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Color--mind-dependent qualia?

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  • Color--mind-dependent qualia?

    What do you make of the Lockean distinction between primary and secondary qualities? Are we justified in maintaining this distinction? Does color, or sensation in general belong in the latter camp? Arguably, this distinction is the genesis of the hard problem of consciousness.

  • #2
    An interesting point Feser beings up in his latest book is that color may not be separable from spatial extension.

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    • #3
      As I've argued in my topic, I think this distinction is basically irrelevant to the hard problem of consciousness. I am a little puzzled by the suggestion that the hard problem can be solved provided we locate qualia in formal causes of external objects. How does that explain the occurrence and emergence of first person points of view? Rocks can be actually grey and hard, but before conscious beings existed there was no one to experience these material qualities of rocks. The real focus of the hard problem is subjectivity, first person perspective which can perceive qualitative features, not the qualitative features themselves (even though these would be a problem for, say, reductive materialists too).

      How do we get conscious experiencers out of unconscious things? Still seems to me to require either theism, panpsychism, or emergentism.

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      • #4
        I always thought that the thrust of the hylemorphist's solution to the qualia problem is by espousing the dualistic tendency to regard human beings as a pairing of blind matter and immaterial consciousness, and to opt for the view that the human being is a holistic substance. His matter is not him, nor is his consciousness merely him. He is not blind matter in addition to spirit, he is distinctly a rational animal--his matter and his spirit exist in him in a virtual way, and they are ultimately subservient to the whole. Analagously, a painting cannot conjure an image if you are lost in the chemical composition of the brushstrokes. The hylemorphist will argue that the human being is an irreducible whole whose powers of consciousness (qualia included) cannot be reduced to the mechanical workings of his matter. On this view there is no duality that needs solving. To put it roughly, man is not a material thing in addition to a thinking thing, he is literally and irreducibly thinking matter.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by RomanJoe View Post
          I always thought that the thrust of the hylemorphist's solution to the qualia problem is by espousing the dualistic tendency to regard human beings as a pairing of blind matter and immaterial consciousness, and to opt for the view that the human being is a holistic substance. His matter is not him, nor is his consciousness merely him. He is not blind matter in addition to spirit, he is distinctly a rational animal--his matter and his spirit exist in him in a virtual way, and they are ultimately subservient to the whole. Analagously, a painting cannot conjure an image if you are lost in the chemical composition of the brushstrokes. The hylemorphist will argue that the human being is an irreducible whole whose powers of consciousness (qualia included) cannot be reduced to the mechanical workings of his matter. On this view there is no duality that needs solving. To put it roughly, man is not a material thing in addition to a thinking thing, he is literally and irreducibly thinking matter.
          But surely he is not literally thinking matter, contrary to what you say. Because matter literally can't think, and every thomist will agree with that; matter qua matter is particular and limited to spatiotemporal features and therefore incapable of grasping abstract thoughts. The reason the intellect can receive forms as universal concepts is that it is immaterial, otherwise it would receive forms in the same way an object with dimensions receives them: by instantiating them. Man is a substance that is both spiritual (immaterial) and material, but he does not think with matter, matter cannot think.

          How would hylemorphism solve the hard problem of consciousness? I am a hylemorphist. But simply locating and explaining qualia as formal causes of substances doesn't explain how we got conscious experiencers out of unconscious substances. Again, the rock may be truly grey and truly hard, and these qualitative features can be found in its extended body as matter is richer than the typical materialist reductionis takes it to be (bundles of colorless particles, say). But how do we get material things to start seeing the color of the rock, to receive that form not as a grey object does, but as an experiencer, an observer?

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          • #6
            Given a hylemorphic view, isn't it inappropriate to think of consciousness coming from brute matter? Shouldn't this not really be a problem for the hylemorphist? The matter doesn't really exist as matter (mindless particles standing in transeunt causal relation to each other) when there is a conscious subject. The conscious doesn't emerge from the unconscious--it simply becomes what it is wholly. I'm a bit weird when it comes to hylemorphism. I'm not sure I understand it well enough to fully present it, but wouldn't it be wrong for the hylemorphist to think along the lines of unconscious matter existing as part of the conscious subject?

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            • #7
              Forgive me if I seem a little confused about this. I have at best a hazy understanding of hylemorphism and its role in the philosophy of mind.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by RomanJoe
                What do you make of the Lockean distinction between primary and secondary qualities? Are we justified in maintaining this distinction? Does color, or sensation in general belong in the latter camp? Arguably, this distinction is the genesis of the hard problem of consciousness.
                Originally posted by Atno
                Rocks can be actually grey and hard, but before conscious beings existed there was no one to experience these material qualities of rocks.
                RomanJoe I used to like dispositionalist accounts like Marmodoro's and reductionist accounts like Armstrong's. Both the former and latter think that colours are in objects as dispositions that cause mind-dependent sensations of colours in onlookers. The latter, however, reduces the dispositions to combinations of microstructures and law of nature universals. (cf. "It's a Colorful World" and "Smart and the Secondary Qualities" respectively.)

                It's nice to get an ontology thread, by the way.
                ​​​​​
                Atno You've decided the whole thread topic by slipping a realist thesis in to your comment and continuing on as if everybody already accepts it. You've got to do more work than that man! Haha.

                By the way, the only reason I haven't commented on your Thomism and qualia thread is that I haven't had time to sit down and write all the fine distinctions I would need to defend Thomism (possibly before turning around and agreeing with you). Administrator should consider activating the thanks function so that we can let people know we appreciate their topics even when we're unable to properly reply to them.

                @Everyone Here is an, I think, interesting question: Can theists, qua theists, ultimately deny the mind-dependence of both primary and secondary qualities?

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                • Administrator
                  Administrator commented
                  Editing a comment
                  The thanks button is a third party modification for vB 3. I will have to see if a version has been developed for vB 5.

              • #9
                Having skimmed Armstrong's “Smart and the Secondary Qualities”, 4.14 of A World of States of Affairs, and his “Reply to Campbell” in Ontology, Causality and Mind just now to make sure I remember everything clearly, I find that I've misrepresented him. He explicitly rejects the view that “being red is to be analyzed in terms of 'the categorical basis of the disposition to make something look red' (Campbell)” in his Reply to Campbell. He says that he has to because he analyzes having red sensations as acquiring the information that there is something red and would fall into circularity if he then analyzed redness in terms of red sensations. The whole Reply is a good example of why even Armstrong's opponents respected him for his intellectual honesty. (I don't feel bad about this mistake. Campbell had been his friend and colleague for at least thirty years at the time of writing and made roughly the same mistake. I ought to have remembered the exchange, but it has been a few years and it's in a relatively obscure corner of his corpus.)

                The upshot of all this is that Armstrong's view is absurd, though he didn't think it was and showing that it was would take some ink.

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                • #10
                  RomanJoe and Atno As regards Thomism and the qualia problem, I think the two of you are talking past each other by equivocating on the meaning of matter. When we talk about qualia being irreducible to matter, we're talking about it being irreducible to matter in the sense of spatio-temporal beings or, perhaps, spatio-temporal beings that play causal roles, whereas when Thomists talk about qualia being reducible to matter they're talking about matter in the sense of parcels of materia signata quantitate with substantial forms. It's not so much that either of you is wrong as that the Thomist conception of matter is already beefed up with forms that aren't in themselves material and that Thomist authors don't always take the time to spell this out before they start throwing around terms like matter. (Ed might in Aristotle's Revenge. I have a copy, but I don't know when I'll get around to it. RomanJoe might know.) There is some funny business with Thomist comments about only the intellect being incorporeal in man. That is what I wanted to break down and look at before replying. But I'm not going to have time. Basically, I suspect they're using corporeal in the same kind of beefed up way (as in, e.g., the corporeal nature of plants and animals that obviously have substantial forms that aren't in themselves material, either), but I won't know until I actually sit down and start drawing distinctions and looking at it (and maybe cracking some of the newer texts on the Thomist conception of matter).
                  Last edited by John West; 04-07-2019, 12:05 AM.

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                  • #11
                    Originally posted by John West View Post
                    RomanJoe and Atno As regards Thomism and the qualia problem, I think the two of you are talking past each other by equivocating on the meaning of matter. When we talk about qualia being irreducible to matter, we're talking about it being irreducible to matter in the sense of spatio-temporal beings or, perhaps, spatio-temporal beings that play causal roles, whereas when Thomists talk about qualia being reducible to matter they're talking about matter in the sense of parcels of materia signata quantitate with substantial forms. It's not so much that either of you is wrong as that the Thomist conception of matter is already beefed up with forms that aren't in themselves material and that Thomist authors don't always take the time to spell this out before they start throwing around terms like matter. (Ed might in Aristotle's Revenge. I have a copy, but I don't know when I'll get around to it. RomanJoe might know.) There is some funny business with Thomist comments about only the intellect being incorporeal in man. That is what I wanted to break down and look at before replying. But I'm not going to have time. Basically, I suspect they're using corporeal in the same kind of beefed up way (as in, e.g., the corporeal nature of plants and animals that obviously have substantial forms that aren't in themselves material, either), but I won't know until I actually sit down and start drawing distinctions and looking at it (and maybe cracking some of the newer texts on the Thomist conception of matter).
                    But how exactly does that help with naturalizing consciousness? I'm saying that matter being "beefed up with forms that aren't themselves material" can help us to locate the qualities behind qualia sensations in the world (e.g. redness as a form shared by apples), but a deeper issue is the power to *subjectively experience* these qualities. The first person character of animals and humans. Then it doesn't help much to have beefed up matter unless we have an account for how substances of beefed up matter can somehow develop the capacity to experience particular forms as first person qualia. Consciousness marks a sharp break in the history of the world just like reason does; maybe it doesn't require an incorporeal faculty like reason does (as most Thomists would agree), but nevertheless it is a sharp break and it calls for some explanation. At one point we went from unconscious matter to conscious beings. What I question is: is it really that helpful here to say we went from unconscious matter with formal qualitative characteristics, to conscious beings? The capacity for conscious, subjective experience does not seem reducible to greater organization of (presumably unconscious) forms we see in nature.

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                    • #12
                      It's worth distinguishing different senses of naturalism (and, consequently, “naturalizing”) common on this forum. I'm inclined to follow the Sydney empiricists and use naturalism to mean the thesis that only spacetime and its contents exist; Dan uses it in a more inclusive way to mean any theory that denies the existence of God, angels, demons, and other such entities. I think that naturalists who allow for the existence of (indeed, sometimes the existence of nothing but) Platonic beings are naturalists unworthy of the name (who, I suspect, are just trying to be part of the “in” group); Dan thinks that this is an acceptable meaning of naturalism. I think it's much harder to see what “naturalizing consciousness” could mean on Dan's preferred definition of naturalism than on mine.

                      Dan and I agree that there is a tendency for Aristotelians to naturalize (in the sense of bringing theories closer to naturalist theories in my sense) and I think this is an explicit tendency in a lot of Aristotelian thinking; but I think we would also agree that, while they bring theories closer to naturalist ones, they don't bring them all the way and that it's a mistake to treat them as trying to do so (rather than, say, reflect an inordinate concern with common sense in their ontologies, or something like that).

                      But how exactly does that help with naturalizing consciousness?
                      It doesn't. It's a mistake to treat Aristotelians in the classical sense as fully naturalizing consciousness, and any naturalist that adopts a traditional Aristotelian theory of mind is a naturalist not worthy of the name. I was trying to defend Thomists; I wasn't trying to defend naturalists.

                      I used to, in something like this way, be a sophisticated naturalist. I favored C. B. Martin's "Aristotelian" or Lockean theory of mind as a way to get around the intentionality problem.* I wasn't as worried about the qualia problem because I cut my teeth on Armstrong's arguments against the reliability of introspection (A Materialist Theory of the Mind) and use of the Headless Woman illusion. I eventually became more worried about it, but I think you'll find that most sophisticated naturalists make moves like the ones I made rather than taking it all on the nose or allowing for immaterial intellects like Nagel.

                      The first person character of animals and humans. Then it doesn't help much to have beefed up matter unless we have an account for how substances of beefed up matter can somehow develop the capacity to experience particular forms as first person qualia. Consciousness marks a sharp break in the history of the world just like reason does; maybe it doesn't require an incorporeal faculty like reason does (as most Thomists would agree), but nevertheless it is a sharp break and it calls for some explanation. At one point we went from unconscious matter to conscious beings. What I question is: is it really that helpful here to say we went from unconscious matter with formal qualitative characteristics, to conscious beings? The capacity for conscious, subjective experience does not seem reducible to greater organization of (presumably unconscious) forms we see in nature.
                      What is the argument here, explicitly, in syllogistic or logical form? Aristotle (who's not a naturalist) provides a non-theistic psychology and I told you how an actual ontologically sophisticated naturalist would tackle the problem in my previous paragraph. (Martin would also deny that causation is like a pipeline that passes qualities from being to being, viz. the principle of proportionate causality.)

                      *He makes dispositionality, instead of intentionality, primitive and then tries to build the directedness of minds out of arrays of dispositions. He would say that panpsychists beg the question by making intentionality primitive and then transposing it on to atoms and objects as well as humans rather than starting from dispositions and working in the opposite direction.
                      Last edited by John West; 04-08-2019, 12:32 AM.

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                      • #13
                        The point is just that first person consciousness is something over and above both spatiotemporal (material) features of things, and the qualitative formal characteristics that presumably inanimate substances might have (such as the color of an apple, its texture and smell and so on). If first person consciousness is a late comer to our universe, how do we explain its existence?

                        I don't see much hope for explaining it through formal causes only. Not apart from either panpsychism or theism. (Someone could adopt emergentism as well, but it's not a serious contender in my view; and in any case, philosophy without PSR to me ceases to be philosophy and becomes apologetics for superstition).

                        I just think it is a discussion for panpsychism vs theism. I wasn't addressing Armstrong, though I never thought his response was good; I was focusing on thomism and aristotelianism. If you know how a thomist, an aristotelian, or a hylemorphist could explain the existence of first person consciousness without appealing to either panpsychism or special theistic creation, please share; most resources I find focus on the same strategy I mentioned of locating qualia in formal causes etc, which doesn't solve the problem.

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                        • #14
                          I don't see much hope for explaining it through formal causes only. Not apart from either panpsychism or theism. (Someone could adopt emergentism as well, but it's not a serious contender in my view; and in any case, philosophy without PSR to me ceases to be philosophy and becomes apologetics for superstition).
                          Suppose panpsychism or theism. How, in ontological terms, are you going to assay qualia? It's going to have to be in terms of either substances or properties (in the extended sense that includes substantial forms). It's probably not going to be in terms of substances. (Qualia don't seem like substances.) So it's going to have to be in terms of properties. It's probably also not going to be in terms of substantial forms. So it's going to be in terms of quality-universals or -tropes.

                          I put to you that the Thomist is simply saying that he can ground those quality-universals or -tropes (the latter in his case) in a substantial form that isn't in itself material without any problem.

                          The point is just that first person consciousness is something over and above both spatiotemporal (material) features of things, and the qualitative formal characteristics that presumably inanimate substances might have (such as the color of an apple, its texture and smell and so on). If first person consciousness is a late comer to our universe, how do we explain its existence?
                          This is an instance an older, more general problem. Suppose presentism is right. Further suppose that the only universals that exist are instantiated universals. Further further suppose there is a possible world in which only 10 qualities exist.

                          If an 11th quality comes into (or is brought into) existence, where does that quality come from? Does it emerge from new configurations of matter? Does God create it ex nihilo? Do all F1 and F2-qualities mutually manifest the new F11-qualities when together?

                          Martin's reply is going to be a combination of the last and rejecting presentism and growing salami theory (so that F11 has in a sense always existed). To block the former reply (in the case of qualia), you need to uphold the principle of proportionate causality; to block the latter, you will descend into PSR arguments that deny naturalism anyway. I see no reason why a contemporary Aristotelian who accepts substantial forms can't give either reply as regards qualia.
                          Last edited by John West; 04-08-2019, 01:58 AM.

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                          • #15
                            (I got a bit jargony towards the bottom of my last reply. To be clear, I'm talking about Martin's theory of reciprocal disposition partners for mutual manifestation. I could have put the point in more traditional dispositionalist language. The "contemporary Aristotelian" of my last sentence needn't adopt Martin's specific theory.)

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