Chapter Two: What it's like to be ...?
Being a ...
- Thomas Nagel's (1974)
"What is it like to be a bat?"
- According to Nagel: being conscious = having an
"inner life" or a "point of view"
- "there is something it is like to be that organism ... something it
is like for that organism"
(Nagel 1974: 436)
- something it's like "from the inside" (p. 23)
- Nagel concludes "[W]e cannot know what it is like to be a bat
even if we believe that there is
something it is like to be a bat" (p. 24)
- this is due to bats' possession of the novel sensory modality
- "From a perception of only 3 senses or 3 elements none
could deduce a fourth or fifth." (Wm. Blake: There is No Natural Religion)
- From knowing what it's like to experience visually (colors) and
auditorily (pitches etc.) I cannot deduce what it would be like to
- Nagel "clarifies the central meaning of the term 'consciousness'
as :"phenomenal consciousness" (a la Block
- "Phenomenal consciousness is experience. what makes a state
phenomenally conscious is that there is something 'it is like' to be in
- Whereas, "access consciousness" is "availability for use in
reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action." (Block 1995: 227)
Subjectivity and Qualia
- Qualia or "raw feels": private qualities
- Example quale: this coffee
- "The experience is private, ineffable, and has a quality all
its own." (p. 25)
- These private qualities are known as qualia.
- Reformulation: "Our conscious experience consists of
qualia. The problem of consciousness can be rephrased in terms of
how qualia are related to the physical world, or how an objective physical brain can
produce subjective qualia."
- dualism: qualia are
part of a separate mental realm
qualia are causally inert
- idealism: everything
is ultimately made of qualia
- eliminativism: there
are no qualia
- Possible reservation (LH): Saints
in heaven preserve us ... or rather preserve tm.
- the historic & etymological close connection of conscious and conscience
- the close
connection of "raw feels" to physical embodiment
- leading many theologians to suppose that qualia-free
consciousness is exactly what immaterial spirits enjoy (if that's the
right word for it)
- Is pure, qualia-free
consciousness possible? (LH's question?)
- Quining qualia
- consider the beer drinkers changing taste
- if there really are qualia then there must be a fact of the
matter about which of these two descriptions of the change is true
- the quale itself
[precise taste tasted] remains the same but his preferences change regarding it (he
didn't used to like this very taste but now does)
- the qualia itself
changes [different taste] not his preferences [if it still tasted like
it used to he still wouldn't like it].
- but there is no such fact of the matter: the two cases cannot
- so, there's no such things as qualia
- Thought experiments
- real experiments vary conditions to get answers about actual
- thought experiments vary conditions imaginatively to get answers
- about actual eventualities sometimes (e.g. Galileo)
- about unactualized (& even unactualizable) possibilities
(e.g., many thought experiments in
Mary the Color Scientist
- Far in the future: she knows everything there is to know
(objectively) about the optical and neurophysiological mechanisms of
- But she has been kept in a black and white "room" & never
allowed to actually see colors.
- Suppose she is finally allowed out & sees a banana (say).
- She will have learned a something new -- a new fact -- what it like to see yellow
- since she already knew all the objective facts (ex hypothesi)
- this new fact must be subjective
- a fact concerning a quale
- so -- there being facts about qualia -- there must be qualia
The Philosopher's Zombie
- A zombie is a being that behaves (and may also be internally
physically) identical to a conscious human being but is unconscious:
- there's "nobody home"
- there is no "something that it's like" to be them
- the "light" of consciousness is not on
- they experience no phenomenal qualia
- perhaps the androids in Blade Runner Rachel were zombies
(perhaps you thought of this)
- Types of zombies
- behavioral: behave like us
but may have different internal functional differences (different
computational architectures, etc.)
- functional: have
identical functional architectures but may have internal physical differences
- carbon-based: us
- silicon-based: them
- physical: are
objectively completely identical to a conscious human being
- The Debate
- if behavioral zombies are possible behaviorism is refuted
- if functional zombies are possible functionalism is refuted
- if physical zombies are possible materialism itself is refuted
- Some think the debate misguided" "a demonstration of the
feebleness of thought experiments" Patricia Churchland says.
- "if you believe in the possibility of zombies then you
believe that consciousness is some kind of inessential optional extra
- or to internal functioning (in the case of functional zombies)
- or to physical processes in general (in the case of physical
Is There a Hard Problem?
- Four categories of responses
- The hard problem is insoluble:
the "new mysterions" (e.g., Pinker, McGinn, Nagel)
- Solve it with drastic
measures: "soluble only with a fundamental rethink of the
nature of the universe" (e.g., Chalmers) perhaps connected to quantum
uncertainties and Shroedinger's cat (e.g., Penrose)
- Tackle the easy problems:
discover the neural correlates
of consciousness (Crick & Koch)
There is no hard problem: mainly
eliminativists (e.g., Pat Churchland, Dennett)
- because we can't comprehend the causal connection (mysterion
- because, scientifically, there's such further causal question