Re: qualia, once and for all

From: Sebastian Hagen (
Date: Tue Jun 22 2004 - 11:42:46 MDT

Norm Wilson wrote:
> Sebastian Hagen wrote:
>>>[...]Subjectivity is important.[...]
>>That statement looks like a very good summary of your
>>basic assumptions that I see as unnecessary, unhelpful
>>and therefore to be avoided according to Occam's
> I have two basic objections here:
> 1. Using objective reasoning to eliminate subjectivity commits the logical fallacy of begging the question.
> 2. Subjectivity is important because it can never be fully removed from observations about reality.
Very good points. I agree after having read your explanations that my statement
is a fallacy. Subjectivity is definitely important in so far as it allows us to
collect data.
I do maintain my significantly weaker claim that one shouldn't assume that any
subjective experience has absolute moral relevance without good reason. Good
reason would for me be the ability to make better predictions about the future,
be it regarding this experience or any other.

> If our model of the world does not explain, imply, or at least leave room for
> our subjective experience, then the model should be revised. In short, any
> version of physics that does not explain that which is most obvious (e.g.,
> subjective experience) is obviously incomplete.
I completely agree. I am however still unconvinced that current physics doesn't
explain and can't predict qualia.

[from the following mail replying to the same post:]
>> Assuming that mary is a transhuman and therefore has
>> sufficient abilities to absorb all of current physics,
>> including everything we know about light, and all
>> present knowledge about evolution of lifeforms in
>> general and humans in particular, and that she actually
>> does absorb all of this knowledge before she leaves the
>> room, then no: she won't really learn anything new.
>Are you stating that transhuman Mary, having absorbed all of this knowledge,
>would experience a red quale before leaving the room?

Well, if she has the ability for safe and complete self-modification, detailed
scans of human brains, and an incentive to duplicate the subjective experience
that humans have when they perceive light with a certain wavelength.
She wouldn't need scans of human brains if she herself was programmed to create
color-qualia when evaluating visual input; she could get the same result by
simulating the results of light with a certain wavelength hitting her optical
If mary didn't have color-qualia-programming (before or after self-modification)
she wouldn't experience a 'redness' qualia even if she did perceive red light.

A transhuman not capable of sufficient self-modification but
color-qualia-programming may experience 'redness' when, and only when they
actually perceive red light. However, if they can at least understand their own
programming sufficiently well, they might be able predict the sensation without
having perceived it in the past. In this case, I don't think that they actually
gain any knowledge by perceiving the qualia.

Sebastian Hagen

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