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SilasBarta comments on How to think like a quantum monadologist - Less Wrong

-15 Post author: Mitchell_Porter 15 October 2009 09:37AM

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Comment author: SilasBarta 23 October 2009 02:21:29PM *  5 points [-]

As I just asked Robin Z, please explain to me what's green about a causal disposition or a physical motion.

And I've answered you several times, which is why it's specifically my comments that you avoid.

Let's go over this again: computer programs are in the very same dilemma. They use generated symbols. GensymA refers to this data. GensymB refers to that data. MetaGensym1 refers to the group {GensymA, GensymB, ...}.

It can tell any two gensyms apart. It can tell any metagensym group apart. But from the program's perspective, it cannot tell what is "GensymA-ish" about this data, or "GensymB-ish" about that data -- just whether they are or aren't. Between two program instances, all of this (within limits) could be switched around, and there would be no multi-program GensymA.

You already know how this situation arises from the physicalist reductionist account.

You simply have to recognize yourself as being in that same scenario. Your internal, truly-part-of-you labels for different phenomena are the qualia -- which accounts for the problematic aspects of qualia.

Does this resolve the issue completely? Of course not. Among many other things, we need to figure out what (seemingly efficient) data representation method the brain uses that causes the specific aspects of color, like its ability to vary in shade, and vary orthogonally to the sounds you hear. But there's a clear research program there and a coherent picture from a reductionist account.

Comment author: RobinZ 27 October 2009 12:27:15AM 1 point [-]

Incidentally, it may amuse you that others have (independently, for all I can tell) come to entirely similar conclusions:

But nothing requires us to make such an invocation. We don't have to know how we identify or re-identify or gain access to such internal response types in order to be able so to identify them. This is a point that was forcefully made by the pioneer functionalists and materialists, and has never been rebutted (Farrell, 1950, Smart, 1959). The properties of the "thing experienced" are not to be confused with the properties of the event that realizes the experiencing. To put the matter vividly, the physical difference between someone's imagining a purple cow and imagining a green cow might be nothing more than the presence or absence of a particular zero or one in one of the brain's "registers". Such a brute physical presence is all that it would take to anchor the sorts of dispositional differences between imagining a purple cow and imagining a green cow that could then flow, causally, from that "intrinsic" fact. (I doubt that this is what the friends of qualia have had in mind when they have insisted that qualia are intrinsic properties.)

The above comes from Quining Qualia by Daniel Dennett - the citations are to:

  • Farrell (1950). "Experience," Mind, 59, pp.170-98.
  • Smart, J.C. (1959). "Sensations and Brain Processes," Philosophical Review, LXVIII, pp.141-56.
Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 24 October 2009 01:19:23AM 0 points [-]

You state the essence of your view here:

your phenomenal experience of blue, is your label for the kind of data that is blue

And I presume that the "blue data" is called blue, not because it is literally blue in the old-fashioned sense, but because it's caused by physical "blueness", or just because that's the name we're using for a particular range of data values.

To paraphrase what I just said to Richard: in effect, you are saying that the experience of color is the experience of colorlessness, plus a color label. Which is the same as saying that I don't actually see color, I just think I see color.

Comment author: SilasBarta 24 October 2009 01:57:34AM *  1 point [-]

You state the essence of your view here:

This is getting tiresome. The link you just gave was actually to a time when I was summarizing my previous attempt to correct a further previous misunderstanding of my position.

You haven't actually addressed any of it, including here. I gave a specific example of this model of qualia in a different context: generated symbols in programing. Instead of just an inflammatory strawman plus a non-sequitur,

you are saying that the experience of color is the experience of colorlessness, plus a color label. Which is the same as saying that I don't actually see color, I just think I see color.

how about you actually say where you think that model breaks down?

How about you stop repeating the same confusion between the linguistic label and the computational label, like you're doing here:

And I presume that the "blue data" is called blue, ... because that's the name we're using for a particular range of data values.

Again (this is at least the third time I've explained this to you): the phenomenal experience of blue is not the same thing as the name "blue". You experience seeing blue whether or not you have the term "blue" (or "azul" or "blau" or "bleu" or "aoi"). Rather, the phenomenal experience of blue is what it is like to be a program that has classified incoming data as being a certain kind of light, under the constraint of having to coherently represent all of its other data (other colors, other visual qualities, other senses, other combined extrapolations from multiple senses, etc) but with limited comparison abilities.

Yes, as part of your use of a language, you can assign the label "blue". But that's not how I'm explaining phenomenal blue. I'm explaining phenomenal blue as your architecture's direct label for a kind of light, below the level at which you can see it work. To experience blue is to feel your cognitive architecture assigning a label to sensory data.

Now, you may have a reason to reject this approach. You may have reason to believe that the associated research program will turn out surprisingly fruitless. You may have an alternative which looks more promising.

But I have no way of knowing that, when the only response that you give to the reasoning that I've just given (and have given in some form or another five times now) is to ignore it or respond to a mischaracterization of it.

Now, try again, and this time, communicate to me what caused you to reject this approach at the time you considered it during the last eight years. I would love to know what you uncovered in trying this out.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 24 October 2009 09:21:09AM 0 points [-]

I have aggregated my latest responses here.

Comment author: RobinZ 24 October 2009 02:12:23AM 0 points [-]

What do you think you do when you see, dance a minuet to the music of Bach? Seeing is an act of thought.