The Instigator
StreetLogician
Pro (for)
Winning
5 Points
The Contender
RationalMadman
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Daniel Dennett's arguments against qualia fail

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after 1 vote the winner is...
StreetLogician
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/22/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,853 times Debate No: 28521
Debate Rounds (5)
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Votes (1)

 

StreetLogician

Pro

Daniel Dennett has argued against qualia as he describes them in "Quining Qualia" and other books and articles. I will take the position that any arguments Dennett has made that the Con/Challenger picks, up to three to be presented in his first round, fail to produce a knock out punch for Qualia because his arguments invariably fail to consider any positions beyond spiritualism or eliminative materialism. These other positions accommodate his objections. Feel free to Google the terms.
RationalMadman

Con


  1. Whenever someone experiences something as being one way rather than another, this is true in virtue of some property of something happening in them at the time, but these properties are so unlike the properties traditionally imputed to consciousness that it would be grossly misleading to call any of them the long-sought qualia.

  2. Conscious experience has no properties that are special in any of the ways qualia have been supposed to be special.

  3. Theorists of the contrary persuasion have patiently and ingeniously knocked down all the arguments, and said most of the right things, but they have made a tactical error, I am claiming, of saying in one way or another: "We theorists can handle those qualia you talk about just fine; we will show that you are just slightly in error about the nature of qualia." What they ought to have said is: "What qualia?"

Debate Round No. 1
StreetLogician

Pro

What you have provided is a summary of his claims about qualia and his objective in his paper, but not his arguments against qualia. His arguments are almost always presented as thought experiments. I suggest you pick three of those.
RationalMadman

Con

You didn't even refute those ponts you whining baby.

Here are some thought experiments:
  1. The coffee-taster case. As Dennett argues, the idea or “intuition” that qualia exist is a robust one that dies hard. It is very natural for us to assume that there are such properties, just waiting to be discovered or understood. So Dennett uses another thought-experiment to soften up our assumptions about qualia. He asks us to imagine two coffee-tasters, Chase and Sanborn. Both are charged with ensuring that the taste of Maxwell House coffee is held to the same high standard over the years. But both eventually become dissatisfied with their job: they don’t like the way the coffee tastes anymore. But they have different interpretations of what has happened. Chase thinks the coffee tastes just the same as always – he is getting the same quale – but he just doesn’t enjoy that taste, that quale, anymore. Sanborn, by contrast, thinks the taste (the quale) itself has changed: where he used to get the taste of good coffee, now he’s getting another, different quale, one that he doesn’t enjoy.

    The problem for both Chase and Sanborn is: how much of the change in their judgments results from the qualia themselves, and how much from their judgments of them? If qualia are real, this question makes sense, and there is a real difference between Chase, whose qualia have stayed the same while his judgments have changed, and Sanborn, whose qualia themselves have changed. But according to Dennett, there is no real difference between the two cases. We could never tell, from any of their behavior, reactions, or judgments, which of the two are correct, or even which of the two are telling the truth. They are talking about a difference that makes no difference; and we ought accordingly to deny that there is any real difference between Chase and Sanborn. The whole idea that qualia themselves exist, independently of our actual judgments about colors, tastes, and the properties of things in the world, is a false and confused one.
  2. The Inverted Spectrum. In order to argue against the very idea of qualia, Dennett has to argue against the thoughts and thought-experiments that have made it seem convincing. One of the most prominent such thought-experiments is the idea of the inverted spectrum. When you look at the sky, it looks a particular way: you have the visual impression of blue. When you look at a fire engine, it looks a different way: you have the visual impression that you call “red.” Now, imagine someone whose spectrum is inverted. When they look at the sky, they get the visual impression that you get when you look at a fire engine; when they look at the fire engine, they get the visual impression you get when you look at the sky. It seems at first obvious that there could be someone whose spectrum is inverted in this way, and indeed that the person’s spectrum could be inverted from birth. If that were the case, though, there would be no way to detect it: for the inverted-spectrum person would use just the same words that we do. Seeing the fire engine – even though they have the visual impression or quale that we call “blue” – they would nevertheless call this visual impression or quale “red.” So even the inverted-spectrum person would behave in all respects just like we do.
I couldn't be bothered to find a third.



Debate Round No. 2
StreetLogician

Pro

I appologize to that family obligations kept me from responding earlier. This was rushed so I may not have phrased things quite right, but I think this give my opponent something to start on.

My opponent has chose two thought experiment from “Quining Qualia”. Daniel Dennett presents these thought experiment in an attempt to undermine the presumption of qualia. For the purposes of this discussion qualia are properties of experience that Dennett describes in Quining Qualia this way:


What is special about qualia? Traditional analyses suggest some fascinating second-order properties of these properties. First, since one cannot say to another, no matter how eloquent one is and no matter how cooperative and imaginative one's audience is, exactly what way one is currently seeing, tasting, smelling and so forth, qualia are ineffable--in fact the paradigm cases of ineffable items. According to tradition, at least part of the reason why qualia are ineffable is that they are intrinsic properties--which seems to imply inter alia that they are somehow atomic and unanalyzable. Since they are "simple" or "homogeneous" there is nothing to get hold of when trying to describe such a property to one unacquainted with the particular instance in question.
Moreover, verbal comparisons are not the only cross-checks ruled out. Any objective, physiological or "merely behavioral" test--such as those passed by the imaginary wine-tasting system-- would of necessity miss the target (one can plausibly argue), so all interpersonal comparisons of these ways-of-appearing are (apparently) systematically impossible. In other words, qualia are essentially private properties. And, finally, since they are properties of my experiences (they're not chopped liver, and they're not properties of, say, my cerebral blood flow--or haven't you been paying attention?), qualia are essentially directly accessible to the consciousness of their experiencer (whatever that means) or qualia are properties of one's experience with which one is intimately or directly acquainted (whatever that means) or "immediate phenomenological qualities" (Block, 1978) (whatever that means). They are, after all, the very properties the appreciation of which permits us to identify our conscious states. So, to summarize the tradition, qualia are supposed to be properties of a subject's mental states that are
(1) ineffable
(2) intrinsic
(3) private
(4) directly or immediately apprehensible in consciousness

After a very lengthy discussion about the consequences of his thought experiments he concludes:

So when we look one last time at our original characterization of qualia, as ineffable, intrinsic, private, directly apprehensible properties of experience, we find that there is nothing to fill the bill. In their place are relatively or practically ineffable public properties we can refer to indirectly via reference to our private property-detectors-- private only in the sense of idiosyncratic. And insofar as we wish to cling to our subjective authority about the occurrence within us of states of certain types or with certain properties, we can have some authority--not infallibility or incorrigibility, but something better than sheer guessing--but only if we restrict ourselves to relational, extrinsic properties like the power of certain internal states of ours to provoke acts of apparent re- identification. So contrary to what seems obvious at first blush, there simply are no qualia at all.So when we look one last time at our original characterization of qualia, as ineffable, intrinsic, private, directly apprehensible properties of experience, we find that there is nothing to fill the bill. In their place are relatively or practically ineffable public properties we can refer to indirectly via reference to our private property-detectors-- private only in the sense of idiosyncratic. And insofar as we wish to cling to our subjective authority about the occurrence within us of states of certain types or with certain properties, we can have some authority--not infallibility or incorrigibility, but something better than sheer guessing--but only if we restrict ourselves to relational, extrinsic properties like the power of certain internal states of ours to provoke acts of apparent re- identification. So contrary to what seems obvious at first blush, there simply are no qualia at all.

End of Dennett quotes

Dennett argues that these beliefs about qualia are inconsistent and we are massively mistaken about qualia. This leads him to argue for eliminative materialism.

I claim that this conclusion is a syllogism from a false dilemma.

1. Folk Psychology/Spiritualism or Eliminative Materialism
2. Not Folk Psychology/Spiritualism
Therefore, Eliminative Materialism (There are no qualia)

Note Dennett attributes our mistaken notions about qualia to Folk Psychology in “Quining Qualia” and in his book “Consciousness Explained” he presents the alternative to materialism as the version of dualism that is also known as Spiritualism. In spiritualism the personality survives death and the brain is little more than a pass through to the Cartesian Theatre where the spirit of a human being sits so to speak.

There are alternatives to Eliminative Materialism besides Folk Psychology/Spiritualism that Dennett does not consider that overcome his objections and preserve qualia in a meaningful way. It is important to explain how these views simultaneously overcome his objections and preserve qualia at this point. The claim I am going to make is that he is dead on that Folk Psychology/Spiritualism makes claims that are too strong, but Dennett also makes claims that are too strong. There are alternatives that allow qualia to exist as more than the abstract properties of abstract brain functions while at the same time acknowledging the significance of brain function in consciousness.

The alternative to both Spiritualism and Eliminative Materialism the I will consider is Physicist Henry Stapp’s Quantum Interactive Dualism. Do not be put off by the term dualism. This is consistent with the Von Neumann formulation of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (see http://www-physics.lbl.gov... ) . As such, it is consistent modern physics. It also provides a binding mechanism that can unify portions of the brain and so explain our consciousness of brain functions. This unification is through the growth of the wave function over time before its collapse. The brain state within the boundaries of this wave function collapse in the same instant. This wave function is something that is not individual particles performing an abstract function, but a single thing embodying and performing the function. The wave function collapse in this theory is an experience along the lines of Whitehead’s actual occasion of experience and its duration prior to the collapse and the collapse itself is a process ( see http://www-physics.lbl.gov... ). The properties of this actual occasion of experience are qualia and they have a correlation with brain state. They are indeed private as they exist only in the boundary of the wave function and they are ineffable as the process is not described in it entirety by physics, QM is not causally closed. It recognizes that the process that determines the outcome of the collapse lies outside it. They are properties of the wave function or process and are only partly determined, constained might be a better term, by relations between particles so it is fair to say that a component of them is intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic. They are directly apprehensible because they are properties of the process itself.

It is not necessary that you buy into Stapp’s theory, but it is an example of a host of alternatives that are not considered by Dennett that meet his criteria of qualia and avoid the problems brought out by his mind experiments.
RationalMadman

Con

My opponent failed to assert this micgal 'qualia' being hte truth as opposed to objectively decipherable reactions causing subjective experience.
Debate Round No. 3
StreetLogician

Pro

No one has denied that the brain has done work or that there is anything beyond Physics that Physics does not acknowledge. My opponents reaction is common because most people assume that Qualia = Spiritualism. This is false. For instance, Qualia could simply be what we have abstracted out of we think of as physical properties. In other words, they are the colors that runs out in the wash of abstraction. Physicists describe structure and dynamics with numbers so they describe all properties with numbers, vectors, and other mathematical constructs. That is adequate for the purpose they are used for, but that is not to say they describe the properties in their entirety. The belief that what stands behind these mathematically described properties is devoid of experiential content was stipulated by philosophers in the 16th century. A lot of what was believed then is no long believed. It is time we abandon this belief as well.

So why does an atheist like myself believe in qualia and that it can be naturalized? For one thing, there appears to be a logical problem with the identification of experiential features with the abstractions we think of a brain functions. This has been pointed out by logicians. The most prominent being Saul Kripke in his book "Naming and Necessity". A summary of his famous argument is presented here: http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu...

I believe that there is another problem. One that is more intuitively clear. That is that saying an experience is the performance of a function is to say it is an abstraction. We abstract from the consequences of masses of particles functions. But if abstractions are felt, they are real, not abstract. So if we want to account for them in a naturalistic way, we need to identify something that is real in the sense that particles are real, something recognized as fundamental by physicists, to an experience. And this thing must account for our beliefs about qualia and experiences. In Stapp"s theory that is one of the processes in Von Neuman"s formulation of QM. This is what decides the collapse of the wave function into particles. We believe that the mind does something. It is not epiphenomenal, in other words. It is also atomic, meaning indivisible, and accounts for the so called unity of mind. The fact that the wave function is over a region of the brain could account for why we experience some brain functions and not others. Those that are experienced fall within the boundaries of the region.

There is no appeal to magic here. I simply ask that you consider the "what if". Would things make more sense? Is this consistent with Physics? If so, this is a reasonable thing to believe.
RationalMadman

Con

fine you win i don't even care about this stupid qualia nonsense.
Debate Round No. 4
StreetLogician

Pro

My opponent has conceded defeat so I will leave it at that. If anyone is interested in debating topics related to consciousness I might be interested in a challenge.
RationalMadman

Con

The resolution is incorrect but my opponent is correctly incorrect.
Debate Round No. 5
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1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
StreetLogicianRationalMadmanTied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Con gave up.