structureKristjan Loorits says he has a solution to the Hard Problem, and it’s all about structure.

His framing of the problem is that it’s about the incompatibility of three plausible theses:

  1. all the objects of physics and other natural sciences can be fully analyzed in terms of structure and relations, or simply, in structural terms.
  2. consciousness is (or has) something over and above its structure and relations.
  3. the existence and nature of consciousness can be explained in terms of natural sciences.

At first sight it may look a bit odd to make structure so central. In effect Loorits claims that the distinguishing character of entities within science is structure, while qualia are monadic – single, unanalysable, unconnected. He says that he cannot think of anything within physics that lacks structure in this way – and if anyone could come up with such a thing it would surely be regarded as another item in the peculiar world of qualia rather than something within ordinary physics.

Loorits approach has the merit of keeping things at the most general level possible, so that it works for any future perfected science as well as the unfinished version we know at the moment. I’m not sure he is right to see qualia as necessarily monadic, though. One of th best known arguments for the existence of qualia is the inverted spectrum. If all the colours were swapped for their opposites within one person’s brain – green for red, and so on – how could we ever tell? The swappee would still refer to the sky as blue, in spite of experiencing what the rest of us would call orange. Yet we cannot – can we? – say that there is no difference between the experience of blue and the experience of orange.

Now when people make that argument, going right back to Locke, they normally chose inversion because that preserves all the relationships between colours.  Adding or subtracting colours produce results which are inverted for the swappee, but consistently. There is a feeling that the argument would not work if we merely took out cerulean from the spectrum and put in puce instead, because then the spectrum would look odd to the swappee.  We most certainly could not remove the quale of green and replace it with the quale of cherry flavour or the quale of distant trumpets; such substitutions would be obvious and worrying (or so people seem to think). If that’s all true then it seems qualia do have structural relationships: they sort of borrow those of their objective counterparts.  Quite how or why that should be is an interesting issue in itself, but at any rate it looks doubtful whether we can safely claim that qualia are monadic.

Nevertheless, I think Loorits’ set-up is basically reasonable: in a way he is echoing the view that mental content lacks physical location and extension, an opinion that goes back to Descartes and was more recently presented in a slightly different form by McGinn.

For his actual theory he rests on the views of Crick and Koch, though he is not necessarily committed to them. The mysterious privacy of qualia, in his view, amounts to our having information about our mental states which we cannot communicate. When we see a red rose, the experience is constituted by the activity of a bunch of neurons. But in addition, a lot of other connected neurons raise their level of activity: not enough to pass the threshold for entering into consciousness, but enough to have some effect. It is this penumbra of subliminal neural activity that constitutes the inexpressible qualia. Since this activity is below the level of consciousness it cannot be reported and has no explicit causal effects on our behaviour; but it can affect our attitudes and emotions in less visible ways.

It therefore turns out that qualia re indeed not monadic after all; they do have structure and relations, just not ones that are visible to us.

Interestingly, Loorits goes on to propose an empirical test. He mentions an example quoted by Dennett: a chord on the guitar sound like a single thing, but when we hear the three notes played separately first, we become able to ‘hear’ them separately within the chord. On Loorits’ view, part of what happens here is that hearing the notes separately boosts some of the neuronal activity which was originally subliminal so that we become aware of it: when we go back to the chord we’re now aware of a little more information about why it sounds as it does, and the qualic mystery of the original chord is actually slightly diminished.

Couldn’t there be a future machine that elucidated qualia in this way but more effectively, asks Loorits?  Such a machine would scan our brain while we were looking at the rose and note the groups of neurons whose activity increased only to subliminal levels. Then it could directly stimulate each of these areas to tip them over the limit into consciousness. For us the invisible experiences that made up our red quale would be played back into our consciousness, and when we had been through them we should finally understand why the red quale was what it was: we should know what seeing red was like and be able for the first time to describe it effectively.

Fascinating idea, but I can’t imagine what it would be like; and there’s the rub, perhaps. I think a true qualophile would say, yes, all very well, but once we’ve got your complete understanding of the red experience, there’s still going to be something over and above it all; the qualia will still somehow escape.

The truth is that Loorits’ theory is not really an explanation of qualia: it’s a sceptical explanation of why we think we have qualia. This becomes clear, if it wasn’t already, when he reviews the philosophical arguments: he doesn’t, for example, think philosophical zombies, people exactly like us but without qualia, are actually possible.

That is a perfectly respectable point of view, with a great deal to be said for it. If we are sceptics,  Loorits’ theory provides an exceptionally clear and sensible underpinning for our disbelief; it might even turn out to be testable. But I don’t think it will end the argument.



  1. 1. Hunt says:

    Kind of sounds like having those brain regions pushed from subliminal to conscious would be more or less equivalent to taking a drug like LSD, and then thinking you could describe an ineffable experience. You might describe the ineffable experience, but without another person there experiencing the same thing, that would seem an exercise in futility. And even if there were another person there experiencing the same thing, how would one know it? So it seems we’re back in the same rut as before.

    The “problem” with qualia is that ineffability seems to be part of their definition. To convert them to something else, or even change your perspective on them, appears to make them dissolve right in front of you. You might as well change them into pure physics and consider Mary the Scientist as understanding everything about red.

  2. 2. Philosopher Eric says:

    Masterful discussion Peter, that really was good. And though I do suspect that your “inverted spectrum” scenario must have been used by you and perhaps others in the past, I certainly enjoyed thinking about how my own behavior would be different if I perceived an orange rather than blue sky. Furthermore I just can’t help but enjoy this Kristjan Loorits fellow. Here we have a notable Psychologist from Helsinki, who also seems to speak the English language far better than his native colleague happen to manage. Where indeed is the man’s obfuscation? I suppose that he might now be told, “You must be careful Kristjan, as the masses might indeed comprehend what you’re saying and so realize that we don’t actually know much about what we’re doing!” (And so it ends.)

    It is my position that there are many important philosophical questions that scientists might indeed ponder, and therefore these efforts must not be wasted by considering unnecessary questions like “the hard problem.” Why not instead give us useful definitions for “mind,” “self,” consciousness,” and so on? I do see that Dr. Loorits also uses the “unconscious” term, or something which I’ve virtually abandoned. So how might it be defined such that it helps us understand reality?

    I do know that an answer to “the hard problem” would validate my own physical perspective, or conversely a supernatural one, but what kind of practical understandings might then be provided as well? Would this give us the ability to build a conscious entity? If we cannot even build things as marvellous as plants and viruses today (which shouldn’t even require such an answer) how might we also consider ourselves clever enough to build something which is indeed conscious? Assuming that we do indeed want to do this however, shouldn’t we at least begin with a functional definition for “consciousness” itself?

    One thing which I do hope that future historians will be able to say about me is “This was a person that had a greater understanding than others of the vast ignorance associated with his age.” While you should be right that Loortis will not resolve the argument here, I personally hope to be the one that ends it.

  3. 3. Hunt says:

    Eric, you certainly have grand ambitions. I doubt there is a person working in psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and about dozen other fields who hasn’t at least briefly considered what it would be like to “solve” the hard problem. I think many people somehow feel entitled to it. It kind of reminds me of when I was taking a course in biotechnology taught by a very smart Ph.D. in biochemistry. He insisted, jokingly, that he should have been the one who discovered PCR (polymerase chain reaction), a revolutionary, yet fairly easily conceived procedure in molecular biology. “Who discovered PCR?: Kary Mullis. Who should have discovered PCR?: [his name]” was one of his test questions (it was a giveaway). Once PCR was elucidated, it was so simple and so beautiful that everyone working in the field immediately thought they should have discovered it.

    I guess there’s no way of telling whether something similar will happen with the Hard Problem. I think there are a few possibilities:

    1. The solution will come from someone who happens to turn over the right rock (as in PCR). The answer is sitting right there in front of us all, right now. It’s just that nobody sees it. (Personally, I think this is possible, but low probability.)

    2. The solution will come out of deep and extended research. When the solution is found everyone will realize it has to be true. (Possible, IMO)

    3. Like (2), except that the solution will make no commonsense to anyone at all, yet it will still be true. (Most probable, IMO)

  4. 4. Philosopher Eric says:

    (Thanks once again Hunt!) Yes why is it that things which are so painfully obvious in retrospect, simply cannot be understood by humanity’s greatest thinkers beforehand? Apparently this is because these understandings require a person to think in ways which are different from how he or she was taught. If Einstein had instead been “properly educated” (rather than spend his time in a Swiss patent office) what chance is there that he would have done what he was able to do? Little I suspect.

    As a young man I looked to the realm of philosophy and asked, “What understandings can you provide me with?” It then told me “We have a vast field of great theory to provide you with, but alas, we cannot give you even one accepted understanding.” I then smiled and moved on, also spurning the likes of Psychology, Psychiatry, Sociology, and so on, assuming that they simply could not then be much better. My passion for this kind of reality only strengthened however, and I am pleased to return now as a teacher rather than student. I believe that my theory will help the ancient field of philosophy enter the modern realm of science, and thus become the foundation upon which future “mental/behavioral” sciences will rest.

    (Hunt in my opinion “the hard problem” might better be termed “the inconsequential problem” — it just doesn’t matter very much.)

    If I ever do ever succeed, I would then expect some observe how simple my theory happens to be and thus ask, “Why was I not able to understand this first?” Here I think that my reply would often be, “It was your education itself that prevented you.”

  5. 5. Tomas says:

    Qualia definitely have a structural (public/extrinsic) aspect – they are produced or constituted by the spatio-temporal structures of interacting neurons. Yet it seems obvious to me that they also have “something” that cannot be derived from these structures (the private/intrinsic aspect). The association between the structure and its ineffable product is baffling because there seems to be no reason why a particular structure should be associated with a particular quale (and not with some other quale instead).

    But perhaps the logic of this association could be similar to Godel’s first incompleteness theorem in mathematics. The theorem says that there are truths that can be constructed in a mathematical system and yet these truths cannot be derived from this system. Just substitute “qualia” for “truths” and “neuronal system” for “mathematical system”. Qualia may be like new axioms constructed from a system in a Godelian fashion.

  6. 6. Philosopher Eric says:

    Interesting thought Thomas. Though you did not explicitly state that perhaps qualia are indeed nonphysical in the theme of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, this is still something which I may consider. As I see it however, Gödel’s mathematics theory isn’t quite broad enough to serve as an adequate metaphor in this regard. If it instead stated, “There are certain mathematical realities which are fundamentally beyond mathematical explanation” then I think we would have an applicable metaphor for nonphysical qualia. (I’ve only just now looked Gödel up however, so please do correct me if I am mistaken in this regard.)

    Though you see qualia as a product of “spatio-temporal structures of interacting neurons” you also suspect that this “something” cannot be derived from these structures. I believe that “this something” is indeed a very special element of reality, in the sense that without it, existence is perfectly “insignificant,” or “irrelevant.” Apparently qualia is the basic feature which causes existence to be “good/bad” to that which experiences it. Is it physical? Well I assume so simply because if not, this suggests that physical effects occur without physical causes — or that they have no such foundation from which to occur. Not only is this illogical, but it would also in this regard make science obsolete.

    Regardless of whether or not such “magic” does indeed exist however, it is my position that this question is basically a waste of our time. If I am right that qualia exist as the good/bad element of reality, then this also provides us with an accurate ideology from which to lead our lives, and structure our societies, “properly.” So here we seem to have moved from a standard “it doesn’t really matter” question, to what may indeed be the most important question that humanity has ever, and will ever, consider.

  7. 7. Tomas says:

    Eric – indeed, to judge something as good or bad requires consciousness, that is pleasant and unpleasant feelings. Whether qualia are physical or nonphysical depends on how you define physical. If a physical (neuronal) structure gives rise to qualia but the qualia cannot be derived from this physical structure, will it make the qualia physical or nonphysical? Anyway, the non-derivability of qualia from the underlying physical structure may make the qualia at least APPEAR very different from physical structures.

    I am drawn to the metaphysical position of mathematical Platonism that says that mathematical structures (sets, numbers and related objects) are necessary truths that exist outside of time and physical space. Godelian incompleteness would be a necessary feature of these mathematical structures and I am wondering if this incompleteness may give rise to physical objects or consciousness. Physical objects and consciousness APPEAR different from mathematical structures but maybe this appearance is only due to that they cannot be derived from what we traditionally consider “mathematics” (yet are constructed from “mathematics” in a Godelian fashion). I am no expert on Godel though, maybe it is a misguided idea.

  8. 8. Philosopher Eric says:

    You’ve given me quite a bit to think about Tomas, so let’s start with my definition for “physical.” I see this as something which has a cause/effect nature based upon its own dynamics, and exists under dimensions of time, space, and perhaps many others. If all of reality is physical, then all of existence should then be predestined to occur exactly as it does occur, and simply given its cause/effect nature. Of course many physicists today say that this is not actually the case, and specifically given quantum mechanics’ “uncertainty principal.” I personally wonder how they can be so certain about this from their four dimensional experimentation however, when they also believe that there are many other dimensions that they can scarcely detect, let alone figure out. Regardless, the thought that qualia might be nonphysical because we humans suspect this to be the case — well this position certainly does seem humorous to me. When compared to the actual dynamics of reality itself, our own assessments of what can physically be done, seem quite pathetic.

    As you do, I agree that 2 + 2 = 4 regardless of anything else. But I also doubt that Godelian incompleteness is responsible for this reality, or for the physical, or for consciousness. Instead I think it’s just a bit of math — true/false regardless.

    Most importantly however I’d like to address the first thing that you said to me, “to judge something as good or bad requires consciousness.” This perspective seems to be a great hindrance to my theory, since apparently once I say “good/bad,” it’s current quite natural for a person to assume that I’m talking about “judgements.” In reality I mean to address that which makes existence irrelevant to a rock, though relevant to a human. Here I’m talking about a “punishment/reward” reality of nature which exists quite independently of our own judgements. Though there are many such obstacles that I will need to overcome to actually win my success, I certainly do appreciate discussions such as this one.

  9. 9. Tomas says:

    Eric, my understanding of causality is as follows: first, there is a so-called logical causality, where B is a logical consequence of A, which means that B necessarily (logically) follows from A. In other words, B must be derived (deduced) from A. I think that the temporal or physical causality is similar: the consequence must necessarily (logically) follow from the cause, that is the consequence must be derived from the cause. I see it as a special case (involving an arrow of time) of the general logical causality.

    So, if a quale cannot be derived from its underlying physical structure then I would not say that the quale is CAUSED by the physical structure. If my understanding is correct then the quale cannot have a causal effect on its underlying physical structure either (the physical structure is a set of axioms and the quale is an additional axiom; neither can be derived from the other). However, the quale is a necessary counterpart of the physical structure, just as a Godel sentence is a necessary counterpart of the mathematical system from which it is constructed (but not derived). If we are in pain it is not the quale of pain that causes the twitch of our body; the causality happens in the physical mechanism of the body and the quale is its necessary counterpart. The twitch is a physical response that was evolved because it proved to be useful for survival (even if no consciousness was present). I suspect that we can link ethics to evolution – good is that which is useful for survival and bad is harmful for survival, but the relationship may be quite complicated. Pain can be seen as good in the sense that it is associated with physical processes in the body that cause the useful twitch, or it can be seen as bad in the sense that it is associated with physical processes in the body that are caused by a harmful situation.

    Regarding determinism in physics, I think quantum indeterminacy is probably real. From what I heard, making quantum theory deterministic (by introducing “hidden variables”) would result in superluminal signalling, which was never observed and which would violate Einstein’s special relativity (which is well supported empirically). So physics is probably not fully causal either.

  10. 10. john davey says:

    Isn’t this just a claim that there are neural correlates of consciousness ? That the best way of analyzing consciousness at the moment is to assume that there is a relationship with neuron firings ? Is that so revolutionary ?

    Structure never answers all the questions in any case. Just because qualia aren’t/can’t be synonymized with observer-relative structure patterns doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time. Science can’t do everything.

    Particulate models of matter just move the focus of the question, for instance. We ask ‘what is an atomic nucleus’ an we get an answer ‘quarks’. So now we just ask the question ‘what is a quark’, and we don’t get an answer. ‘What is matter’ now becomes the question ‘what is a quark’. We are a little bit wiser but still conscious of the holes.

  11. 11. Philosopher Eric says:

    Yes Tomas I do agree with your logic, it’s just that I would not begin with the premise that quale cannot be derived from its underlying physical structure. I suppose that your argument kind of demonstrates why I believe this. If quale cannot be derived from its cause, then how does it actually occur? So then if it does somehow occur, I’m forced to view this as “magic.” And while this might indeed be what happens, the converse explanation certainly makes more sense to me. Here everything is physical such that effects have causes and so on, but it’s actually so complex and invisible to us, that we naturally tend to see something “more” (and yes apparently many of our greatest physicists see things this way as well, though to use a term like “magic” would be too demeaning to them, which is exactly why I use it).

    I’m really not bothered one way or the other about this however — it’s their passion rather than mine. But I’d now also like to ask you what you think of my own project. We philosophers have spent millennia failing to develop a community with accepted answers to our branch of reality, while in just a few centuries, science has developed a vast field of accepted answers (which humanity has then used to become very powerful). But my position is that philosophical realities are indeed “real” realities, and thus we should expect associated branches of science to be quite primitive today. So I’m now trying to sound the alarm to an establishment that seems quite satisfied with its failure (philosophers and mental/behavioral scientists), in the attempt wake it up. Does this seem like a sensible idea? Furthermore I provide and example of how this might effectively be done, and it rests upon this “quale” stuff that we’ve been discussing. Might this strange stuff be an important foundation from which to finally achieve philosophical answers (whether or not it’s physical), and then also found our “mental/behavioral” sciences? What do you think?

  12. 12. Tom Clark says:

    Tomas, I think you’re on to something here:

    “…if a quale cannot be derived from its underlying physical structure then I would not say that the quale is CAUSED by the physical structure. If my understanding is correct then the quale cannot have a causal effect on its underlying physical structure either (the physical structure is a set of axioms and the quale is an additional axiom; neither can be derived from the other). However, the quale is a necessary counterpart of the physical structure, just as a Godel sentence is a necessary counterpart of the mathematical system from which it is constructed (but not derived). If we are in pain it is not the quale of pain that causes the twitch of our body; the causality happens in the physical mechanism of the body and the quale is its necessary counterpart.”

    If the necessitation of qualia for a physical system by virtue of being that system isn’t a matter of causation (and I think you’re right about that), then other sorts of entailments might be involved, for instance having to do with representation, see

    And if as you say there’s no causal relation in the opposite direction, from qualia to behavior, that suggests a psycho-physical parallelism in which we can describe causation *within* each stream (physical vs. phenomenal), but not between them, see

    Re Loorits’ thesis, it seems to me that we can’t hope to eliminate the monadic, non-structural characteristic of basic qualia since that’s what they are: irreducible elements of phenomenal consciousness. Rather, his account helps to explain, as a function of our cognitive limitations, why it is such elements come to exist for a system, and only for that system (an approach I’ve been working on).

    We might be able to phenomenally decompose the sound of a guitar as being comprised of various overtones, but those overtones will themselves remain non-decomposable qualia (e.g., a pure sine wave doesn’t have any discernible phenomenal components). So although we will certainly find structural isomorphisms between qualia, their neural correlates, and the world outside the head, we won’t find *experienced* structure in basic qualia themselves. They are the non-decomposable elements of conscious sensory perception. All representational models of the world, conscious or otherwise, of necessity have basic, irreducible, and arbitrary components that are used in building up structural isomorphisms to that which they represent.

    I hadn’t thought of the parallel between qualia and Godel sentences, an interesting idea in terms of their being necessary counterparts to their respective supervenience bases that can’t be derived, causally or logically, respectively.

  13. 13. Jorge says:

    Peter, you wrote:
    “The truth is that Loorits’ theory is not really an explanation of qualia: it’s a sceptical explanation of why we think we have qualia.”

    I’m sure Scott will be by to comment on this at some point, but this is very similar to the approach taken in BBT. Bakker and Loorits aren’t the only ones opting for this approach either, a guy called Loosemore has also published some stuff in this general direction, and Graziano’s general take also uses a similar approach.

    The interesting part is how these theories, taking the same general stance on phenomenology can arrive at very disparate conclusions about the ontological status of qualia and intentionality.

  14. 14. Tomas says:

    Eric, I agree that consciousness is the foundation of any philosophical inquiry because how would one care about anything without consciousness? I just don’t know what exactly you are after.

    I think I am now starting to better understand and appreciate the need for irreducible elements or qualia in a representational system. I am wondering if Godel sentences could be a special case of representation of an underlying structure. Generally the relationship between a representation and a represented structure seems arbitrary, for example in a language it is often arbitrary what word represents a certain thing in the world and you can also have multiple words for the same thing (synonyms). But the relationship between a Godel sentence and its underlying structure is defined by the logic of Godel’s incompleteness theorem. Unfortunately this logic is far from clear to me so I don’t know what its implications might be.

    Another thing that occurred to me is that maybe the physical world is a representation of the mathematical world? It seems to me that mathematical structures are necessary truths and thus are the foundation of reality. Quantum theory says that physical observables are quantized, and it is believed that even space and time will be quantized in the theory of quantum gravity. So the physical world seems to consist of non-decomposable elementary parts of finite sizes, yet mathematically you could divide these elementary parts without limitation, infinitesimally. Only on the physical level is no further decomposition possible. Hence, the physical seems like a representation of the mathematical. Consciousness too might be a representation of the physical or of the mathematical, with or without Godel incompleteness.

  15. 15. Philosopher Eric says:

    Sorry for my unclarity Tomas. I’ll now try to demonstrate what I am after more specifically, and yes far more emphatically this time. Permit me to use the metaphor of “hippies sharing a bong in a tent.” Yes they should enjoy discussing all sorts of wonderous possibilities that seem plausible given their impaired states of mind. But even though our own mental faculties should not be compromised in this regard (mostly), have we philosophers, from Socrates to Bentham to the modern likes of Dennett and Chalmers, been able to understand much more about reality than those hippies in the tent? Given that modern opinions are still all over the place, apparently not. Therefore the various things which prevent progress in our field, should need to be both identified and overcome.

    Furthermore you may also observe that I’m actually quite a hypocrite in this regard. Consider my “everything is physical” assertion for “the hard problem.” Here I’m metaphorically toking from the bong in the sense that I am offering speculation about something that shouldn’t really matter very much one way or the other. But let me now step out of our metaphorical hippy bong tent for a while to say “Fine. We’ll instead go with your ‘math’ premise.” So if you and I agree that everything exists through the irreducible realities of mathematics, can we now move on to what might actually “matter”? Regardless of what it is that makes us what we are, the truth is that we still understand very little about basic human dynamics themselves. Without these philosophical understandings, I do believe that Psychology, Psychiatry, Sociology and so on, can only be “primitive” today. (Observe that our Psychiatrists have been so particularly incompetent, that sessions with
    patients have almost entirely been replaced by an approach that can effectively be summed up as “So does this new pill seem to work any better for you?”)

    I seek to publicize this horrible failure so that someone might indeed rise up to overcome it, as well as to use my “Physical Ethics” theory to perhaps become this great person. So let me now present my question once again: Does the scenario which I’ve just built, seem valid? Furthermore, might this “qualia” stuff be the fundamental element which defines what we are? And therefore perhaps a philosopher that begins from this premise without letting an accumulated “mountain of crappy conventions” get in the way, might indeed become the founder to a science based philosophy, as well as “mental/behavioral” sciences in general?

    At this point I know of only two supporters here — there was a DJC from the “Disobedience and Ethical Robots” discussion, as well as a “Simon International” from the “About” page. Given the monumental task which I see before me, a third supporter would certainly be appreciated. But I warn you to not let my very humble beginnings mislead you. It is my theory alone which permits me to dominate discussion on Peter’s website, and this forum may just be a small microcosm for what’s to come.

  16. 16. Peter says:


    Yes indeed. Some papers by Loosemore are here, for anyone who’s interested.

  17. 17. Philosopher Eric says:

    Jorge I do very much appreciate your observation above. So how can so many extremely intelligent people that begin with the same basic stance on phenomenology, come up with such divergent answers? My own explanation does, of course, fit right in with my position in general. The reason for this great variation, I think, must be that we reside in a field that is practiced in ways that are fundamentally flawed. Furthermore established thinkers should have no urgency about such a problem since, “If were all flawed then no one is flawed,” if you take my meaning. The real fun, however, should occur when someone inevitably comes along that does not carry whatever flaws have accumulated over thousands of years of philosophical failure. This person should make quite a mockery of traditional philosophers, while the only thing that they should then be able to do is to look to each other for support, and even given their amazingly divergent views. Whether or not I am the one to do this, yes it should indeed be fun!

    The following is as far as I would permit myself to go with the ideas of Loosemore. He said:

    “One way to drive this point home is to notice that it is logically possible to conceive of a creature that is identical to one of us, right down to the last atom, but which does not actually experience this inner life of the mind. Such a creature—a philosophical zombie— would behave as if it did have its own phenomenology (indeed its behavior, ex hypothesi, would be absolutely identical to its normal twin) but it would not experience any of the subjective sensations that we experience when we use our minds.”

    Of course it’s logical to “conceive of” such a thing, but the reality is that if this thing were exactly the same as a regular person, atom for atom, then it might indeed experience qualia. How could a mere philosopher such as this Loosemore, imagine that he’s qualified to say otherwise?

  18. 18. Richard Loosemore says:

    Ummm….. Philosopher Eric, you *seriously* need to read paragraphs like that in context, and not give up at that point 🙂 ….

    When you quote me giving the following summary of the philosophical zombie idea:

    “One way to drive this point home is to notice that it is logically possible to conceive of a creature that is identical to one of us, right down to the last atom, but which does not actually experience this inner life of the mind. Such a creature—a philosophical zombie— would behave as if it did have its own phenomenology (indeed its behavior, ex hypothesi, would be absolutely identical to its normal twin) but it would not experience any of the subjective sensations that we experience when we use our minds.”

    …. you should notice that this is just a summary of the CLAIM made in the literature. This is not my position in the paper!

    The paper itself goes on to unpick this idea in great detail, and the conclusion I come to is that (to borrow your own words) “if this thing were exactly the same as a regular person, atom for atom, then it might indeed experience qualia”.

    So it kinda stings that you assume I come to the opposite conclusion, and then ask “How could a mere philosopher such as this Loosemore, imagine that he’s qualified to say otherwise?”

    P.S. I don’t think I am a ‘mere philosopher’, by the way. Originally a physicist, I changed to cognitive psychology/artificial intelligence, and am in practice a builder of artificial general intelligence systems.

    Ahem. *Conscious* artificial general intelligence systems, if I have any say in the matter…. 🙂

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