Click here to view posts before February 2014.
So, I learned what a quale is with Adam See. I especially remember the banana thought experiment he used. Something like, “if a person in a room knew everything about bananas ever, would an actual encounter with a banana add to that person’s knowledge?” Well, the answer seemed obvious to me. Of course that person attained some form of knowledge; perhaps a practical knowledge or an intuition? It seems as if these real aspects are quale. Plus, I figure there is a stark difference in just knowing everything about say, a person (maybe mom), and actually experiencing that person. How can anyone justify the non-existence of quale!? Hum, back to the thought experiment, and to be fair, I am still trying to imagine a person with the eternal knowledge of bananas!
So, I was supposed to ask Adam something about the ontological status of thought and qualia. But then I forgot my question, so we talked about going to graduate school for philosophy instead. He said it was good that I like teaching.
So it looks like Adam did a version of the “Mary’s room thought experiment” on William, except with bananas instead of the color red (which is kinda weird because bananas aren’t “quales” but I guess the overall effect is the same). I never really got how anyone could possibly claim that Mary didn’t learn something new. I think the whole thing really hinges on the ambiguity of the word “learn” though. We tend to think of learning as acquiring data or facts, like Mary does. And then we think about it more and we realize learning also involves developing skills (probably more than acquiring facts). If someone just watched movies and read books about riding bikes they wouldn’t be able to ride a bike. But, now it seems weird to think of color-perception as a skill like riding a bike; but it seems more like a skill than an acquired piece of information. So maybe it’s not about “learning” or “knowledge.” Mary definitely has a new experience. But was this ever in question? I just don’t see how learning all the physical facts that constitute an experience can be considered a substitute for the experience itself. They’re just two different things…. And I also don’t see why any of this has to be such a huge problem for materialism.
I don’t know why it’s a problem for materialism either! It’s not like our experiences are hallucinations or not real. At any rate, it seems like its impossible to reduce everything to purely natural processes anyway, there has to be some sort of consciousness that wrestles with and translates phenomena into some physical law. I don’t know how we’d ever be able to get rid of this “being” that inevitability experiences, and who’s intuitions, sensations, and will are so often beyond just the mere scope of facts.
So, I don’t know if the “being” or consciousness or some particular phenomenal experience is gotten rid of just because we (or someone) give a material explanation of it. We can give a physical explanation of the process of perceiving red (i think?…. it has something to do with light-waves, and retinas and cones and rods and stuff), and yea, the explanation itself isn’t going to be “red.” But that’s like opening a cookbook and expecting to find the food itself in there. I have no idea if this makes sense…
At this last POPc meeting, we got to speak about nominalism and what it meant for a notion of subjectivity. It was really cool! Somehow our conversation ended up being about whether there was really an inner dimension of consciousness, or whether (in line with the changing nature of reality for nominalists) we were webbed within, or reflections of others. I like the latter possibility a lot more. I can’t even imagine uttering even the word “I” without it referring to some sort of “We” that conditions even our singular possibility for speech. I mean, if after all, language is what draws our attention to objects in the world, makes images memorable, and translates things into intelligible terms, we can’t ever think of such pointed and shared language in the singular. Maybe, from this line of thinking, consciousness is just a multiplicity of many contingent beings overlapping one another at any instance in time or space – or as Dr. Shottenkirk put really nicely in more concrete terms; perhaps “I” is just one circle on a sort of venn diagram that is intersected by many other “I”s that themselves constitute another circle in a whole web of relations. hum
I think I learned what nominalism was at POPc, but now that I’m thinking about it again, I’m getting confused. So there’s no such thing as “red,” understood as an essential property of things, it’s just a predicate we apply to things. We point to things and call them red and so then they’re red (there’s probably a bunch of things wrong with this crude description). So maybe Mary doesn’t know that what she sees is red. In fact she probably doesn’t. But regardless things would be different for Mary (I think) if she saw blue. So, there’s something in the world by virtue of which whatever Mary sees is either red or blue. There’s a reason we apply certain predicates to certain things. What is this reason?
Before today, I had a distorted perspective on people who called themselves philosophers. I always assumed that they were slightly pretentious people trying to figure out the purpose of life and death, or other very vague topics. It was interesting to learn for the first time, that it most definitely is not. Kate, the philosopher who I spoke to, showed me that philosophy can come from anything, even languages.
We talked about a certain phrase in Korean that caught her attention. It’s a phrase that is similar to “I love you” but its meaning is something different. It means a collection of things from, loving endlessly, and respect, and even a sense of possession. There is no equal phrase in any other language. At least from what I know, not English or Spanish.
I enjoyed our conversation very much. It’s nice to know that philosophy is not as overblown as I thought.
The question of what is right and wrong came up. Whose right is right or who determines what is right? At what point do we deny someone the chance to do their idea of right or should we?
I truly enjoyed my conversation with Kate. I am a visual artist and really dont know a flute about philosophy .. I was a bit intimidated by jumping into our conversation at first. There was a hat to pick random questions, I planned to pull a paper from the hat to help steer our path. Before I did we fell into an interesting conversation about the intension of the artist in the work that we create. How important is it that the idea comes across to the audience? I work very intuitively, try not to think too much in order to channel and not let my ego or fears taint the work. The finished work develops a certain meaning to me, which is most commonly the exact opposite of that of my audience. As a poet, Kate had some similar experiences with her work and we bounced ideas around that had me questioning the type of experience someone shares with my work. Wrapping it up, I was a bit curious where the conversation would have gone had I pulled the paper from the hat.. we decided to pull one just to see, and it was exactly where we had gone on our own.. like a fortune cookie.
I talked with Kate today about the schopenhauer and the will, and how we experience emotions differently. We were wrestling with what the will is exactly, and how it affects what knowledge we acquire. I think that knowledge is a very personal thing that is largely determined by ones individual experience. even when it comes to emotion, we can take certain similar experiences in different way. Many of the thing that we know and feel that are universal to some extent are also indescribable, such as a subconscious feeling of acceptance or rejection within a crowd. We can identify with the general feeling of anxiety or comfort, but may have a different value or meaning for it in relation to our individual experiences.