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Qualia as bare difference

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JamesOfSeattle
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Qualia as bare difference

Post by JamesOfSeattle » December 21st, 2018, 1:00 am

Thought experiment:

1. You’re sitting in a cubicle in a room with other cubicles and people. You can talk to them, but you can’t see into any other cubicles.
2. A bundle of wires (you can’t tell how many, but lots) comes into your cubicle through the wall, each wire having an LED on the end. Each wire is physically identical, but you can keep track of which is which
3. Each wire is connected to a separate computer. Each computer is hooked to a camera watching a room. Each computer is running a separate pattern recognition program. When it recognizes what it was trained on, it lights the LED.
4. One of the lights goes on.

How do you describe this to your neighbors?

“Hey, a light came on!
Which one?
I don’t know, one in the middle.

5. One of the computers recognizes cats. When it recognizes a cat, it turns on the associated light at the end of the wire. A second computer recognizes red objects, turning on its associated light. When a red cat is in the room, both lights are on.

6. The “cat” light goes on.

Now how would you describe this to your neighbors? Without using the word “cat”. Now allowing use of the word “cat”.

It seems to me this is how qualia could work, but instead of a comprehending homonculus in the cubicle (you) there is non-comprehending Mechanism (computer) that performs appropriate functions, like associating words with lights, recording what groups of lights come on in what order, initiating reports of which lights come on using the associated words, etc.

Does this make sense?

*

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by LuckyR » December 21st, 2018, 2:41 am

You watched Password, didn't you?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Gertie » December 21st, 2018, 6:06 pm

1. You’re sitting in a cubicle in a room with other cubicles and people. You can talk to them, but you can’t see into any other cubicles.
2. A bundle of wires (you can’t tell how many, but lots) comes into your cubicle through the wall, each wire having an LED on the end. Each wire is physically identical, but you can keep track of which is which
3. Each wire is connected to a separate computer. Each computer is hooked to a camera watching a room. Each computer is running a separate pattern recognition program. When it recognizes what it was trained on, it lights the LED.
4. One of the lights goes on.
With you so far, in that this is similar to the physical sub-systems of the brain.

And that there is no homunculus, rather the subsystems are intertwined (your computer here).

Language being part of the overall system.

On the level of a physical description of the brain, (and shared language being part of how how physical brains work), I'm with you.

But qualia specifically refers to the subjective phenomenal 'what it's like' experience, of for example 'seeing a cat'. Which your set up here seems to ignore.

So it's a description of how the physical correlates of the experiential state (qualia) only. A third person pov description of a process which in reality has both third person and first person pov aspects. The latter first person pov aspects, qualia, are missing. And that's the mysterious bit!

We can already see brains (roughly) doing what they do when someone sees a cat on a scanner screen. But we don't get the subject's first person experience of what it's like to see a cat when we're looking at a brain scan.

They can tell they're looking at a cat, but then the qualia-experience we'll be having is of someone telling us they're looking at a cat! Which will have its own unique neural correlation for each of us.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by h_k_s » December 22nd, 2018, 11:54 am

JamesOfSeattle wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 1:00 am
Thought experiment:

1. You’re sitting in a cubicle in a room with other cubicles and people. You can talk to them, but you can’t see into any other cubicles.
2. A bundle of wires (you can’t tell how many, but lots) comes into your cubicle through the wall, each wire having an LED on the end. Each wire is physically identical, but you can keep track of which is which
3. Each wire is connected to a separate computer. Each computer is hooked to a camera watching a room. Each computer is running a separate pattern recognition program. When it recognizes what it was trained on, it lights the LED.
4. One of the lights goes on.

How do you describe this to your neighbors?

“Hey, a light came on!
Which one?
I don’t know, one in the middle.

5. One of the computers recognizes cats. When it recognizes a cat, it turns on the associated light at the end of the wire. A second computer recognizes red objects, turning on its associated light. When a red cat is in the room, both lights are on.

6. The “cat” light goes on.

Now how would you describe this to your neighbors? Without using the word “cat”. Now allowing use of the word “cat”.

It seems to me this is how qualia could work, but instead of a comprehending homonculus in the cubicle (you) there is non-comprehending Mechanism (computer) that performs appropriate functions, like associating words with lights, recording what groups of lights come on in what order, initiating reports of which lights come on using the associated words, etc.

Does this make sense?

*
I love cats !!!

I have become a cat person.

The cats have hijacked and abducted me.

I tried to attach a photo-JPG of my cat Snowball but the software would not let me.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by h_k_s » December 22nd, 2018, 11:56 am

Gertie wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 6:06 pm
1. You’re sitting in a cubicle in a room with other cubicles and people. You can talk to them, but you can’t see into any other cubicles.
2. A bundle of wires (you can’t tell how many, but lots) comes into your cubicle through the wall, each wire having an LED on the end. Each wire is physically identical, but you can keep track of which is which
3. Each wire is connected to a separate computer. Each computer is hooked to a camera watching a room. Each computer is running a separate pattern recognition program. When it recognizes what it was trained on, it lights the LED.
4. One of the lights goes on.
With you so far, in that this is similar to the physical sub-systems of the brain.

And that there is no homunculus, rather the subsystems are intertwined (your computer here).

Language being part of the overall system.

On the level of a physical description of the brain, (and shared language being part of how how physical brains work), I'm with you.

But qualia specifically refers to the subjective phenomenal 'what it's like' experience, of for example 'seeing a cat'. Which your set up here seems to ignore.

So it's a description of how the physical correlates of the experiential state (qualia) only. A third person pov description of a process which in reality has both third person and first person pov aspects. The latter first person pov aspects, qualia, are missing. And that's the mysterious bit!

We can already see brains (roughly) doing what they do when someone sees a cat on a scanner screen. But we don't get the subject's first person experience of what it's like to see a cat when we're looking at a brain scan.

They can tell they're looking at a cat, but then the qualia-experience we'll be having is of someone telling us they're looking at a cat! Which will have its own unique neural correlation for each of us.
The cat (family Felidae) is the most beautiful of all God's (Aristotle's and Aquinas' and Descartes' and Leibniz's Philosophy-God) creations.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by h_k_s » December 22nd, 2018, 11:59 am

Aristotle describes the First Person as I am I and to you I am You.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by h_k_s » December 22nd, 2018, 12:00 pm

One of you more brilliant and better trained philosophers can perhaps explain this issue du jour to me.

I am obviously not getting it.

Sorry.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by JamesOfSeattle » December 22nd, 2018, 2:02 pm

Gertie wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 6:06 pm
On the level of a physical description of the brain, (and shared language being part of how how physical brains work), I'm with you.

But qualia specifically refers to the subjective phenomenal 'what it's like' experience, of for example 'seeing a cat'. Which your set up here seems to ignore. [...] The latter first person pov aspects, qualia, are missing. And that's the mysterious bit!
I guess what I’m suggesting is that in this situation there is nothing more to the first-person/subjective view than the ability to track the difference between wires. In place of the comprehending homunculus is a competent, non-comprehending Mechanism. This mechanism can do things like associate words with wires. This mechanism can announce that it is having an experience (at least one light is on). The mechanism can respond to queries (which experience?) by finding the word associated with that experience (“cat”). The first-person/subjective view of such a mechanism could only be “about” what comes in via the wires, and the outputs could only be “about” the associations attached to the wires. So when I talk about querying the Mechanism, that has to be done through the wires. To the mechanism, there is only the wires. But the mechanism doesn’t “see” the wires, it only “sees” the meanings associated with the wires.

I’m further suggesting that if said Mechanism has all of the capabilities of the standard human mechanism, then that will account for every behavior of the mechanism, including the generation of ideas like “cat”, “experience”, “qualia”, “Consciousness”, and “hard problem of consciousness”. If you think qualia is still something extra, I assume you also think philosophical zombies are possible. But philosophical zombies, as well as qualia that is something over and above the simple ability to track wires, should be cut out by Occam’s razor. It’s just an extra thing that adds nothing to an explanation, kinda like saying that inside every proton is an angel telling it how to act.

So again, I’m not saying there is no qualia. I’m saying that maybe qualia is completely explained by the ability to track a set of otherwise physically identical inputs.

*

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Gertie » December 22nd, 2018, 6:04 pm

Gertie wrote: ↑ Yesterday, 6:06 pm On the level of a physical description of the brain, (and shared language being part of how how physical brains work), I'm with you. But qualia specifically refers to the subjective phenomenal 'what it's like' experience, of for example 'seeing a cat'. Which your s…
I guess what I’m suggesting is that in this situation there is nothing more to the first-person/subjective view than the ability to track the difference between wires. In place of the comprehending homunculus is a competent, non-comprehending Mechanism. This mechanism can do things like associate words with wires. This mechanism can announce that it is having an experience (at least one light is on).

This is very Dennetty, and I fundamentally disagree.

Just ponder the fact that you can see a cat whether or not someone asks you. The cat image doesn't suddenly appear when you have to give an answer. My ancestors could see tigers long before language was invented, and ran away. Language (and linguistic thought) is a red herring re qualia.

And I can lie about seeing the cat for my own reasons, because seeing a cat might have a particular meaning to me. You won't know from your third person pov if I lie, but I will because I have direct access to the experience which is unavailable to you, you can't tell from observing the 'public' physical processes. Actually just ponder the fact that you know 'what it's like' to have the experience of seeing a cat! Now describe the experience of seeing a cat. Does your description of what it's like to see a cat include neuronal transmitters and electro-chemical transference? No, it's about colour and fur and shape and size and cuteness and affection or whatever. Because experiential states have different qualities to their correlated physical processes. A description of one is different to a description of the other, so if both are real, a description only of the physical processes does not capture everything going on in seeing a cat.


Now there's a separate issue imo as to what 'I' means, eg when I say ''I see the cat''. Your thought experiment tries to cover both the Experiential issue and the Self issue in a neatly connected way, but I don't think it works for the reasons above.

I think the Self issue can be better explained. You're right that science hasn't discovered a mini-me homunculus in brains (it might have, who knew till we had the technology to look). What was discovered was an interacting complex of sub-systems, analogous to your thought experiment. So why do we talk and think in terms of ''I'' and ''Subjects''.? I'd suggest it's an evolutionary fix for making the massively complex cacophany of flickering neural connections correlating with sights, sounds, sensations, memories, etc coherent and therefore useful. So we super-complex critters can create coherent and therefore useful models of the world, including a model of the Self moving through that world. That model of Self manifests as a specific body with a discrete, unified field of consciousness with a specific first person pov. I'd suggest all this adds up to a sense of being A Self. And our associated thinking and 'natural grammar' reinforces that emergent model of a discrete, unified self.


What's more, there's the issue of whether experiential consciousness has some causal role, because those experiential states seem to motivate behaviour. Hunger, fear, pain, memory, reasoning, etc, all look suspiciously useful from an evolutionary pov!

So alongside the wiring system you describe, we have this parallel experiential explanation for our behaviour. Or 'over-determinism' of our behaviour.

The mechanism can respond to queries (which experience?) by finding the word associated with that experience (“cat”). The first-person/subjective view of such a mechanism could only be “about” what comes in via the wires, and the outputs could only be “about” the associations attached to the wires. So when I talk about querying the Mechanism, that has to be done through the wires. To the mechanism, there is only the wires. But the mechanism doesn’t “see” the wires, it only “sees” the meanings associated with the wires.

Agreed, I think. When I see a cat, I don't have the image of neurons, I have an image of a cat which is constructed in my process of seeing.



I’m further suggesting that if said Mechanism has all of the capabilities of the standard human mechanism, then that will account for every behavior of the mechanism, including the generation of ideas like “cat”, “experience”, “qualia”, “Consciousness”, and “hard problem of consciousness”. If you think qualia is still something extra, I assume you also think philosophical zombies are possible. But philosophical zombies, as well as qualia that is something over and above the simple ability to track wires, should be cut out by Occam’s razor. It’s just an extra thing that adds nothing to an explanation, kinda like saying that inside every proton is an angel telling it how to act.

I do think qualia is something extra to the physical processes and behaviour, in that if someone described all the neural interactions going on in your brain right now, they would be missing something essential - that you also have experiential states. And if they explained your behaviour of eating an apple in terms of only the physical aspects, I wouldn't know whether you really/also ate an apple because you felt hungry. The issue of over-determinism.


I'm kinda fuzzy on the philosophical zombies argument, can you spell out the point that makes?
So again, I’m not saying there is no qualia. I’m saying that maybe qualia is completely explained by the ability to track a set of otherwise physically identical inputs.

It's one type of (physical) explanation of behavioural processes. Another type is you eat because you're hungry and don't want to die. Both explanations work on their own terms. How those two types of explanations tie together is the mind-body problem.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by JamesOfSeattle » December 23rd, 2018, 12:04 am

Gertie wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 6:04 pm
]This is very Dennetty, and I fundamentally disagree.
It is and you shouldn’t. :)
Just ponder the fact that you can see a cat whether or not someone asks you. The cat image doesn't suddenly appear when you have to give an answer. My ancestors could see tigers long before language was invented, and ran away. Language (and linguistic thought) is a red herring re qualia.
I didn’t mean to imply language was a necessary part. It’s just the easiest way to query the mechanism. The mechanism can keep track of the wires without associating words with them.
You won't know from your third person pov if I lie, but I will because I have direct access to the experience which is unavailable to you, you can't tell from observing the 'public' physical processes.
This is almost certainly not true. If I know which wire is for “cat”, and I can see the light on that wire, how would I not know if you were lying?
Actually just ponder the fact that you know 'what it's like' to have the experience of seeing a cat! Now describe the experience of seeing a cat. Does your description of what it's like to see a cat include neuronal transmitters and electro-chemical transference? No, it's about colour and fur and shape and size and cuteness and affection or whatever.
Um, that was the point of the thought experiment. The mechanism can only describe the meanings of the wires (color,fur,shape,cute,etc.) but none of those meanings reference the wires themselves. So the mechanism knows about the meanings, but it doesn’t know about the wires.
Because experiential states have different qualities to their correlated physical processes.

Here’s a question for you. Suppose we’re only interested in two wires: one for “cat” and one for “dog”. Would it be possible to change the “experience” that comes through the “dog” wire such that it feels like a “cat” experience?

[ignoring discussion of self and causation for now]
I do think qualia is something extra to the physical processes and behaviour, in that if someone described all the neural interactions going on in your brain right now, they would be missing something essential - that you also have experiential states.
I’m saying that if they explained all the neural interactions, including how and why “this one” means “cat”, and “that one” means “furry”, and “this other one” means “cute”, etc., then there is nothing else that needs to be explained.
And if they explained your behaviour of eating an apple in terms of only the physical aspects, I wouldn't know whether you really/also ate an apple because you felt hungry. The issue of over-determinism.
You could of course say the same thing about a computer. I could describe exactly what’s happening with voltages in various places of the CPU, but that would not explain that the computer is turning on the light because there is a cat in the room. Some patterns are emergent, that is, are only recognizable when you look at a high level. Experience is one.
I'm kinda fuzzy on the philosophical zombies argument, can you spell out the point that makes?
Chalmers says it is conceivable that you could have an exact physical copy of person, except that it would have no consciousness, no qualia. It would be dark inside, thus, zombie. I’m saying such a zombie is conceivable only in the sense that a married bachelor is conceivable, or that water molecules having carbon is conceivable. They’re conceivable, but not physically possible.

*

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Gertie » December 28th, 2018, 8:36 am

This is very Dennetty, and I fundamentally disagree.
It is and you shouldn’t. :)
heh.

I'm kinda fuzzy on the philosophical zombies argument, can you spell out the point that makes?
Chalmers says it is conceivable that you could have an exact physical copy of person, except that it would have no consciousness, no qualia. It would be dark inside, thus, zombie. I’m saying such a zombie is conceivable only in the sense that a married bachelor is conceivable, or that water molecules having carbon is conceivable. They’re conceivable, but not physically possible.
Yeah, it simply doesn't say anything useful to me. In this world, with these laws, then an identical working copy of me would have experiential states. If I can imagine some possible world where that's not the case, so what? I don't geddit.

I'm going to zero in on these parts, because I think they get to point of difference -
I do think qualia is something extra to the physical processes and behaviour, in that if someone described all the neural interactions going on in your brain right now, they would be missing something essential - that you also have experiential states.
I’m saying that if they explained all the neural interactions, including how and why “this one” means “cat”, and “that one” means “furry”, and “this other one” means “cute”, etc., then there is nothing else that needs to be explained.
And if they explained your behaviour of eating an apple in terms of only the physical aspects, I wouldn't know whether you really/also ate an apple because you felt hungry. The issue of over-determinism.
You could of course say the same thing about a computer. I could describe exactly what’s happening with voltages in various places of the CPU, but that would not explain that the computer is turning on the light because there is a cat in the room. Some patterns are emergent, that is, are only recognizable when you look at a high level. Experience is one.
First thing, a pattern isn't a something-in-itself, it's a description of a something. So experience can't simply be described as a pattern, you have to say what it's a pattern of. In fact I'd claim experience is itself a something, that can have different types of manifestations, or flavours. If you want to call those different types of experience patterns of experience, I might go for that.

The claim that describing neural interactions is exactly the same as describing the what it's like of experiential states requires a convincing argument. Because it means describing neurons as furry as well as non-furry, ginger as well as not ginger, meowing as well as not meowing, etc. It breaks the law of identity. Not something you can just assert.

Saying that experiential states are emergent properties can get around this in theory, but there's still a problem. In that all our known examples of emergence are reducible in line with known physics. But physics can't reduce experiential states. When it reduces neurons, it gets molecules and atoms and subatomic particles. But experiential states aren't a known part of that system of physics, part of our existing model of reduction and emergence. The emergence hypothesis might be a case of trying to cram a square peg into a comfortably familiar round hole.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Belindi » December 28th, 2018, 7:45 pm

James of Seattle, only a lexicon of qualia could be used to describe any of the qualia that go to make up the concept of cat. I think the reason that there is no such lexicon is that humans for their survival need complex concepts.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Consul » December 29th, 2018, 10:56 am

* The Oxford Dictionary of Psychology defines "discrimination" as "the act or process of distinguishing between stimuli or of recognizing or understanding the differences between things."
* The Cambridge Dictionary of Psychology defines it as "the capacity to distinguish among different stimuli. …3. The ability to perceive and respond differently to different stimuli."
* The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines it as "1. the ability to distinguish between stimuli or objects that differ quantitatively or qualitatively from one another. 2. the ability to respond in different ways in the presence of different stimuli."

Thus defined, discrimination is a consciousness- and qualia-independent cognitive ability that can be had by a psychological zombie such as an AI robot.

Qualia are cognitively comparable and discriminable, but they are not reducible to cognitive acts of comparison or discrimination. If there weren't qualia and our direct experiential acquaintance with them in the first place, there would be nothing to compare or discriminate. The similiarities or dissimilarities of qualia are grounded in their respective intrinsic essences or natures, and our introspective awareness of them isn't reducible to an awareness of their similarities or dissimilarities. So Jack Smart is wrong when he writes that…

"…in inner sense, when we seem to be aware of some such quale, we are aware merely of certain likenesses and unlikenesses between our inner goings on. The dualist would say that these are likenesses and unlikenesses between non-physical goings on, whereas I would say that they are likenesses and unlikenesses between physical goings on in the brain. It is not presented to us in inner sense that the processes in the brain are physical or that they are non-physical. These likenesses and unlikenesses are quite abstract, or else are in terms of neutral concepts such as 'being intermittent' or 'waxing and waning'. …Apart from likenesses and unlikenesses in respect of neutral properties such as waxing and intermittentness, we are reporting our inner processes just as being like or unlike one another, without knowing in what respect they are like or unlike. This commits me to the view that there are objective likenesses or unlikenesses, of which we can come to know without knowing the respects in which they obtain."

(Smart, J. J. C. Our Place in the Universe: A Metaphysical Discussion. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989. pp. 120-2)

And when Gerald Edelman writes the following, he is wrong too, because qualia and the cognitive capacity for qualia-based discrimination are different things. Qualia themselves aren't discriminations.

"Qualia are discriminations made possible by the activity of the reentrant dynamic core." (p. 173)

"Discrimination. The capacity of conscious systems to categorize, distinguish, or differentiate among a multitude of signals or patterns in terms of integrated scenes and qualia." (p. 155)

(Edelman, Gerald M. Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Belindi » December 29th, 2018, 4:27 pm

Consul wrote:
Qualia themselves aren't discriminations.
That's helpful.

Has any specific quale ever been correlated with a specific change in one physical brain?
Daniel Dennett identifies four properties that are commonly ascribed to qualia.[4] According to these, qualia are:

1.ineffable; that is, they cannot be communicated, or apprehended by any other means than direct experience.
2. intrinsic; that is, they are non-relational properties, which do not change depending on the experience's relation to other things.
3. private; that is, all interpersonal comparisons of qualia are systematically impossible.
4. directly or immediately apprehensible in consciousness; that is, to experience a quale is to know one experiences a quale, and to know all there is to know about that quale.
If a quale, say the sensation of cold, is correlated in one particular brain with a change in that brain that would mean that qualia were objective despite that brains may differ in their reactions to the same quale.

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Re: Qualia as bare difference

Post by Consul » December 29th, 2018, 5:44 pm

Another important point is that Thomas Nagel's famous "what it is like" phrase (which is used in the qualia-context) mustn't be (mis)interpreted as a comparison:

"[T]he analogical form of the English expression 'what it is like' is misleading. It does not mean 'what (in our experience) it resembles', but rather 'how it is for the subject himself'."

(Nagel, Thomas. "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" The Philosophical Review 83/4 (1974): 435-450. p. 440n6)

"A literalist might see the phrase 'know what it's like' and take that to mean: 'know what it resembles.' Then he might ask: what's so hard about that? … This misses the point. Pace the literalist, 'know what it's like' does not mean 'know what it resembles.' The most that's true is that knowing what it resembles may help you to know what it's like. If you are taught that experience A resembles B and C closely, D less, E not at all, that will help you know what A is like—if you know already what B and C and D and E are like. Otherwise, it helps you not at all. I don't know any better what it's like to taste Vegemite when I'm told that it tastes like Marmite, because I don't know what Marmite tastes like either. (Nor do I know any better what Marmite tastes like for being told it tastes like Vegemite.) Maybe Mary knows enough to triangulate each color experience exactly in a network of resemblances, or in many networks of resemblance in different respects, while never knowing what any node of any network is like. Maybe we could do the same for bat experiences. But no amount of information about resemblances, just by itself, does anything to help us know what an experience is like."

(Lewis, David. "What Experience Teaches." 1988. In Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology, 262-290. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. pp. 265-6)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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