X-Message-Number: 25096
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 16:51:37 -0800
Subject: The Qualia Experiencer (to Michael)
From: <>

Dear Michael,

You wrote:

"There is no qualia experiencer. There is no separation between the 
events defined as an experience and the body-mind in which those 
events take place."

I personally have never claimed a separation. In my view, the 
brain, a purely physical thing, experiences qualia.

You wrote:

"Your metaphysics is purely speculative and without solid 
foundation. The philosophers who argue in favor of qualia should 
read Daniel Dennett's devastating counterarguments which I, and 
many others, find irrefutable."

As David Chalmers has pointed out on many an occassion, Dennett 
merely redefines consciousness and ignores the issue of 
subjectivity altogether. That doesn't mean his works are useless, 
it just means he doesn't address the same issue that others are 
interested in.

Now you cannot tell me qualia do not exist, because in order to 
make that statement, you have to know what qualia are---which means 
they do exist, since by their very nature they are a subjective 
thing that can no more be described than the emotion of 'love'. 
Otherwise, the best you can say is, 'I don't understand what you're 
talking about.'

Well, firstly, I wouldn't believe this if you told me, since I'm 
pretty sure you have a subjective inner life just like me, one 
replete with experience of all kinds, from colors, sounds, touches, 
to anger, happiness, love, sadness, to time- and self-awareness and 
beyond. These are what we call qualia.

You can deny qualia are metaphysical, but you can't deny they 
exist. Nor can you assert they are numerically identical to the 
physical world, since otherwise, you couldn't be mistaken about the 
nature of the world (you would already know how the brain operated, 
exactly), yet solipsism clearly allows for the possibility you are 
mistaken about everything, except one thing---that you experience. 

Second, if I were to believe you, that you can't make sense of the 
statements, 'I experience qualia,' or 'Qualia exist,' then I would 
just have to say, we'll, maybe you *don't* experience them, but 
Chalmers and I do. Maybe zombies really do exist...and they are 
you. If I really believed this I would have no more qualms killing 
you than smashing a bicycle. So count it as a good thing I don't.

But this is all going outside where I really want to take the 
conversation. My arguments against uploading apply to your 
worldview as long as you grant that (1) you have conscious 
experience, and (2) your experience is a property of the physical 
stuff residing in your head, not some metaphysical 'essence' 
capable of transferring from one 'host' to another 'host'.


You wrote:

"If the person is the activity of the brain, then by definition 
that person will exist whenever that brain is operating within 
standard parameters."

In my view, essential person is the neural circuits responsible for 
conscious experience. Nothing supernatural about that. Since you're 
actually replying to Francois, and not me, let me say I in no way 
support Francois' view of the self. Nor the view that mind 
uploaders take, which I believe is fundamentally metaphysical.

A good cryonic suspension is guaranteed to preserve the self, since 
the self is what's being preserved (the brain, or some sufficient 
subset thereof).

Best Regards,

Richard B. R.

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