I'm both, trying to find if this thought process is valid (reach correct conclusions in the questions) and also how are the standard interpretations different (which it seems they are.)



Understood as a conscious event in the widest sense, experience involves a subject to which various items are presented. In this sense, seeing a yellow bird on a branch presents the subject with the objects "bird" and "branch", the relation between them and the property "yellow". Unreal items may be included as well, which happens when experiencing hallucinations or dreams.

So I'm does not only including sensory perceptions but also dreams. I'm also including feelings and thoughts.

This may be one of the reasons why my interpretations of these terms don't quite match others'; some may not count that we 'experience' a thought or a dream, even though it's a perception, but not a sensory perception.


The next paragraph is optional but gives more examples apart from the ones I wrote myself later on.

A great variety of types of experiences is discussed in the academic literature. Perceptual experiences, for example, represent the external world through stimuli registered and transmitted by the senses. The experience of episodic memory, on the other hand, involves reliving a past event one experienced before. In imaginative experience, objects are presented without aiming to show how things actually are. The experience of thinking involves mental representations and the processing of information, in which ideas or propositions are entertained, judged or connected. Pleasure refers to experience that feels good. It is closely related to emotional experience, which has additionally evaluative, physiological and behavioral components. Moods are similar to emotions, with one key difference being that they lack a specific object found in emotions. Conscious desires involve the experience of wanting something. They play a central role in the experience of agency, in which intentions are formed, courses of action are planned, and decisions are taken and realized. Non-ordinary experience refers to rare experiences that significantly differ from the experience in the ordinary waking state, like religious experiences, out-of-body experiences or near-death experiences.


Each of the named items is a composition of Qualia: a bird's location, shape, colour (brightness, hue, saturation..), even any meaning that I'm attaching to it. Also, any thought would be a Qualia, and also an experience (or part of the experience.) For Qualia (see link at the top for more info) I mean the subjective or qualitative properties of experiences. which are, in turn, all we experience.

So both what one would call "external stimuli perceptions" which come from external objects, and the internal experiences like a thought, an illusion, a dream

Since all we experience is from a subject's perspective, and are qualities, it follows that they are the same thing.

For the so called 'objective' properties, are actually subjective (they are composed of Qualia, or subjective properties.)

Some more examples

If we are hungry that's a feeling, but that's the experience, it's not an addition to it.

When someone is dreaming, again, that's the person's experience. (as one finds in the Wikipedia Definition.)

There is no red without "no-redness" experience such that we can separate what a qualia is from what non-qualia experience is. Two people may have a different experience, but not the same experience and different qualia. That's a contradiction in terms.

The reasons why they will have a different experience (or qualia) is simply that they are structural items, and hence slightly - but not completely - different.


  • Is experience a collection of integrated Qualia, and if we remove these, there is nothing left ? Can we remove the redness and leave the red ?
  • Is this not the typical way those terms are seen ? Can you explain how are these two concepts not the same compared to the way most philosophers would interpret them ?

For example, is the difference just that Experience is what we seem to agree as if it were 'out there and public', and can point to, like "that's a tomato", and qualia are somewhat "private" ? However, is this really fair definition (isn't a silly mistake) ?

For there is only the private in this sense (qualia), since we are all objects that process a stimuli and get a disproportionate effect in return - which I don't know if it's explained - i.e the experience.

  • "Experience" is a very vague colloquial word, "qualia" is a more precisely delineated term, at least, as used in philosophy. Whether two people can have the same experience and different qualia simply depends on how "experience" is meant by the speaker. They can mean some empirical event, or qualia, or anything in between, or some mixture thereof. Explaining colloquial shades of meaning and uses of "experience" is not really a question for this SE.
    – Conifold
    Jan 1 at 12:18
  • Then pick some text by a philosopher where both are used in a way that interests you, and link or quote it. At least, then there will be something firm to go on. At present, it is very nebulous which concepts you want "explained" exactly.
    – Conifold
    Jan 1 at 16:21
  • 1
    You are routinely overestimating the self-explanatory power of your one-liners, and of mind-reading over the internet. There is a reason philosophers write long texts to fix their terms. So put an effort into it and find one if you want substantive answers.
    – Conifold
    Jan 1 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: I just made up these definitions. I don't know if they're standard in any field.

Here's a guess: "experience" is just general term describing our subjective... experience. "qualia" are smaller units of that experience. For example, I can see the color red and hear a high pitched noise at the same time. I would be experiencing at least two qualia. And at a later time maybe I'll see the color blue and smell pie. Experience can refer broadly to the subjective experience that can encompasses many qualia at one time and extends over different times.

So our experience is made up of lots of different qualia and each quale is a little bit of experience. So they're closely related but technically different.

However, the word "experience" could be used in practice to refer to smaller bite-size pieces of experience that could be considered to be qualia. So in practice there may be a lot of overlap between the two words.

  • Yes, as the first question says: "isn't experience a bunch of qualia..." Maybe you add, that it's integrated as well. But the point of the question is: can you find a qualia that's not part of experience ? i.e we can not have the same experience and different qualia so imho the same explanations that are valid for explaining experience, are valid to explain qualia (that's my main thought behind, which seems to be not popular.)
    – Mah Neh
    Dec 31, 2023 at 4:47
  • Yeah, my (naive) understanding is that experience is the sum of the qualia that make it up. So there is no qualia that's not a part of experience. If we have the same qualia we will have the same experience and vice versa. But again, that's my naive understanding. (Sounds like I'm in a similar place as you).
    – Jagerber48
    Dec 31, 2023 at 4:49
  • Indeed. Did you read Schroedinger's what is life ?
    – Mah Neh
    Dec 31, 2023 at 4:49
  • 1
    @MahNeh No, I haven't read that
    – Jagerber48
    Dec 31, 2023 at 4:50

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