On The Nature Of Qualia

From: Marc Geddes (m_j_geddes@yahoo.com.au)
Date: Wed Dec 07 2005 - 22:05:50 MST

>>>David Clark wrote:

>Ben, I think you might be giving Marc more credit
than he deserves. I could make a program that spewed
out a bunch of rubbish on philosophical and
meta-physical topics and some smart people could pick
out some interesting lines here and there. These few
lines might be insightful to their intelligent minds
where the rest of the text was discarded as rubbish.
program couldn't be considered intelligent at all and
if not for the intelligence of the reader, nothing of
value could come from this randomly created text. I
believe this is what Marc Geddes does.

David all I've seen from you on the list is whining.
What have you contributed to AGI theory? If you think
my own ideas are all a load of rubbish you should try
developing your own AI theory instead of whining at
other people.

>If Marc can't back up any of this hypothesis or
insights with something other than he believes it
might be true, then what difference does it make if
something he says might be correct by accident. Does
he get credit for something that he
never intended or understood?

I'm withdrawing from messageboards because they're
obviously a waste of time. I've never seen such a
bunch of wet blankets and whiners (Ben Goerztel is the
sole exception - a smart, hip poster).

But if you all want one intelligent thing backed up by
arguments here it is below - (of course you David
won't understand a word because you're obviously
totally ignorant of the rudiments of philosophy).

This is an edited forwarding of a posting I made on
another messageboards which clearly explains why I so
strongly disagree with the currrent Sing Inst

The comparison between 'Qualia' and 'Numbers' is well
made.  Because the same general kinds of philosophical
arguments that are made about phenomenological
entities also apply to mathematical entities.
If I could just ask: Where does the number '4' exist? 
Is the proof of 'Fermat's Last Theorem' real or a
fiction?  If the proof is real, is it part of the
causal processes taking place in the brain?  What
about other mathematical entities?  Are they real or
fiction?  How do they fit into physical causal
I think you can see that the 'Qualia' question is not
as clear cut as (some) are making out.  Again, if you
are prepared to believe in the objective existence of
mathematical entities, and if you agree that the
relationship between mathematical entities and causal
brain-networks is not a direct one, then why could the
same not be true for Qualia?
Of course it's trivially true that all metaphysical
entities have to be related to causal processes *in
some sense* (in order to produce observable effects). 
But this by itself establishes little.  It doesn't
follow that all metaphysical entities are fully
reducible to descriptions in terms of *physical*
causality at all - where I am here defining physical
causality as: 'cause and effect relations between
objects with spatial extensions and the forces and
motions associated with these objects'.
To try to explain away Qualia by demanding that
everything be fully describable in terms of physical
causality is simply to presuppose the very thing you
are trying to prove (circular reasoning).  A believer
in Qualia could easily rebut simply by redefining the
definition of 'causality' and demanding that
everything be explained, not in terms of physical
causality, but in terms of direct experience.
Now it *may* well prove to be the case that talk of
Qualia can be eliminated and replaced entirely by
explanations in terms of physical causality
(eliminative materialism).  But it may not.  The facts
of the matter can only be determined through a
combination of theory and observation, just like
everything else in science.
Suppose for instance that there's some kind of
fundamental law of cognitive science and information
theory such that no explanation phrased entirely in
terms of physical causality can fully predict sentient
behavior?  For instance suppose that for some *in
principle* theoretical reason computational
intractability prevents accurate real-time predictions
of sentient behavior if these predictions are phrased
solely in terms of physical processes?  Suppose that
in order to achieve an accurate model of sentient
behavior one needs to introduce mental concepts into
one's explanations right from the start - i.e. suppose
this is an *in principle* requirement?  Then one would
have to conclude that some mental concepts are just as
'real' and fundamental as physical ones. So you see,
the philosophical arguments advanced in this thread
that Qualia have to be a part of the 'causal networks
of the brain' don't prove a thing about Qualia one way
or the other.  On the contrary, the argument is weak,
as I have shown by pointing out examples of abstract
entities (mathematical concepts) that many
(Platonists) take to be objectivity real, yet clearly
don't directly fit into the causal networks of the
brain at all.
The philosophical position known as ‘Eliminative
materialism’(the idea that ‘qualia’ don’t exist but
are simply misrepresentations of what are really
entirely material processes – which seems to be the
position Eliezer (is) arguing for) is based on
arguments by philosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland
and Daniel Dennett (in fact the position traces back
to earlier arguments by philosophers Paul Feyerabend
an d Quine), to the effect: that (a) qualia are simply
abstract (or theoretical entities) and (b) should be
replaced by the objective scientific viewpoint.  But
the argument undermines itself.  *Of course* I believe
that ‘Qualia’ are ‘theoretical abstractions’ and *of
course* I agree that the correct view-point requires
an objective scientific account, but the conclusion
that Qualia are fictions doesn’t follow from (a) and
(b) at all!  It’s a total non-sequitur.  In fact the
very arguments applied by Eliminative materialism to
argue *against* Qualia can be used to argue for them! 
Let look at the first argument of the Qualia skeptics:
(a) 'Qualia' are abstractions.  I say, of course they
are!  But this doesn’t prove a thing against Qualia. 
On the contrary, we could take a Platonic view of
these abstractions just as some philosophers do for
mathematics.  In fact what I was suggesting was not
just that Qualia are *similar* to mathematical
entities, but that Qualia are in fact *identical* to
mathematical entities.  That is to say, I think
mathematical entities are just Qualia from a different
I think the reason we're all so confused about Qualia
is due to a limitation of the human brain - as others
have pointed out - we can't *see* qualia from an
objective perspective, only a subjective one.  This
allows skeptics to claim that they’re fictional
entities and all that exists are material processes. 
But as gts rightly pointed out, the fact we can only
view Qualia subjectively doesn't mean that Qualia are
not objectively real.  Eliezer of all people should
have known better.  The argument against Qualia is
based solely on a limitation of the *human* brain and
it is folly to suppose that this limitation applies to
minds in general.  The fact that *we* (humans) can
only ever view Qualia from a subjective perspective
does not mean that more advanced minds couldn’t view
them from an *objective* perspective. Now the human
brain does not appear to be capable of direct
perception of mathematical entities.  I think if the
human brain *was* so capable, it would be obvious to
everyone that Qualia and mathematical entities are one
and the same i.e. we would be having second-order
Qualia capable of objectively viewing first-order
If it’s possible to objectivity view Qualia, the
second argument of the Qualia skeptics is also exposed
as a total non-sequitur.  Recall that the eliminative
materialists argue that (b) The most accurate
view-point of something is the objective scientific
view-point.  The believer in Qualia can just say: well
of course I agree with (b), but so what?  For *Qualia
themselves are a part of objective science* !  As I
suggested earlier, if it proves that accurate models
of sentient behaviour are *in principle* impossible
without introducing mental concepts into one’s
explanations (perhaps due to some theorem involving
computational intractability), then one would have to
conclude that some mental concepts are just as
fundamental and real as physical concepts and the
ontology of objective science would have to be
broadened to include these mental concepts. 
So you see, both the arguments of Eliminative
materialists are simply without philosophical merit.
But if Qualia and mathematical entities are equivalent
as I claim and if as I said, the human brain is not
capable of direct perception of mathematical entities,
then how is it that we have qualia at all?  The
answer, I think, lies in the truth of mathematical
Platonism.  The human brain cannot directly generate
perceptions of mathematical entities, but if
mathematics is *out there* in reality, then the
actions of the brain will still *indirectly* involve
mathematical relations (since according to Platonism
math is the fabric of reality itself).  Hence even
without explicit modeling of mathematical entities,
there can still be *indirect* Qualia associated with
the brain.  Clever eh?
Are you familiar with Bertrand Russell's theory of
'Dual-aspect monism' ?  Well basically, my
philosophical theory is vaguely like that, but
extended to a more complex 'Seven-fold-aspect monism'.
 In the Dual-aspect monism of Russell, the *Intrinsic*
properties of reality were equated with mental
concepts, and the *Relational* properties of reality
were equated with physical concepts.  But in my
theory, I have Seven different general 'aspects'
instead of just the two of the original Russell
theory.  My core idea, as I've explained, is to equate
Qualia wih mathematical entities.
Panpsychism is a secondary consequence of my theory. 
Whilst critics of Panpsychism are right to point out
that Panpsychism *by itself* doesn't explain anything,
it is perfectly logically acceptable to have
Panpsychism emerging as a *secondary consequence* of
one's metaphysics i.e. a theorem of a deeper
explanatory theory.
Sooner or later someone smarter than me will
independently discover the principles of my
Mathematico-Cognition Reality Theory (MCRT) and
develop them in rigorous mathematical way.  When that
happens, the arguments of the Qualia skeptics will
collapse, and with them the entire rotten edifice of
the current AGI paradigm will crumple  (including the
ridiculous ideas that you can have general
intelligence without qualia, that reasoning is
entirely reducible to Bayes etc).
To see a World in a grain of sand, 
And Heaven in a wild flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour. 
-William Blake 
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