Reading Notes on John Gibbons’ “Qualia: Theyâ€™re Not What They Seem” Philosophical Studies 126:33, 397-428, Kluwer, 2005.
Ways things seem are not invertable. Intuitively, they would have been. Qualia are not the ways things seem and we should not trust our intuitions about them. There are unlikely to be good arguments for the existence of qualia. Certainly, we canâ€™t trust claims that qualia are obvious.
Â§2. A Surprising Impossibility
Ways things seem cannot be inverted between Laverne and Shirley. Laverene and Shirley learned the same language in the same environments. They both call red things â€œredâ€ and they both believe what they say. When they say â€œx seems redâ€ it is true.
Â§3. A Surprisingly Unstable Situation
If transported to Inverted Earth and fitted with reversing lenses, you will call green things â€œredâ€ and mean red. You will have systematically false beliefs. But over time the meanings of your terms will change: when you say â€œredâ€ it will refer to green. Not only will the meanings of your words change, so do the contents of your beliefs. The ways things seem to you have changed without your noticing. But this has been accompanied by a change in the meanings of your words and thought contents.
Â§4. Should we believe in qualia at all?
Red qualia are the redness in the mind. Three main but not good reasons for believing in the redness in the mind are introspection, intrasubjective spectrum inversion, and the argument from illusion.
Bad reason 1: Introspection
Introspection does not tell us that there is redness in the mind. When we go looking for redness we find it in the objects in the world.
Bad reason 2: Intrasubjective spectrum inversions
Qualia are hypothesized to explain a certain case. This is not a great reason for believing in qualia if there are other ways to explain the case
The case and the qualia explanation
You put on inverting lenses and eventually get used to them. Before putting them on, grass looks green. Right after putting them on, grass looks red. What we need an explanation for is what to say about after you get used to them. One thing you might say is that the grass seems green in one sense and in another sense seems red. This is the qualia strategy. It postulates that there are two kinds of â€œseemingâ€, â€œlookingâ€, etc.. There are two senses for every appearance concept: an epistemic sense that has to do with the representational content of judgments and a phenomenal sense that has to do with qualia.
The Non-qualia explanation of the case
Where the qualia explanation postulates an ambiguity in the meaning of â€œseemsâ€, the non-qualia strategy postulates an ambivalence people have about whether oneâ€™s representational contents can change without one noticing. So, prior to the lenses, one represents grass as green. Right after, one represents grass as red. After one has gotten used to the glasses, one is ambivalent about whether oneâ€™s experiences still represent the grass as red or now represent it as green. The non-qualia explanation is also able to explain what it is like to undergo experiences similar to intrasubjective spectrum inversion like getting used to sunglasses. Here, the difference of what it is like is doe to differences in the operation of thought. It is not weird to think that thought influences what it is like. Consider what it is like to taste wine before and after gaining wine-tasting expertise.
Bad reason 3: The argument from illusion
The argument goes something like this. Things can look red even though they are not red. But in order for things to look red, something or other has to be red. So, when you undergo the illusion that something external to you is red, what is really happening is that you are experiencing the redness in your mind. Such an argument about rock illusions wouldnâ€™t suffice to show that you had rocks in your head. Just rock beliefs, that is, beliefs about rocks. If the argument from illusion doesnâ€™t suffice to show that you have rocks in your head, why think it suffices to show that you have redness in the mind? Is there some special distinction between properties like redness for which the argument works and properties like rock-ness for which it does not?
Failed attempts at such a distinction:
-Secondary vs. primary qualities
-Just seen vs inferred properties
Secondary vs. primary wonâ€™t work because things that are red must be shaped. This puts shapes in the head too and they are no better than rocks in the head.
Just seen vs inferred properties wonâ€™t work because something can seem like a rock even though you believe I isnâ€™t. If you donâ€™t believe it you donâ€™t infer it.