Re: Objective versus subjective reality: which is primary?

From: Martin Striz (
Date: Thu Jul 21 2005 - 09:07:28 MDT

On 7/21/05, Ben Goertzel <> wrote:

> > Like what? You never provided that in the earlier message.

> This is actually a tricky topic...
> Consider for instance Benjamin Libet's very interesting empirical work on
> free will and determinism.
> As is clear from Libet's book on his research, this work was motivated by
> Libet's belief in qualia, and probably would not have arisen otherwise...

Are you kidding me...

> For instance, the description of Libet's experiment in the above-linked
> wikipedia page includes language like
> "
> the subject would be asked to note the position of the dot on the
> oscilloscope timer when "he/she was first aware of the wish or urge to act."
> "
> So we have valuable experiments that are designed by someone who thinks in
> terms of qualia, and that make use of experimental subjects'
> thinking-in-terms-of-qualia ...

Libet's work is well known, but I fail to see how qualia had any
predictive value. What hypothesis about qualia and/or the system
(mind/brain) was forged or confirmed? When the subjects acted before
conscious awareness, or in any other experiment, these results were
surprising precisely because qualia (or any other model) FAILED to
predict them. Further, they certainly didn't establish the existence
of said qualia.

I can come up with an alternative explanation: if Libet had had a
better understanding of the synaptic organization (wire diagram) of
the brain, he could have predicted that motor execution commands
temporally precede conscious awareness (due to the lag while
sufficient neurons are recruited to establish conscious awareness: ~50
ms). The fact that he happened to be motivated by a belief in qualia
and designed an experiment that inadvertently allowed him to discover
this phenomenon doesn't mean that the qualia themselves predicted it.

> However, you could argue of course that the scientific results are
> interesting *in spite of* the silly qualia-infested ideas of the researcher
> and the subjects... ;-p

Then you admit you still haven't provided an unequivocal example of
falsifiability, explanatory power, or preditive value for qualia. :)


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