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Qualia, philosophy: qualia are the sensory-like correspondences to properties perceived on external objects or processes. Problems arise in connection with the explanation of their origin and their comparability between individuals. See also phenomena, sensory perception, sensations, perceptions, stimuli, qualities, subjectivity, intersubjectivity, objectivity, inverted spectra, consciousness.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Item Summary Meta data

David Chalmers on Qualia - Dictionary of Arguments

I 251
Qualia/Missing Qualia/ChalmersVsBlock: (Block 1978)(1) Thought experiments, in which system properties that reflect a human consciousness system in an economy or in the Chinese population are realized as a whole, have at most intuitive power. They are intended to show that such a system, in which an individual e.g. should stand for a neuron, as a whole system cannot develop a consciousness.
ChalmersVsBlock: just as intuitively, we argue, when we say that it is hardly credible that a piece of gray mass produces consciousness and yet it does!
We would not see any experiences in an economy as a whole, but we do not do that in the brain either!
I 252
Likewise, we can explain the functioning of the whole system in the case of the population as well as the brain, even without conscious experiences.
On the other hand, it would not in principle be ruled out that a corresponding organizational structure in a population as a whole would bring about conscious experience, but one would have to considerably increase the speed of the signal lines.
BlockVsVs: we know about neurons that can do the job, we do not know this of homunculi (that would be individuals in the population in the example).
I 253
Fading Qualia/VsChalmers: For example, suppose parts of the brain would be replaced by silicon chips (Pylyshyn 1980)(2), Savitt (1982)(3), Cuda (1985)(4), then it could be that Qualia faded or disappeared bit by bit.
I 254
ChalmersVsVs: If the individual chips get enough input information (and if they check somewhere) then it makes no difference and the qualia remain. Bit by bit, all neurons could be replaced by chips.
I 256
A being with weaker Qualia is systematically mistaken about everything it experiences. Things I perceive as different will be homogeneous for it. The being will nevertheless believe,...
I 257
...that it has these complex experiences that are actually missing him. It has lost contact with its experiences. This seems implausible.
Fading Qualia: are nevertheless logically possible.
I 261
ChalmersVsVs: it is reasonable to assume that no system can be misunderstood as to its experiences.
I 262
Invariance of the behavior/VsChalmers: could there be a system that is completely differently structured than me, but behaves the same as I do? Such a system would have to be conscious in the same way!
VsVs: On the other hand, Block's example of a huge display with all inputs and outputs is not surely conscious. (Block 1981). So something must be wrong with the argument.
ChalmersVsVs: 1. My argument does not apply to behaviourally equivalent systems. A perfect actor does not have to be of the same opinion as the person represented.
2. A thought experiment with equivalent behavior cannot be introduced bit by bit as with replacing neurons with electronic chips.
I 263
A system like this would be rational in any case.
I 266f
Def Dancing Qualia/Chalmers: Assuming that 10%, 20%, 30% ... of the brain are replaced by silicon chips, and the resulting Qualia may change rapidly between systematically weak or unsystematic, we do not care. There must only be two points A and B so that...
I 267
1. no more than 10% of the brain has been exchanged between A and B, and
2. A and B have significantly different experiences.
Problem: There may be some unnoticed differences between different experiences. (> Sorites/Chalmers).
Switch: we assume that I have a backup system of my brain and can switch back and forth from time to time.
I 268
After switching, I'll be like the new system - we call it Bill. He may have a blue instead of my red experience. I could even go back and forth, that would be the dancing qualia.
N.B.: when switching back and forth, I will not notice any difference!
I 269
A change or altered behavior would require a functional difference between the two systems, contrary to the stipulated (functional) isomorphism. Since this is not the case, I cannot acquire any new beliefs, such as, for example, "My qualia just jumped." If it were otherwise, we would have to accept a completely new, changed psychology and phenomenology.
N.B.: it could even be that our Qualia are actually constantly dancing in front of our eyes!
I 270
The only place where you could draw a principal line would be the functional level!
Solution/Chalmers: the only thing that prevents us from accepting the possibility of the dancing qualia in our own case is the following principle:
Principle: If someone's conscious experiences change significantly, one notices the change. ((s) Circular between "significant" and "noticeable"). If we neglect the principle, we have no longer any defense against skepticism.
I 271
VsChalmers: Objections refer to gaps in the argument about the perception history, speed, weak inversions,...
I 272
...unnoticed qualia, which for their part are interchanged, e.g. at the edge of the facial field,...
I 273
...multiple changes.
ChalmersVsVs: none of these arguments is critical for my argument.
Absent Qualia/Chalmers: absent qualia are extremely implausible, dancing and interchanged Qualia are even extremely implausible.
Functionalism: But this does not confirm functionalism in its strongest form (the thesis according to which the functional organization is constitutive for consciousness), since such qualia are not logically excluded.

1. N. Block, Troubles with functionalism. In: C. W. Savage (Ed) Perception and Cognition: Issues in the Foundatzion of Psychology. Minneapolis 1978. Reprinted in N. Block (Ed) Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol 1, Cambridge 1980.
2. Z. Pylyshyn, The "causal power" of machines. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3, 1980: pp. 442-44
3. S. Savitt, Searle's demon and the brain simulator reply. Behavioral and Brain Sciences5, 1982: pp. 342-43
4. T. Cuda, Against neural chauvinism. Philosophical Studies 48, 1985: pp. 111-27.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Cha I
D. Chalmers
The Conscious Mind Oxford New York 1996

Cha II
D. Chalmers
Constructing the World Oxford 2014

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-04-11
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