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In other words, is it possible to claim that sentiments, emotions, and experiences influence people to have different subjective impressions of a picture without affirming the existence of qualia?

  • Basically this question comes down to asking “What is the definition of the word ’qualia‘?“ — Qualia isn’t a thing, it is a concept, and thus whatever qualia is or isn’t is solely influenced by how you define the word. If emotion is a qualia or not doesn’t change anything about the concept of emotion. – Marcus Blättermann Jul 20 '15 at 10:41
  • Yes, all impressions are qualia. ANY distinguishable mind=body phenomena is qualia or their collection. Simple. But not for Marcus. – Asphir Dom Jul 21 '15 at 13:38
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I think you've unwittingly asked two different questions with two different answers. I'll explain, but first, let's talk definitions.

"Qualia" is a technical term, so you'd think it'd have a clear, agreed-upon definition (that's usually the point of technical terminology). Unfortunately, it's actually used to mean several slightly different things. The following definitions capture the uncontroversial basics of what most people are talking about when they talk about qualia, but keep in mind that sometimes there's more built into the word's definition. When different assumptions are built into the term, it leads to all sorts of semantic debates. Ned Block, a well-known philosophy of mind specialist, wrote this short but useful paper on relevant controversies.

Common definitions of "qualia" include:

  1. The properties or characteristics of sense-data. As a philosophic term, "qualia" was first used by C. I. Lewis to refer to properties of sense-data (via IEP), so this is the original definition.
  2. Amy Kind defines qualia as "subjective or qualitative properties of experiences," what gives an experience its characteristic "feel" and what distinguishes them from each other. Examples include the sensations of pain, hunger, and itching, as well as what it feels like to be angry or anxious (IEP).
  3. Daniel Dennett (a famous philosopher who writes about qualia) once defined qualia as "the ways things seem to us" (via Wikipedia) but has used other definitions at other times (SEP).
  4. Ned Block gives the following basic/initial definition: "Qualia include the ways things look, sound and smell, the way it feels to have a pain, and more generally, what it's like to have experiential mental states"
  5. Michael Tye defines "qualia" as "the introspectively accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives" (SEP). Tye gives a useful breakdown of 4 more specific uses of "qualia" in his SEP article, including a helpful explanation of the different definitions that Lewis, Dennett, and Block use (SEP).

The following basic definition emerges: "the subjective characteristics of experiences" captures most of what people mean when they talk about qualia.

Now that we have a basic understanding of how "qualia" is used, let's try to answer your 2 questions:

- "Are all subjective impressions qualia?"

That depends entirely on what you mean by "subjective impressions" because this phrase, like "qualia," is open to multiple interpretations. If by "subjective impressions" you mean "experiences" then the answer to this question is "no" -- properties of subjective impressions are qualia, not the subjective impressions themselves. Qualia are the characteristics of experiences, the way things feel or look or smell etc., not the experiences or sensory inputs themselves.

- "Is it possible to claim that sentiments, emotions, and experiences influence people to have different subjective impressions of a picture without affirming the existence of qualia?"

This strikes me as a different question from what you put in the title. You seem to be asking about causality. You're asking if the following conditional is true: IF people have different experiences of a picture as a result of their different sentiments, emotions and experience THEN qualia exist.

This condition is true on the basic definition of "qualia" as the subjective characteristics of experiences. If qualia don't exist as defined above, then a person's experience of a picture has no subjective characteristics. If a person's experience of a picture has no subjective characteristics -- i.e. if there's nothing in particular that it's like for a person to experience the picture -- then experiences of a picture cannot have different subjective characteristics. Having subjectively different experiences implies the existence of qualia. Therefore, we can conclude that IF people have different experiences of a picture as a result of their different sentiments, emotions and experience THEN qualia exist. The answer to this question is "yes" (if I've interpreted you correctly).

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What is a qualia? Consider the red cricket ball that I am holding in my hand; I suggest that redness is a qualia.

What does this mean?

One orientation is through that given in the analytical tradition; another is through the continental tradition; for this answer - Kants critical philosophy.

From a Kantian perspective, the red cricket ball is not a pure intuition; as the only pure intuitions are those representations of space and time that we hold to give sense to raw sense impressions - the sensory manifold; for me to see this red cricket ball that I am holding in my hand I must see myself and the ball in time and space.

It is under the aspect of the categories, which are pure concepts (Begriffe) of the Understanding (Verstand) that gives 'shape' and 'form' to our experience (Kant identifies different aspects of the mind or consciousness, the intellectual and imaginative faculty he calls the Understanding).

The category of modality has three aspects - actuality, possibility and neccessity:

The postulates of empirical thinking in general (First Critique - B266)

  1. Whatever agrees with the formal conditions of experience (in accordance with intuition and concepts) is possible

  2. That which is connected with the material conditions of experience (of sensation) is called actual

  3. That whose connection with the actual is determined in accordance with general conditions of experience is (exists) neccessarily.

There are twelve categories, arranged into four parts; Modality I've explained above; another is Quantity, under which redness is a Unity, or in older language a Universal; the third category is that of Relation, and under this redness relates to substance, in older language (Platonic) it is a Form.

Thus redness is a synthesised, and thus impure concept of the Understanding; which is a actual and universal; and is a form (of substances).

And this is what we mean by a qualia derived from sensibility, from actual empirical experience.

Are all subjective impressions qualia? ... [can they have] different experiences of a picture?

In his third Critique on Judgement, Kant builds on top of this picture of how we experience; for moral and aesthetic to supervene on the qualia, or forms of our experience.

So, for example the colour red is associated with passion and danger; and it's their articulate feeling and expression for these forms that artists can do what it is they do.

And what goes for redness, goes also for a picture, or a film or a piece of music.

In Kants theory of mind, qualia or impure concepts of the understanding exist.

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