Thanks for posting this. After looking, I’m definitely tempted.
I’m trying to find a balance here. I think that there has to be a direct enough relation to a problem that you’re trying to solve to prevent the task expanding to the point where it takes forever, but you also have to be willing to engage in exploration
I’ve just been invited to this forum. How do I decide whether to put a post on the Alignment Forum vs. Less Wrong?
Thanks for linking me to that. It’s pretty crazy how similar our approaches to the topic are, down to pointing out emotions aren’t beliefs and suggesting the same solution of “getting out of the way”. I suppose very few ideas are original, but it still weirds me out to how similar our approaches are. I suppose we both probably read Barbarians vs. Bayesians and maybe that has something to do with it?
I suppose I’m more skeptical than Nate about how easy it is to access these states when they are not coherent with your beliefs. He seems to act as though they are mostly or completely independent, while I feel that it is only in particular circumstances when an ordinary person would be able to intentionally create a disjunction.
You said “That wasn’t what I meant”—and yet you wrote “if people don’t know what you mean from an example, then it doesn’t seem to work as a primitive notion” and “to discuss the existence of points as something which is up to debate, seems to already presuppose that they are not a primitive notion” and “otherwise there would be no need to argue for the existence of points, nor could their existence to be disputed”. So I don’t know how that could possibly not be what you meant?
Anyway, dealing with your argument in this comment, someone could claim points aren’t primitive because they are the intersection of lines and someone else could claim lines aren’t primitive as they are made up of points. According to your reasoning, neither can be primitive by mere fact of disputation. That doesn’t seem very convincing.
“Rather my argument is that if you are discussing the existence of a primitive notion, you have to explain what it would mean for it to not exist”—So what does it mean for a point not to exist? What would it mean for matter not to exist or logic not to exist.
If you can’t figure out what I mean, try talking to some regular people and understanding their views about consciousness. Notice that a good proportion will have views contrary to the materialist stance. Anyway, it’s not my job to grab you and literally drag you to the point of understanding.
Edit: Okay let’s try this. In dualism, sensations have a non-material component. Similarly, in property dualism.
Don’t you think that there could be a logical component that goes beyond this?
Qualia is a word that different people use in different ways. In this post I have been using it to refer to some kind of sensation or experience, but in a sense beyond the materialist conceptions of these words. I will admit that in other contexts I’ve used it to refer to whatever makes I think we have these non-materialist sensations and that I should make my terminology more consistent, but I don’t think I’ve used it this way in this post? I think this is a useful thing to have a term for and I wish I’d added a short section at the start to clarify my use of the term, but I also think it should be clear enough from context what I’m arguing for and against.
“For example in a morph environment there might be a question of which actors are NPC and which are PC. And it’s true there that on a game world level PCs and NPCs are similar functionning. But PCs can go “afk” and they require wetware to sit in front of a keyboard. Somebody that thought that the game world is the place where the cognitive machinery lies might think that there is no reason to posit that keyboards even exit and esoteric “biological” components would be explanationarily needless for understanding what happens in the game world. In particular examining part of the game code/world that is involved in netcode one might quess tht the cognition lies inside that bit of code instead of locating outside it.”—this is actually very similar what I was planning to write in my next post. Not sure whether I’ll still write this post now, but if I do I’ll reference this comment.
How would you characterise his views then?
A thin definition of consciousness would be one such as in the relabelling argument above. People start by taking a collection of atoms or quarks or part of a wavefunction. They view them in a materialistic sense, so no consciousness properties above and in addition to the physical properties. Finally they just declare that particular arrangements count as being conscious. I address this most directly in the relabelling argument above. Maybe I will read Dennett, but reluctant to buy a book just to read one chapter.
Some things really are primitive notions. And for each primitive notion there will be *someone* who will deny its existence. Your claim seems to be that if I argue against them claiming that it actually does exist then I concede that it’s not a primitive. That doesn’t seem like a very good argument.
Thanks for pointing out this argument, I might add a variation to the list.
“From an outside view, you have given a long list of wordy philosophical arguments, all of which involve terms that you haven’t defined. The success rate for arguments like that isn’t great.”—Firstly, I didn’t claim that qualia definitely exist, just that they are dismissed too quickly. Secondly, the outside view is widely ignored on Less Wrong—why is this? Do people on Less Wrong really just fall into the reference class of smart people, with nothing setting them apart? Thirdly, is it really accurate to describe these arguments as wordy? Most of the arguments seems concise to me. Indeed, if that is the case, haven’t you just made a wordy argument yourself? Fourthly, if you need definitions, feel free to ask, although as I’ve commented below, I believe that qualia are a primitive concept.
“I expect there to be some set of equations, of which quantum mechanics and relativity are approximations, that predicts every detail of reality”—there’s probably some set of equations that can predict all the physical details of reality, but who says all the details are physical? And even that comes with a major limitation, we can describe relations between physical entities, but what can’t say what their nature is.
“The minds of humans, including myself, are part of reality. Look at a philosopher talking about consciousness or qualia in great detail”—yep, I’ve acknowledge this argument and linked to a post by Eliezer on this.
“You can choose a set of similar patterns of quantum fields and call them qualia”—See the relabeling argument and the discussion in failure to bite the bullet for reasons why defining qualia in the map leads to qualia not being of any real importance.
“This makes a qualia the same type of thing as a word or an apple”—it’s a massive assumption to claim words and apples are the same kind of thing. Why should logical entities be the same kind of thing as physical entities?
Blindsight isn’t merely a difference of qualia since there are actual, physical brain differences as well.
What you’ve written is a reasonable point to make, I just don’t find the term “illusion” productive here as people are more likely than not to try to draw an incorrect analogy. Making actual progress here requires to drop the term and use more precise language like you have. Maybe I’m making too much of an issue out of this, but this is certainly a peeve of mine.
I’m open to positions like property dualism. On the other hand, I’m against thin definitions of feelings (just combinations of atoms, at least where atoms only have physical properties) and some of the arguments given in the original post give reasons for not believing in this.
These discussions are always complicated by different people using different words in different words.
This post was written to argue primarily against a view that has cropped up in conversations I’ve had with people personally, none of whom were professional philosophers. Most of these people were scientifically minded and many of them have been influenced by Daniel Dennett. Nonetheless, I feel I should be slightly cautious of saying that I’m arguing against Daniel Dennett’s views as I have only been exposed to his ideas second-hand.
Keeping this in mind: Wikipedia says that Daniel Dennett “offers an argument against qualia”, so it sounds like he rejects their existence; however the quote you listed makes it sound more like he supports a thin version of qualia instead. In practise the actual label is mostly irrelevant; two people can have exactly the same underlying views with one person saying they don’t believe in qualia and the other saying they only support a thin definition.
So I’m not just arguing against people who say qualia don’t exist, I’m also arguing against those who assert a thin definition by denying a thick definition. Some of my arguments might only work against those who claim non-existence, but others apply to both.
At this point, it would be natural to ask what exactly I mean by a thick definition, but there is a sense in which you can already predict what I mean by that. I’m sure you can already guess that if you give me your definition of qualia, then I’ll respond that what I mean by qualia is not the mere arrangement of atoms or particular, but some feeling that exists beyond that. And that definition won’t satisfy you because I haven’t clearly stated what it is, but as I already argue in a comment below we should take the definition of qualia as primitive, so that we can only say what it is not, not what it is.
Why doesn’t it strike you as useful?