By qualia - assume as defined in [wikipedia]:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia, give or take ( up to you ) By "meaning as we experience it", perhaps I could just say "meaning", but i want to differentiate from "definition" or how a concept "fits" in relation to some larger system of concepts, etc.

I want to specifically focus on that sense of "meaning" that we have, when we feel we know that something does have a meaning.

It might be this question forces a yes - it is qualia, because you stipulate that in the question! If that is the case, I suppose an interesting follow up is if meaning as a qualia exists for us, then like red, blue, etc. it might manifest differently for every person and we never be able to detect that...are there any consequences of that, if it were the case?

One consequence might be to study the point where we first achieve the qualia meaning ( as babies or toddlers ), to experiment with the acquisition process, and see if the initial imprint of the qualia of meaning might have significantly different outcomes. As a concsiousness with the sense of meaning, I say it is a prevalent one. So, if it could differ, it would seem there is potential for far reaching impact on day to day experience.

Last - Is it even imaginable that the sense of meaning can be different?

  • I am not sure what meaning is, yet. I feel I know various different things. For example "fish" has a meaning in English; it is a lexical symbol used to refer to a certain subset of aquatic vertebrates, or to the act of trying to catch them, or the generalization of said act. Is that sense the sense that you mean? Or do you mean a sense of meaningfulness, like "raising children is really meaningful; playing video games is not"? Or something else?
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 23:56
  • My answer to your title question is yes. But as for your explanation, are you saying that we may have a different sense of things we experience as qualia? For example, although we all use common color concepts (red, blue, etc) but we may sense/experience them differently as qualias?
    – infatuated
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 7:32

6 Answers 6


What you're talking about is called "cognitive phenomenology," i.e. what it is like to experience a certain kind of cognitive state like knowing, or believing, or understanding, or doubting. Some people don't think there is such a thing, others do. I don't know this literature very well, but there is a recent (2012) collection of papers on the topic that includes a lot of really big names in philosophy of mind.


  • Thanks - this looks to me like the right direction to explore the question.
    – Gush
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 21:44

Very profound observation you had. Meaning is Qualia too. In fact everything is (it even follows from definition, even though definitions are bad way to think). With higher conceptions it is much harder to see that they are innately exactly similar to the feeling of red. For that you need high sense of INNER vision. People think they have different senses because QUALIA are infinite. But qualia are also absolute. It means that if there is some OTHER sense of redness or meaning, in some circumstances you would experience it too. Hence we think we are subjective only because qualia are infinite.

After living some time on earth (more than 10 cycles) its very imaginable that there exist other sense of meaning.

Qualia's are atoms of the mind.


Its a good point about how meaning should be represented to us especially when they strike us with some force. I don't think borrowing the term qualia helps because that represents the 'thisness' or the 'quiddity' of the world to us.

A literary term is epiphany.


When you speak of meaning as a colour, for exemple, we can say that the way you experience blue is not my way of experiencing blue, but, if we can agree that it is blue when both of us are experiencing the same range of colours of the electromagnetic spectrum, then, we attribute them the same meaning. Qualia are almost certainly different but meaning is identical.

We can also say that, somehow, meaning is also a matter of qualia stored throughout civilization and shared by human mind. Adjectives speak better about qualia then nouns.


This very interesting question is complicated by the difficulty of pinning down what the word "meaning" -- well -- means. Famously, the logical empiricist (i.e. "positivist") program of early twentieth-century philosophers like Rudolf Carnap and A. J. Ayers was beset by problems having to do with their definition of "meaning."

At the risk of homogenizing a very diverse and internally divided movement, a frequent assertion made by the logical empiricists was that the only statements that are meaningful are those that can be translated into a true or false claim about the physical world. One problem with this point of view is that it's not quite clear how this definition of "meaningful" can itself be translated into a true or false claim about the physical world. And of course if it cannot, then it is meaningless by its own definition!

Concerning your point about qualia, I might distinguish between our ability to treat a statement as meaningful and our intuitive sense that a statement is meaningful. Consider Noam Chomsky's intentionally "meaningless" sentence "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously," which is famous enough to have its own wikipedia entry. Upon first glance, this sentence may indeed seem to be meaningless, but people have attempted to argue that it is potentially meaningful in a number of different ways. Some of these attempts seem to overreach; they don't satisfy our intuitive sense of what meaning ought to "look like." And yet they allow us to treat the sentence as meaningful regardless of our intuition. Arguably our intuitive sense that a sentence has meaning has the character of a quale, then, but we may still be able to treat a sentence as meaningful even if the quale of "meaningfulness" is absent when we regard it.


Not only that I consider that meaning is qualia, but also qualia is meaning. I wrote an article here: http://jcer.com/index.php/jcj/article/view/407 . Hope the explanations that I'm giving are strong enough to support the identity between meaning and qualia.

  • 1
    Can you summarize here? Better to provide a summary in case the link goes away (e.g., because the website changes path structures). Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 22:34

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