Re: Objective versus subjective reality: which is primary?

From: Martin Striz (
Date: Wed Jul 20 2005 - 21:50:28 MDT

On 7/20/05, Ben Goertzel <> wrote:
> > On 7/20/05, Ben Goertzel <> wrote:
> > >
> > > Norm,
> > >
> > > What you're pointing out is basically the (in)famous "hard problem of
> > > consciousness", isn't it?
> > >
> > > I addressed this in an essay a while back
> > >
> > >
> >
> > Wow, I thought I was reading Marc Geddes there. :) But seriously,
> > you've presented a lot of ideas without any method of verification.
> Hey, that is not really true...
> It's true that I don't describe specific experiments in that essay -- but
> that essay contains a combination of purely philosophical content
> (unverifiable like all pure philosophy is) and philosophy-guided scientific
> hypothesis.
> For instance, that essay contains the hypothesis
> "
> that the brain processes associated with consciousness will be the brain
> processes associated with representing newly perceived or conceived
> patterns, enacting new patterns, or taking pattern-codes out of memory and
> reassembling them into patterns once again.
> "

Setting aside the fact that your definition of "patterns" is rather
vague, that says nothing about "qualia." A physiologist could measure
all that and verify it from an eliminativist perspective (with some
materialist definition of patterns). You have to demonstrate that
qualia can be detected from outside the system. They can't be. They
don't exist. There is no way that we could infer "redness" from any
empirical observations if we didn't experience it ourselves.

> Then you can think of this as a scientific hypothesis about *verbal reports
> of consciousness* among humans, and you can dodge the question of whether
> "verbal reports of consciousness" relate to any kind of "real qualia."
> Of course, if the hypothesis of qualia is found to consistently suggest
> scientific hypotheses that wind up to be validated by experiment [and I know
> this hasn't happened yet, but the science of consciousness is still very
> young], then this would seem to be some sort of justification for the
> hypothesis, no?
> This latter sentence is in fact an argument that qualia may be roughly as
> "real" as electrons, or trees, are. The electron is a fictitious entity --
> it's a way of organizing data from various instruments, and assuming it
> exists helps us to generate a lot of valid hypotheses. So we talk as if
> electrons are real when in fact all there are, are patterns. The same
> argument in fact applies to trees. Electrons, trees and qualia are all
> concepts that we create in order to organize the patterns we experience.

Ugh. This sounds just like Robert Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality
nonsense (just substitute "patterns" or "qualia" for "quality"), which
isn't surprising since he too drew heavily from Charles Pierce. (I
should know something about that: just google my name and "MoQ".)
Get off this train of thought while you still can.

**Assuming** the electron exists? If a bear walks into a cave, I
don't have to substitute a "pattern" token in its place to do anything
useful with the information. Inference is about finding out **what's
really there** from indirect evidence. Patterns, like quality, are
just an obfuscation.

Your faithful Dennett-oid,

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