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Quale Is All There Is

A quale is a single instance of what we call a subjective experience, the experience that is pointed to by phrases such as “seeing red,” “tasting coffee,” or “feeling sad.” The plural form of this word might be slightly more familiar to some people: qualia.

“Qualia” is an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us. — Daniel Dennett in Quining Qualia

Some philosophers argue that the apparent presence of qualia is evidence of consciousness and that consciousness does not arise from the operation of specific parts of the brain. Other philosophers, such as Daniel Dennett, argue that qualia do not really exists and that nobody is, therefore, conscious.

Yet, as far as we know, there is only the experience of what is happening, there is only qualia. An internal representation of how the world exists appears via qualia, as does the thinking about that internal representation. Reading a scientific paper is a process composed wholly of qualia. The experience of understanding the paper is also composed wholly of qualia. The generally ineffable experience of qualia is all anyone can ever know. And then, when we apparently agree on how the “real” world works, we do so via qualia.

At the root of the problem of qualia is the idea that something is experiencing each quale, that there is something separate from each quale which is the subject and that the quale is the object (a proxy for the ever mythical “real world” object). When it’s seen that there is only quale, it is obvious that there is no subject relative to the quale (and no “real world” object). There is only quale with no subject. This recognition immediately collapses the issue of consciousness. No, there is no consciousness. There is nothing to be conscious and nothing to be conscious of. There is only quale. Quale is all there is.

Written by

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

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