Re: qualia, once and for all

From: Sebastian Hagen (
Date: Tue Jun 22 2004 - 21:47:41 MDT

Metaqualia wrote:

> What reasons do you have to ignore such immediate and undeniable empirical
> data as qualia?
I'm not really ignoring them, but I don't see any reason to give them special
treatment over other data either, or to assume that they have any direct
connection to morality.

> With regards to your claim that transhuman mary would not learn anything new
> by going out of the room, that would seem to imply that seeing a new color
> for a regular person implies learning new and very precise physics. How do
> you respond to this?
It wasn't my intention to imply this. The original hypothetical situation was
for mary to study the relevant phenomena, and for a single human-level mind to
come up with all parts of modern physics relevant for light would likely take
centuries, if not millenia - assuming they are motivated, don't have to spend
their time doing anything else - and, of course, don't die prematurely.
And even if she knew everything about light as a physical phenomenon: she might
not know everything about human perception, even on a strictly theoretical level.
Analyzing the reaction of humans to light of different frequencies can show that
humans are (usually) capable of detecting the frequency of light to a certain
For someone who doesn't have that knowledge to realize that they are capable of
detecting the frequencies of light (which can also be measured using other
methods) to a certain extent would provide strong empirical evidence for the
theory that (at least some) humans are capable of this.
Of course, one could get even better evidence by asking other humans about how
they see light, but barring that, one test subject is clearly better than zero.
Empirical data doesn't necessarily lead to better understanding (it needs to be
evaluated correctly for that to occur), but it is (limited) knowledge about (a
small part of) reality.

Sebastian Hagen

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