Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Mr. Qualia seems to be private but is actually rather communicative.

The fact that certain qualia can arise only from experiencing the real thing in the immediacy of actual presence does not, of course, preclude the possibility of discussing about it. When one is deeply moved by an experience, whether by a work of art or traveling to places, one has a natural urge to discuss about the experience with other people. (I am actually telling my friends time and gain how wonderful "Girl with a pearl earring" or the Ise Grand Shrine are!) To the degree that qualia are consciously accessible, one can discuss about them, although it is not always possible (and perhaps in principle quite impossible) to put them to appropriate words.

Here's a real food for thought. We tend to think that conscious experience is essentially private in nature. There is no way to ascertain that the "redness of red" experienced by one person is the same as that experienced by another. So it comes as a kind of surprise to realize that one's ability to access qualia in the phenomenal domain acually lays the foundations for everyday communication.

Horace Barlow, a very respected brain scientist and my mentor at Cambridge once said in a conference that the most important role of consciousness was probably to assist communication. If we personify Mr. Qualia, the hallmark of consciousness, he seems to be very private with a capital P but is actually rather communicative. If all our experiences were unconscious, it is difficult to communicate any element of our mental activities to other people.

Horace Barlow giving a talk.


Greg said...

The ability of humans to transmit, negotiate, and co-construct meaning through the vehicle of language is wondrous. When we consider that there is a gap (i.e., no direct connection) between the signified, as Saussure defines it, and the observable forms of the signifier (e.g., the actual speech sounds we hear or produce and the written forms associated with them), it is amazing that we can discuss things, like qualia, that are not directly accessible or observable despite the lack of "appropriate" words to refer to their "true" and full nature.

masami said...

It is very difficult to be communicative for those who are awkward and timid.
I think one of the reasons is that they are afraid of being denied.
In the case of qualia there is no denial.
So even a very timid and awkward person can be communicative when discussing about their experience.
But things are not so easy.
By the way,
I'm not sure but I think there is one more thing which does not have any denial.
It is the words which God gave to Moses.
"I am who I am"
Is it the ultimate existence?
I don't know.
But I feel that qualia has the relations with the words "I am who I am" at their very bottom.

yuzu said...

I usually would like to listen to everybody's talking,so
I was very surprised by your chatting in everywhere and everyone in qualia journal. But is this also mirror neuron? I am getting to use to talk a little bit with everybody easily,I think. Thank you.