[ExI] putting the qual into qualia

Omar Rahman rahmans at me.com
Thu May 9 09:22:33 UTC 2013

> Date: Wed, 08 May 2013 16:05:02 +0100
> From: Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se>
> On 07/05/2013 22:49, Gordon wrote:
>> Social pain is a quale, though we don't normally consider it when discussing qualia. I should probably take a Tylenol each time someone on ExI gives me grief.
>> ----
>> Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain
> It also seems to reduce existential and surreal anguish.
> http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/04/11/0956797612464786.full
> (One of the more amusing uses of David Lynch movies in science)
> The nice thing about this is that it actually helps us track down the 
> NCC - watching surreal movies doesn't (I assume) activate somatosensory 
> cortex, but probably (guessing here, based on past neuroscience, but I 
> would be surprised if it didn't happen) activates parts of the anterior 
> cingulate cortex. Neuroimaging can only give us so much, so we still 
> have to figure out the finer structure, but it seems that the ACC is 
> among the key parts of the neural substrate of suffering itself, 
> regardless of whether the cause is pain, social exclusion or existential 
> dread. And we know people with certain ACC damage experience pain 
> (presumably the quale of pain sensation) but do not suffer (no quale of 
> suffering) - they report they have the pain but it does not bother them. 
> It would be interesting to see if this is true for other sources of 
> suffering.
> -- 
> Anders Sandberg,
> Future of Humanity Institute
> Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

Let me preface this by saying that I really do like reading your posts.

Can you explain to me the loss in meaning in  the following sentence, if any, compared to your sentence above.

"And we know people with certain ACC damage experience pain but do not suffer - they report they have the pain but it does not bother them."

After removing reference to qualia this sentence does very well with the verbs 'experience', 'suffer', and 'bother' without positing some ill-defined noun 'quale'. And, if a noun is required why not something like 'neural state' or 'neural pattern'? The phrases, "presumably the neural state of pain sensation" and "no neural pattern of suffering" seem understandable and require no special entity like a 'quale'.

Quale as a term comes loaded with strong dualist connotation which I think implies some sort of 'magic'. Could sentences with 'quale' in them be read just as well by substituting 'magic'; "presumably the magic of pain sensation".

So Mr. Anders Sandberg, are you some sort of dualist? Does dualism require some 'magic' or is everything accessible to the scientific knowledge we have at present? And, if such a smart guy as yourself is a dualist, can you persuade me that I should be too?

Best regards,

Omar Rahman

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