Friday, January 24, 2014


quick note on something unimportant:

my qualia clearly overflow my behavioral access to them.

say there's a thing here. a can of beer (cans I think are more prosaic), with its characteristic physical attributes.

when i look at it, i have an experience of it. much of that experience is strongly, closely correlated with the physical attributes of the can. you can take this for granted, or you can confirm it by ask me questions and carefully collecting my responses. the can's geometric properties, its shape, its albedo and texture, things like that. other parts of my experience are not correlated with attributes of the can, but are quirks of my own systems. colors, a/modally completed contours, illusory depth from shading, meanings of symbols, etc.

all of this you can, in principle, recover from me by making certain types of measurements - basically, you prompt me with questions or decisions, and i give you responses. these can be words, numbers, button presses, ratings, slider adjustments, essays, etc.

let's say i give you all the time in the world. you have time to run every test you can think of. you can run every task until performance asymptotes, and you can estimate any parameter that you can dream of. every aspect of this can of beer that i have any ability to respond to, to access behaviorally, is your data.

is there anything left to my experience that you have not collected, that you cannot find in your data and models?

my qualia are overflowing!

(you can make this same sort of argument for physics - i measure the physical attributes of an object until i can't find any more to measure. you can then point out, well, isn't there something left? the thing itself? but then i can ask you, what is there, about that thing, that is not described or captured in my measurements and models? what can you point to? that the thing is *there*? well, I have its thereness perfectly specified in a coordinate space. that the thing is *substantial*? well, i've got every aspect of its substantiality described by my equations of quantum electrodynamics. what is left? i think that, ultimately, there's nothing for you to point to, because in every case, i can show you how i've measured or modeled whatever it is. i don't see how the case is the same with phenomenal experience.)

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