Subjectivity and Meta-meta-blogging

Edvard Munch’s Earbud Cover

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

This blog post is a blog post about a blog post about me. (Am I a strange loop yet?) Over at “Worldly Living: Philosophy of Mind and Sometimes More,” A.G. has some detailed comments on my paper “The Neurophilosophy of Subjectivity.” Here’s a brief excerpt of A.G.’s post and a response.

A.G. writes:

An unjust summary of points made in the paper: Phenomenal Raw Feels don’t exist as mere sensory input devoid of higher level mental processes. If this is true, then would it be possible to replicate an “experience” purely at a higher level? Pete answers in the affirmative, at least to an extent. Mary, by her study, could have more what-it’s-like knowledge than a control subject who isn’t a brilliant color scientist.


I think it is important to distinguish between having a conscious experience (a mental state that has phenomenal properties) and being in a state of knowing what it’s like to have a conscious experience (a mental state that arguably need not have phenomenal properties). The main question I’m interested in in the paper is whether it is a necessary condition on having the second kind of state that one has the first kind of state.

I argue that there is no such necessary condition. I argue that for any given conscious experience, Mary could come to be in a state of knowing what it would be like to have that experience without ever having that experience. I would not describe what Mary is doing as “replicating the experience at a higher level”. She need not be having any experience to get herself in the state of knowledge in question.

That’s all for now. I’m sure there’ll be more later. Have a nice weekend!

2 Responses to “Subjectivity and Meta-meta-blogging”

  1. AG says:

    Hey man, I did say it was an unjust summary. I’m at a different computer right now and it appears I can’t copy and paste from my own blog. Yeah, I agree the distinction you make is an important one. If you follow down about half way where I start out, “raising the bar…” it’s more clear that I’m trying to take your thesis on “knowledge” and see if some of the same concepts can be extended (along with sources from your paper and a couple of Dennett’s observation) to cover qualia. Going back and reading what I wrote I admit other than in that one paragraph I’m pretty unclear on this point.

    If you’re right about knowledge, I have a hard time believing that qualia can still stand and ultimately it seems to me that what is considered qualia has to be something of the same mundane stuff on that spectrum. I have a really hard time understanding how in a mass of wet neurons, there is this clear categorical distinction between knowledge of propositions and things like sense and feeling.

    Anyway, I sorta in my mind, always want to jump right to qualia because the gap seems to have strengthened it’s thesis from knowledge (in Nagel) to more recent dualist arguments. Right around the corner, after securing knowledge in a convincing way will be someone from the gap side of things inquiring about how certain ‘abilities’ can be explained physically.

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi A.G.,

    Your comment here makes me think that you would be much more interested in a different paper of mine: “An Epistemological Theory of Consciousness?”. See, especially, sections 3 and 6.