Definitions[ edit ] The "redness" of red is a commonly used example of a quale. There are many definitions of qualia, which have changed over time. The way it feels to have mental states such as pain, seeing red, smelling a rose, etc. 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. 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.
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Dennett does not intend to fully deny conscious experience outright; and insofar as everything real has properties — he does not want to deny that consciousness has properties. However, Dennett does want to say that qualia itself does not have the special properties philosophers normally attribute to it: namely, being ineffable, private, intrinsic, and directly apprehensible through consciousness. He believes that philosophers are intuitively misguided in these assumptions.
Commonly, qualia are described as ineffable insofar as we tend to think of our experience as defying expression or description in language. It is largely due to ineffability that qualia are thought to be private. Because we are not able to fully express our phenomenal experience, it becomes impossible for interpersonal comparison.
Moreover, it seems that each of us has privileged access to our qualia — a first person perspective that no one else can experience quite like we do. Qualia are believed to be directly apprehensible through consciousness in that we seem to have the power to reflect on our experience, and in doing so — amplify the qualia.
Perhaps most importantly, Dennett wants to deny the existence of qualia because it is often seen as the biggest threat and last defense against functionalism, or more generally materialism, and as he says, any third person objective approach to the world. As a naturalist philosopher, Daniel Dennett wants to explain conscious entirely in terms of the physical and finds that talk of qualia inherently lends itself to unnecessary confusions Dennett uses a serious of intuition pumps in hopes to show that our theories about qualia are misguided.
Specifically, he wants to show that the four properties he attributes to qualia are confusions — and in that no such feature of consciousness has all of these properties, there must then be no qualia at all. Dennett attempts to show that upon reflecting on our actual experience, there really is nothing phenomenally concrete as to which we can accurately label qualia.
As a functionalist, he wants to say that there are no qualia but rather just the functional roles our experiences play. Of this, he says that we falsely assume that beyond this causal system, there are some qualia to be isolated and compared. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on what seems to me to be the two most compelling intuition pumps, which illustrate that our common ideas of qualia are confusions.
Dennett uses the Sanborne-Chase intuition pump to illustrate just how little first-person understanding we actually have of qualia. Both Sanborne and Chase are coffee tasters who at one time loved the taste of a particular coffee, but now no longer enjoy the flavor of that same coffee. Sanborne says that the flavor is the same, but his judgment of it has changed. Chase says the opposite, namely the flavor has changed, but his judgment has remained the same.
Clearly only one of the tasters is right, if the coffee itself has remained consistent. There then must be a forced choice, as to whether the quale has changed or the judgment has changed. Neither man can be sure of which is the actual case and insofar as he is unsure, it appears that the theoretical assumption of privileged-access is false.
Both of these men, upon reflecting on their experience, seem to be analyzing it objectively rather than introspectively and at best guessing which shift has occurred within him. Thus, there must be no qualia. Dennett uses another intuition pump to show that the assumption that qualia are intrinsic is completely unfounded.
People often talk about beer as if it were an acquired taste. The very enjoyment of the experiment should guarantee the taste is no longer the same as the first sip, claims Dennett. So it seems that our very liking of the beer has changed its flavor from the first sip to the most recent sip. But insofar as our reaction or experience itself results in a change in quale of beer namely the flavor , qualia must not be intrinsic, but rather relational.
Therefore, there must be no qualia. Dennett claims to appeal to gustatory experience because he says color-vision is extremely complex and delicate. We are also more comfortable with interpersonal comparisons in flavor, where as it becomes more confusing in comparing our visual experiences. People often compare their likes or dislikes of foods with others, but rarely compare their color experiences.
Also, we often notice intrapersonal shifts in our gustatory experience. That is, we can remember times we disliked food we now love, and vice versa such as in the Sanborne-Chase example. If there are intrapersonal changes in our color experience, it is far more gradual and nearly imperceptible for most people.
Dennett, perhaps less explicitly, chooses to discuss flavor experience because it preserves his functional approach to qualia more intuitively than color. Dennett wants to say that there is no intrinsic property of qualia.
Qualia, as it were, are merely experiences that play a particular functional role, generating some behavioral output as a response to some input. Thus, cauliflower-quale have no intrinsic flavor.
This point is not as easily demonstrated if at all with color experience — making flavor a better choice for Dennett. The question is whether the functionalist can then extend his claims about qualia based on taste to color experience. Dennett claims that the evidential power of neurophysiology is vastly limited in examining subjective experience.
Obviously the invert will not know which is the case. Dennett says that the physiological tests, despite of how well developed, will fail to distinguish on which side of memory the qualia lay. The brain does not function in a clearly linear way that makes it possible to pinpoint where any such inversion may take place. The neurophysiologists may have reason for preferring one alternative to the other qualia inversion to memory inversion , but this will only be to support their own theoretical claims about qualia.
Dennett should want to say that this confusion is due to conceiving qualia as having some special, intrinsic nature that can be isolated from our behavioral dispositions. It seems to me that Dennett has made some philosophical progress, at least in showing that qualia do not pose a serious threat for the materialist advocates of consciousness.
However, while Dennett has defended functionalism, he has not succeeded in his second goal of proposing computational functionalism is valid. The biological functionalist, who approaches most of consciousness from functionalism, should not be convinced that functionalism is the correct approach to qualia.
While Dennett has shown that qualia are not quite the special properties they were once thought to be, it still is not clear that qualia can be reduced entirely to their functional roles and thus realized on any functionally similar system. The biological functionalist should want to say that conscious experience, namely the experience of qualia, is dependent on our biological structures our brain system.
Dennett, Daniel C. In: Marcel, A. Quining Qualia in A. Marcel and E. Reprinted in W. Lycan, ed. Goldman, ed.
Dennett does not intend to fully deny conscious experience outright; and insofar as everything real has properties — he does not want to deny that consciousness has properties. However, Dennett does want to say that qualia itself does not have the special properties philosophers normally attribute to it: namely, being ineffable, private, intrinsic, and directly apprehensible through consciousness. He believes that philosophers are intuitively misguided in these assumptions. Commonly, qualia are described as ineffable insofar as we tend to think of our experience as defying expression or description in language. It is largely due to ineffability that qualia are thought to be private. Because we are not able to fully express our phenomenal experience, it becomes impossible for interpersonal comparison.