valid theories about what qualia are and where they are located diverge from the majority. The Smythies-Carr Hypothesis camp is a competitor to the more well accepted Mind-Brain Identity Theory camp. The people in that camp believe the best theory is that qualia are something in our brain in a growing set of diverse, possible, and concisely stated ways. The people in John's camp believe qualia are a property of something causally connected to, yet contained in the higher dimensional space described in string theory."
(Please also see the above discussion about the appropriateness of references to being used in Wikipeida, and please, everyone, indicate what you think on that issue as well as this proposed modification to this article on qualia.) Brent.Allsop (talk) 00:34, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Agreed, the section is terrible--full of POV and doesn't really say what his theory is, only how great it is (a la Anne Elk). 1Z (talk) 10:57, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
The rewrite has truned the section from hype for Smythies to hype for canonizer. It is no improvement, and AFAICS it is not supported by consensus. 1Z (talk) 12:16, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

An argument for dualism[edit]

Hello. May I introduce myself: Avshalom Elitzur, physicist and philosopher. Because I have a vested interest in the issue I thought that this would be the most appropriate way to propose my own contribution to be referred to in the entry. I refer to an article which has now appeared in a book edited by Batthyany and myself: In this article I make what I believe to be a strong case for the causal efficacy of qualia. I debate with Chalmers and propose a scientific (i.e., empirically testable) proof for my reluctantly dualistic position. You are welcome to read the paper and make your own judgments whether it is suitable to be included in the entry. This will be my last interference in this discussion. Elitzur (talk) 08:12, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Dennett's four points[edit]

The article as it stands attributes the four point 'definition' (ineffability, etc) to Dennett, but does not give a source. I wasted some time in a library yesterday trying to find the four points in his books (e.g. Consciousness Explained), without success. I suspect that the points are in fact taken from his article 'Quining Qualia', which has an online text. If this is indeed the source, it would save other people wasting their time if a reference were inserted. It should also be made clear (if this is the case) that the wording of the four points is not taken verbatim from Dennett. (talk) 12:32, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Telepathy and privacy[edit]

Much of the argument about qualia rests on the assumption that individuals cannot inspect other people's qualia - they are essentially and unavoidably private. But suppose telepathy exists. Suppose we could literally share other people's sensations. I don't see any logical impossibility in this, though of course if there were a complete 'merging of minds', the nature and existence of personal identity would come into question.

I take it that telepathy does not in fact exist. But if its non-existence is merely an empirical fact, and not a logical necessity, how does this affect the argument about qualia? If we could examine and compare each other's sensations of 'red' (etc), would this not cut the legs from under one of the main objections to qualia? (At this point someone may try and trail the red herring of indubitability - if we have access to other people's sensations, how can be sure that we are sensing them in the same way as those people? Well, of course, we can't, but sensations, under the hypothesis, would be no more and no less 'subjective' than anything else that is open to public inspection. Suppose I see a car in the street, and you also see a car in the street: we cannot be certain that we are seeing the same car, because one car might be real and the other a hallucination. We can only interrogate each other about various properties of our experience until we are satisfied for all practical purposes that it is the same car.)

Even assuming that telepathy does not exist, something equivalent might be developed. Each of us is simultaneously conscious of sensations of vision, sound, etc, which arise in some way from physical events in different parts of the brain. Mere spatial separation is therefore not an insuperable obstacle to the 'unity of consciousness'. If this is true of one brain, why not of two or more? And if two brains were physically connected, by nerve tissue, by wires, or by electromagnetic waves, I see no reason why sensations should not be shared. (talk) 13:05, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

On the views of a Philosopher and Scientist[edit]

Suggest removal: "Like John Smythies (see the next entry), he [Revonsuo] is nothing daunted by the strangeness of the high speculation that is necessitated at such an early stage of scientific inquiry."

Revonsuo is cited in a philosophical context and not a scientific one. Many people in the contemporary field of consciousness studies are looking for approaches to consciousness (cf. 'Toward a Science of Consciousness'). Please, see to that a critique of the philosophy of Professor Revonsuo is presented (if you wish) and then use references rather than original (philosophical) research.

Suggest rewrite: "phenomena he describes as ‘self-presenting’" Professor Revonsuo is a representationalist. Therefore, I am having difficulties to envision him having written or said anything to that effect. The virtual reality metaphor in his book Inner Presence illustrates that there is some 'technology that mediates'° consciousness - phenomena are thus not self-presenting. In other words, phenomena are represented and not merely presented. A representation is something over and above a presentation.

° from the definition of virtual reality: the metaphor uses technology as an image for the brain that mediates consciousness

Ostracon (talk) 17:53, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

Hard to follow[edit]

I came into this article with no prior knowledge of the subject matter, I am not a student of Philosophy and I have no bias on the topic. But unfortunately I found this extremely hard to read.

I appreciate it is a complex subject matter, but there seems to have been an editorial assumption that the reader would have a certain level of knowledge. The language seems, at times, to be deliberately obtuse, large sections of the article read like original research, and there are some strangely unencyclopedic nuggets: [On Howard Robinson] "His books are characterized by the thoroughness with which he deals with the arguments of opposing philosophers, thus setting a professional example that it would be well for his opponents to follow."

The best way of describing it is that it felt like I had stumbled into a room of intellectuals arguing, before quietly sneaking out again. This isn't a very good attempt at deconstructing the subject matter and explaining it to the layman... which is kind of the point. There are presumably other places ( gets a regular mention) where the deeper arguments can be made.

I've read some fantastically well-written articles in the Philosphy portal on Wikipedia; this isn't one of them.

Just putting it out there, take it or leave it. (talk) 09:45, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

I completely agree - there's a sentence which reads "...pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, as it were", and the article is full of these odd phrases and a rather low density of citations. It's also incredibly long - surely it should be broken up into sub-articles? Look at the articles on rhetoric for an example of the kind of thing I mean. I don't know this topic or this article's history, so I don't feel able to make such sweeping changes by myself. 7daysahead (talk) 22:02, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Scientific consensus and peacocks[edit]

Scientific consensus is established in the scientific community. It is established by scientists. Canonizer does not reflect the views of scientists - anyone can sign up. It is therefore not a reliable source (WP:RS) for scientific consensus. Furthermore, scientific consensus applies to science and not scientists in particular. The article should avoid WP:PEACOCK through the comparison between philosophers/scientists.

Finally, the biographical approach to qualia confuses the reader. It would be more eloquent, for example, to contrast classical views on qualia with the contemporary philosophical debate or to rearrange the presentation of personae into a presentation of views. The section on the views of various proponents and critics is unduly large. The proportion between views listed by authors to the rest of the text is approximately 1:1. At the most, it should be 1:4.

IMHO, given the state of the article, this article stays at C-level - at the most.

Ostracon (talk) 17:02, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

Your opinion being expressed here is based on ignorance and mistakes about what is, and how it works. People have made similar mistakes and misunderstanding before on this and other articles (see previous discussion on this talk page where such editors as Jw2035, once had similar, yet much more well documented misunderstandings.) All the information on all articles have been consolidated in one open survey topic at here. Please review this information, so you don't make so many mistakes, and if you still hold this opinion, you are welcome to be the first that creates a camp supporting and expressing such on that topic, as a competitor to the still unanimous camp that believes is appropriate and trusted source in some cases.
Here are just two examples of the many mistakes you are making revealing your ignorance on this topic:
"Canonizer does not reflect the views of scientists - anyone can sign up." It is true that anyone can sign up, and the default canonizer is based on any one person - one vote. This shows the 'consensus' according to the general population - a very important thing to know. And you can also select the Mind Experts canonizer algorithm on the side bar which first shows who is accepted as the scientific community by their peers, and rigorously shows, quantitatively, which 'theories' are most well accepted by all the ranked experts participating. There is no more trusted and definitive source or measure of scientific consensus, than the methods and open survey systems being developed by the experts in this field at
"The article should avoid WP:PEACOCK through the comparison between philosophers/scientists." You, yourself, mentioned that scientific consensus is established in the scientific community, by scientists." The peer ranking processes at are just doing exactly this - rigorously determining who are these 'scientists' as accepted by their peers in this scientific community.
Many experts believe there is a clear scientific consensus, amongst real experts in the real theoretical expert community on coconsciousness. The consensus is that people like Daniell Dennet are making obvious critical mistakes in their thinking - and that they should not be considered experts. But of course, everyone can doulbt what I've just said, because nobody, before the canonizer, has had the ability to put real rigorous scientific open survey measurement techniques to the task of really measuring scientific consensus. The goal of, is to prove (or disprove) the above claims rigorously and quantitatively, in a way that people of all points of view must accept as accurate and definitive. Brent.Allsop (talk) 20:49, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
Editors of Qualia,
First, I must apologize for coming across as ignorant. Admittedly, I did not provide any elaborate argument for my opinion. I was mildly aware of there being reverted edits due to a discussion in this context, which is why I opted for the talk page, rather than bold editing. I have now reviewed the information suggested for reading and hope that by doing so any accusations of me being ignorant are swiped away. I do not claim to be free of making misstakes, but when there is a call for documentation I hope I am doing my best to provide it. Despite the information presented to me, the position I am arguing for still holds for reasons to be presented.
In a population there are experts and non-experts. Anyone participating at canonizer is either an expert or not an expert. The probability that a group has an expert is 1:2 or 50% chance. The probability that a group has two experts is 4:1 or 25% chance. It is reasonable to assume that a consensus would require a large group. The larger the group, the lesser the probability that all members are experts. Furthermore, assume that an expert has 100% chance to create a camp for an expert, whereas a non-expert has a chance of 50% to select an expert and 50% to select a non-expert. In a group of eight people our model predicts that half would be experts and half would be non-experts, thus 4 experts and 4 non-experts. The experts choose their camps - selecting 4 experts - and the non-experts choose their camps - selecting 2 experts and 2 non-experts. In a group of 8 our model predicts that there would be 6 (4+2) expert camps and 2 non-expert camps. The probability that a non-expert camp would be selected over an expert camp is 2:6 or 1:3. Our model predicts that every third time a final vote (per group) is cast a non-expert is chosen over an expert. Few scientists would be satisfied with being 67% right. The certitude required for a scientifically valid conclusion on who is an expert has not been met.
Now, given the more sophisticated Mind Expert algorithm (as it is described here) the probability would turn out like this:
First drawing (by the selecting population): Experts 50%, Non-Experts 50% (of the selected population).
Second drawing (by the selected samples): 75% Experts (Experts choice 50% + Non-experts choice 25%), 25% Non-experts (Non-experts choice).
The minds behind the Mind Expert algorithm should be applauded for reducing the probability from 1:3 to 1:4. However, 75% is still not enough for a method to be deemed 1) "scientific" and 2) "rigorous". (1) If someone by the word scientific refers to the opinion of experts, the reasoning above suggests that only half of the opinions may come from experts. (2) A consensus is defined as an "agreement in the judgement or opinion reached by a group as a whole" [5]. Consensus is not 75 people voting for one option with 25 people disagreeing and voting for another. First when juries or democratic constellations fail to reach a consensus they vote. A majority vote is not equivalent to consensus.
If the reasoning above holds, there is reason to consider canonizer a non-scientific and non-rigorous application, but right in 75 times out of 100.
Ostracon (talk) 23:22, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
Hi Ostracon. Thank you for taking the time to become much more of an expert on this topic, and for making these much more informed arguments. These types of improving arguments are being spread over talk pages on many still controversial articles in Wikipedia. We need not pollute all topics with this kind of repetitive meta discussion. For this reason, and for the sake of others having similar discussions on other pages, I've duplicated your argument here in the forum on this topic at And I've also included my reply on that same thread. If, after reading my reply, and after further thought, you are still convinced that there is value in what you are saying, you are of course welcome to put your reputation on the line, create and support a new competing camp to the so far unanimous consensus camp where you can see if anyone else agrees with you, and how many, and who, compared to the current consensus camp. Brent.Allsop (talk) 20:09, 13 September 2009 (UTC)
Opinion - whether thrue or false - is unjustified belief. Through mere opinion it is not possible to make a claim to knowledge. Science is driven forward by the accumulation of knowledge, not unjustified opinion. I stand by my opinion. I do this because I am able to justify it. I do this without resorting to the opinions of others. I am willing to listen what others have to say, and I accept the review of my peers. However, I urge you not to make any claims about the reputation of others in the quest for knowledge. Let us trust people to reach their own conclusions, whether they appreciate the output of a prominent figure or not. Brent Allsop, I emphatize deeply with your quest for reaching certainty. You're on the right path, but with the wrong set of tools. Sincerely, Ostracon (talk) 19:57, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

3rd opinion. The material Brent keeps adding is full of WP:PEACOCKing and should be rewritten or removed. I see nothing on this talk page which justifies the recent re-addition as per the edit summary 1Z (talk) 08:30, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

Hi Ostercon. Thanks for continuing this discussion. I appreciate the help to better understand. It's always surprising to me how many otherwise intelligent people make this kind of error, and jump to a completely mistaken assumption about the purposes and goals of Nobody is making any 'claim to knowledge' through opinion. As I said before, before Einstein, all the experts, and most everyone else was in one camp. After Einstein, everyone converted to a different camp. And in the future, several more scientific revolutions could continue this process with just about everything we know. And this process is just getting started with the most well accepted theories of consciousness, with many theories waxing and waning in the amount of acceptance they have, as we progress.. is NOT seeking to tell anyone which of these waxing or waning theories is correct. All is, is an attempt to as rigorously and rationally as possible, to measure this process as definitively as possible, and to hopefully, thereby, increase the speed of such revolutions within the experts, and to fully communicate such to everyone else, in concise and consistent (canonized) terminology, as fast and as justified as possible.
Also, evidently you place no value in knowing how much of an expert anyone might be? Most people do value the opinion of recognized experts in scientific fields vs lay people that haven't a clue. I, also, am not in the camp that so far has the most scientific consensus. This camp is the one argued for by Chalmers: qualia arise from anything that is functionally equivalent. I, instead am in the lesser well accepted Nature has Ineffable Phenomenal Properties camp. But, yet again, you are missing a critical purpose of an open survey like this. A critically important goal is to know concisely and quantitatively what everyone else thinks. Of all the camps different than our own, spending time on the ones that are more well accepted by recognized experts would certainly be more productive than spending significant amount of time on the thousands of theories that only a few lesser experts believe in. Before we started, I knew what I believed, but I had no idea there was as much consensus as there is for the David Chalmers camp.
Hi Brent Allsop,
First a note: Between the lines you are calling me and others non-intelligent on this issue. Before we continue, could you please stop making such ad hominem arguments, so we can consider your arguments for the current case without being subject to belittlement? Given the unfortunate circumstance that you think I'm lacking the capacity to evaluate your claims, I could stop here to prove that you are right. But because at the same time you seem to welcome a discussion, the best I can do is to assume that you made a minor mistake - I will thus ignore your argument ad personam and I will try not to take offense.
If the purpose of Canonizer is to accelerate scientific revolutions, by providing an estimation of a parameter (a statistic) for comparisons between groups as an incentive for scientists to side with one or the other, Canonizer would have to follow statistical protocol in order to make the claim:
  • "The method of Canonizer is rigourous"
Statistical protocol demands that several assumptions be fullfilled or accounted for, for example:
  • Reliability
  • Validity
  • Construct validity
  • Instrumental validity
  • Sensitivity
  • Replicability
Canonizer is lacking in addressing these issues; Canonizer is not following statistical protocol. Thus
  • "The method of Canonizer is not rigourous"
Furthermore, "consensus" is a population parameter as it reflects the opinion of the whole population (for example all scientists). Population parameters can be estimated, but a consensus is not the same as an estimate of a consensus. Thus
  • "Canonizer provides estimates of consensus"
is true, but
  • "Canonizer provides consensus"
is false.
If proponents of Canonizer can provide that Canonizer is following statistical protocol, I might change my opinion on Canonizer. At the time being, the aims of Canonizer do not seem to converge with the current utility of Canonizer. Notwithstanding, Canonizer is an interesting project.
Finally, there are further assumptions that can be reflected upon, which however are not relevant to the discussion at hand, except perhaps that they might inspire arguments for Canonizer's proponents claim to rationality. For example, does an increased awareness of what scientific camp is receiving "the most scientific consensus" accelerate scientific revolutions? Is a forced acceleration of scientific revolutions of benefit for mankind?
If Brent Allsop still judges this to be an unintelligent response - by means of justification that are acceptable to me - I will drop my claim to intelligence on this matter. But then again, basic knowledge of statistics and the philosophy of Thomas Kuhn may not be sufficient to grasp the purpose of Canonizer. In that case, could Brent Allsop please point me in the right direction, or is enlightenment reserved for a few - dare I say experts?
Ostracon (talk) 10:46, 20 September 2009 (UTC)
I have noticed that Brent appears in other forums as a proponent of Canonizer. It is particularly unfortunate, as consensus is NOT science, and Canonizer has built in biases which stop it being of any use at all. — Preceding unsigned comment added by RayTayMiht (talkcontribs) 08:49, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Other issues section full of errors[edit]

The current "Other issues" section is full of errors. I propose the entire section be removed. Is there anyone out there willing to understand these issues enough to second this proposal? Or object to it?

Here are just a few obvious errors to start:

  • "Qualia are unobservable in others and unquantifiable in us": The simple fact that there are the basic primary and secondary colors reliably quantifies, compares, and maps our color qualia "in us". Also there is the notion of 'effing' the ineffable (as in "oh THAT is what salt tastes like") being developed and supported in the Consciousness is representational and real camp and which was initially proposed by Ramachandran as being achieved by connecting two brains with a 'cable made of neurons' in their Three Laws of Qualia paper.
  • "this in turn would imply that qualia can be detected by an external agency through their causal powers": If the theory described in the Nature Has Ineffable Phenomenal Properties camp is true then qualia can, indeed, be detected by an external agency. The idea is that there is something in our brain that reliably has a red phenomenal property, and something in our brain that reliably has a green phenomenal property. The theory predicts that these elements will always reliably have these same phenomenal red and green properties - and that whenever you see them in similar states in other brains, other brains will be reliably experiencing red and green. So, until you ground such abstract knowledge via effing the ineffable, you will still know when true 'red' exists in another's brain simply by objectively observing the neural correlate that reliably has red in all brains.
  • "If sensations are defined as 'raw feels', there arises a palpable threat to the reliability of knowledge.": It is true that we are still behind a 'veil of perception', at least as far as knowing the phenomenal qualities. But, the Corpus callosum clearly pierces this 'veil', as we can be aware of phenomenal red in one hemisphere, and phenomenal green in the other - all at the same time. This is proof of the theory that we will be able to connect multiple brains with similar connections and do things like share things like what salt tastes like. Also, just because we don't YET fully know what the world beyond this veil is phenomenally like, in no way jeopardizes our sharable and scientifically reproducible abstract knowledge of how the world behaves and it's reliable causes and effects.

Brent.Allsop (talk) 20:25, 13 September 2009 (UTC)

Your objections are OR. Admittedly, the section could be much better sources, but adding OR to OR is not helping. 1Z (talk) 08:32, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

Note that the section on Epistemological Issues was written by Edmund Wright. 1Z (talk) 09:05, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

Limits of Natural Science[edit]

I want to remove this section.1Z (talk) 15:43, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

I also think that the section should be removed. It does not contain any references, and it is only tangentially relevant: It touches on the subjects of indeterminacy and epistemology - but these subjects have been handled adequately in other sections. --MichalisS (talk) 15:08, 18 March 2010 (UTC)


I have added a bit on Schrödinger's views in favor of the existence of qualia. He isn't generally regarded as a philosopher, but he was deeply involved in the study of color and visual qualia. His scientific perspective might be a useful addition. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:28, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

Redirect from Subject experience[edit]

The intro paragraph as of the time of this writing indicates that the existence of Qualia is disputed. The redirect from Subjective experience is improper because it is not a philosophical POV advocated by some recent thinkers. It seems to me a short general article is in order that surveys treatments of the subjective experience by various thinkers. Or perhaps there may be a section of some other article that does this. If no one has any comment, I shall do something to address this weakness. Phlox (wikia) (talk) 00:46, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure I follow. I think there's universal agreement that subjective experiences exist, but qualia are (usually) defined as having a few more attributes. Primarily, they are these experiences as considered in isolation. A behaviorist would deny that such isolation is possible, that there can be something like "what it's like" without being grounded in behavior. I'm not particularly endorsing this view, but I believe my summary is nonetheless accurate. Dylan Flaherty (talk) 20:02, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

What is this?!![edit]

"Similarly, Dennett proposes, it is perfectly, logically possible that the quale of what it is like to see red could eventually be described in an English-language description of millions or billions of words." Why in otherwise well written article we see such a bullshit?!! Sorry... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:46, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

I'm not exactly in complete agreement with Dennett, but this is precisely what he claims. Essentially, he's paraphrasing Stalin: "Quantity has a quality all of its own." I wonder if he's drawn this connection. Dylan Flaherty (talk) 20:00, 17 October 2010 (UTC)


I suggest the article should say something about Wittgenstein and his various writings related to this topic, e.g. the private language argument, "Bring me a red flower", etc. Ben Finn (talk) 15:36, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

First sentence seems wrong to me[edit]

The first sentence currently says: "a term used in philosophy to describe the subjective quality of conscious experience".

But shouldn't it be: "a term used in philosophy to describe subjective conscious experiences"?

A quale (such as the redness of a rose) is an experience, right? A quale is not the subjective property of the experience; it is the experience, right?

I'm going to change this unless you all think I am completely wrong. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 08:00, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

 Done. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 12:05, 8 May 2011 (UTC)

Brain cloning[edit]

I think this is sort of relevant to Qualia, I apologize if it isn't

I have to ask all of you a question, though:

Say there was a machine that was capable of copying every little bit of information about someones brain onto a computer, with 100% accuracy (by the atom) and a machine also existed to re-create the brain that was originally scanned, also with 100% accuracy, would they be the "same" person? I am talking in terms of experience only, I'm almost sure they will act completely the same as the original brain and have the same memories, but will it be the same experiencer? Surely it can't be because that means there would be 1 experiencer in two different brains simultaneously (I never said the original brain was killed before the new brain was created).

Let's just say the original brain IS killed and then the brain is re-created, it still doesn't make sense for the experiencer to be the same as the original brain (that would mean that the "experiencer" somehow knows the difference between the original brain being dead and not being dead and knows if it should "transfer" itself to the new brain or not). This means that the experiencer must be separate from the brain somehow.

If you don't understand what I mean by "experiencer", think of it like this:

Say all of your body (except your brain) was dying and you wanted to enjoy (experience) life for longer and didn't want to die, you would have your brain copied, commit suicide and have your brain re-created, if the the new brain had a DIFFERENT experiencer, re-creating your brain would have been pointless in terms of keeping "you" alive because you will not actually experience the new life, it will just be someone who is exactly identical to you. They will have the same personality, skills and memory and ultimately, think they are you.

Hopefully this has given you a better understand of what I meant by experiencer.

What's your opinion on this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:47, 8 May 2011 (UTC)

Well, questions like that do motivate discussions of qualia, but WP is WP:NOT the proper venue to start a discussion (except as required for editing). Feel free to address specific concerns about the content of an article, (or to "bounce" an edit you'd like to make off its talk page first). See Digital physics, Computational theory of mind, Swampman, Automata, Soul, Artificial intelligence, Problem of universals, Simulated reality... with a little digging I think you'll find much food for thought.—Machine Elf 1735 23:23, 8 May 2011 (UTC)

Cooked qualia[edit]

The original contributor who added this phrase (thanks, Wikiblame) acknowledged that he was coining a metaphor, and I have failed to find any other source. Removed as WP:NOR. --Old Moonraker (talk) 23:13, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Qualia are nothing but phenomena[edit]

If we follow Plato and I. Kant, then Qualia are nothing else but simply phenomena! That there emerged a need to create and use a new term is IMO due to the fact that most people do not know the true nature of phenomena, but take them as valid objective universals and not as subjective experiences. We live in a phenomenal world that is created in our brain by interpreting raw neural data taking previous experiences into account, building a 'best guess' fantasy world, a 'Matrix' ;) . Mental disease, like schizophrenia, happen when the guessing mechanism is not working properly, like during dreams. (Actually, I wonder about the hypothesis that at least some forms of schizophrenia might be due to a pathological drift into 'dream-mode'). Easy test to prove: just touch your eye in a corner with a finger and you will have a sensation of light (phosphene). Now, is your finger creating photons in your eye? No, it isn't, the sensation of light is due to the mechanical stimulation of retina cells. So, the term qualia is superfluous, but might have didactic uses when introducing the nature of phenomena.

Why is it impossible to find 'qualia' in the brain? If we look into the brain, we won't find colours, sounds or tastes. Why is that? A very *simplified* model of perception can show why:

Let n.1 o n.2 o n.3 o ... n.x be a causal chain of noumena and similarly let p.1 * p.2 * p.3 * ... p.x be a perceived causal chain of noumena (->phenomena).

Then we could describe a perfect perception by this relation:

P: n.1 o n.2 o n.3 o ... n.x -> p.1 * p.2 * p.3 * ... p.x

If we suppose that certain noumena act together as a process to instantiate a phenomenon, then we have:

let p.a = n.x o n.y o n.z

Now, if we try to perceive the noumenal process, because of P we have:

P( n.x o n.y o n.z ) = p.x * p.y * p.z  != p.a what is *not* equal!

All we can perceive are the elements of the process as phenomena, but because the process cannot actually happen *in* our perceptions the related phenomenon will never appear. That is the solution of the so-called mind-body problem, a necessary consequence of perception.

Rainer Dickermann146.60.185.157 (talk) 10:55, 5 February 2012 (UTC)

Antti Revonsuo[edit]

The entire section on Antti Revonsuo is plagiarized from "The Case for Qualia", edited by Edmond Wright. You can tell because of the tone and because it says "John Smythies (see the next entry)", where Smythies has an essay in that book that follows Revonsuo's.

If someone wants to write something up about Revonsuo, particularly if it's short and clear, I do not oppose his inclusion in the list of proponents, although he's not all that important, either. For now, I removed the whole thing as plagiarism. (talk) 17:13, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

Recent changes[edit]

In addition to some constructive changes, a few formerly deleted passages were mistakenly restored. I fixed this, but if anyone is wondering why, here's your chance to ask. I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 07:01, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

The red square image in Definitions[edit]

Hi, this square is not red enough. It looks decidedly orange. Can somebody with more skills change it to a redder square.RayTayMiht (talk) 06:40, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Oh, the irony. I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 07:11, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Reference to number of qualia colours.[edit]

Does anybody know where I can find a reference to how many colour qualias there are. It is normally said "The human eye is capable of discriminating among as many as ten million colors." A refererence would help a lot. Thank you.RayTayMiht (talk) 06:45, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

There are no color qualias because qualia don't exist. I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 07:10, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Suggested removal of Schrodinger[edit]

Hi, I plan to remove Schrodinger as a supporter of qualia. The entries given clearly suggest to me that he was in the against camp. If his words are that easy to interpret either way, they are probably not adding anything. Comments? RayTayMiht (talk) 07:29, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Yep, I've removed him from the category. I suggest not putting him into any camp until a source says something. IRWolfie- (talk) 09:22, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

No. I'm not sure how you've read him as being against qualia, but if you read the work he's been cited from, he's an advocate of Vedanta metaphysics, and views all of reality as fundamentally one consciousness. His view stated on the page is akin to Einstein's "science will not give you the taste of soup". Otherwise, metaphysically, he is explicitly committed to a view the workings of the organism are statistico-deterministic. This would seem to put him in precisely the same camp as David Chalmers [epiphenomenalism]. Here's a published source:

Otherwise, just read 'What is Life? (with Mind & Matter)'. He has a chapter dedicated to this called 'The Mystery of Sensual Qualities'. He explicitly states that experiential qualities do not feature in any objective representation of the world, and goes to quite substantial lengths to explain why this is [to do with the process of objectification; he remarks that we begin with sensual qualities (i.e. qualia), and from there abstract an objective picture of the world only by removing them from consideration. You are not going to find him using the word qualia, because 'qualia' wasn't part of common philosophical terminology when he wrote. Nonetheless, anyone educated in the philosophy of mind would appreciate there is no distinction between 'sensual qualities' and 'qualia'. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:08, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

Wikilinking inside quotes[edit]

With no disrespect at all towards Peterdjones, I have undone this edit, because wikilinks inside direct quotes are problematic for a number of reasons. The most important one here is that linking the word universals to the article problem of universals appears to imply that the author of the quote meant the word in that sense, and perhaps even that he was concerned about the ancient "problem" or was taking a position with respect to it. Which may, for all I know, all be true, but it isn't cited, and in general this sort of thing is too great a burden for a simple hyperlink to bear. If it is useful to link to the "universals" article, then there should be actual explanatory text that mentions it, not just a link.

The central guiding principle is that articles should have the same meaning whether one follows the links or not. --Trovatore (talk) 21:16, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

I can't think what else he might have had in mind. 1Z (talk) 12:13, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
If it's important enough to link to, then I think it's important enough to say something about. Can you write (sourceable) text, outside the quote, that says something about the connection to the problem of universals, and then link from that text rather than from the quote? --Trovatore (talk) 22:35, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
Given time,yes. There is a good paper on the qualia/universal relation out there. 1Z (talk) 10:20, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
Cool. I think that would be a nice addition. --Trovatore (talk) 10:39, 20 September 2012 (UTC)

The non-epistemic argument - confusing and too lengthy[edit]

While most of the article is well-written, this subsection is so confusing, lengthy and - well, sorry to say this - just boring -that I got too tired to read it to the end. Though I have a degree in philosophy, which is more than the average reader, I just had enough of this subsection in the middle of it.

I suggest to make it much shorter, with one clear main idea, and divide it to few sub-subsections. Dan Gluck (talk) 12:49, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

Well, I tried to focus on the unclear sentences by tagging them as "vague" or "needs clarification", but from a certain point almost every sentence is like that. I heavily suspect original research here, for example the connection between the statements regarding qualia and Ernst von Glasersfeld's work. However since the text is so unclear and lacks reasonable style, it is hard for me to verify whether it is original research. Dan Gluck (talk) 19:24, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

I completely agree with you. The subsection is confusing, lengthy, and a violation of Wikipedia: No Original Research. --David Ludwig (talk) 22:55, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

Cultural aspects of qualia[edit]

It would seem that an individual could have some qualia that are a function of their education or culture or experience. Besides a dependence on culture, the experience of a particular qualium (?) may change with events. So the experience of having 'free will' (the intuition or feeling, not the academic issues surrounding it) may change if one leaves a particular religion, or if one goes through recovery from addiction, or if one meets a persuasive proponent of reductionism. This aspect of qualia seems unrepresented in this article. Brews ohare (talk) 19:45, 19 March 2014 (UTC)

That's not about qualia, that's about Propositional_attitude(s). The experience of perceiving you have free will is very different from what it is to (allegedly) perceive the taste of an orange and so on. One is about describing a belief about and the other is about what it is like to be experiencing.
                                                 -- That Guy, From That Show! 07:17, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

Qualia, Being Human, and the Turing Test[edit]

If qualia are real, then there are likely states of mind which are unique to an individual. Quirky, novel, original, humorous, or otherwise idiosyncratic material would be the best evidence of such states, and would mark the difference not only between a human and a zombie, but between a human and a computer program. Some of the results of the most serious attempts at Turing tests have shown outcomes largely determined by the "quirkiness" of the winner's responses, even when the winner was actually a program! Do any of the formal discussions of qualia approach this view? -- TheLastWordSword (talk) 17:59, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

I haven't read the article but it seems to me it would be hard for me to read[edit]

Ben. Ben-Yeudith (talk) 14:53, 7 August 2015 (UTC)

Some comments[edit]

Not sure if relevant since I'm no philosopher, but:

  • The inverted spectrum: "we find that for some unknown reason all the colors in the world have been inverted". A bit confusing, this seems to describe (a variant of) the "inverted earth" scenario (where people are transported to an inverted world). Perhaps it should explicitly mention that the change is in the qualia.
  • Critics of qualia: Paul Churchland: There's no actual criticism of qualia, it only addresses a flaw in the specific setup of the experiment. He's saying it won't work for color perception, because the necessary neural structures needed for color vision can't develop without exposure to those colors. It's a valid objection, but (imo) without consequence because it's trival to fix, for example: replace "seeing the color red" with "smelling the odor some_odor"; the olfactory system can perceive and differentiate an enormous number of smells, it doesn't require previous acqaintance.
Churchland's views on (criticism of) qualia would be welcome.
  • J. B. Maund: Too much text for a simple television analogy. No displays called "Movitype" found (typo?), just say digital billboard.
Seems a bit of the analogy is missing: images = qualia ; print-out = ??
  • Epistemological issues: "Nor is it satisfactory to print a little red square as at the top of the article, for..." ?? No idea what that refers to... Ssscienccce (talk) 21:57, 9 September 2015 (UTC)