Sunday, January 18, 2009

"There is no blue without yellow and without orange." – Vincent Van Gogh


Although it does not actually mention the word "qualia", Thomas Nagel's paper What Is it Like to Be a Bat? is often cited in debates over qualia. Nagel argues that consciousness has an essentially subjective character, a what-it-is-like aspect. He states that "an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is to be that organism — something it is like for the organism." Nagel also suggests that the subjective aspect of the mind may not ever be sufficiently accounted for by the objective methods of reductionistic science. He claims that "[i]f we acknowledge that a physical theory of mind must account for the subjective character of experience, we must admit that no presently available conception gives us a clue how this could be done." Furthermore, he states that "it seems unlikely that any physical theory of mind can be contemplated until more thought has been given to the general problem of subjective and objective."

Image: Geoff Barrenger, Ports 1961 Spring/Summer 2007

2 comments:

pual said...

we read a little thomas nagel in my ethics class; it was one of my favorite readings. His view on the possibility of achieving objective values through reasoning and that there does not need to be an external reference (i.e. god, world of forms), got me really into objectivism.

Jay said...

I applied to grad school with a paper on qualia!! It was one of my favorite subjects. I think Nagel is wrong, btw; to say that you are the subject of qualia is simply to push the question of consciousness back futher.