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I Really Don't Understand Eliezer Yudkowsky's Position on Consciousness

If many individual people talked about feeling these experiences even without being excessively primed with other people's philosophical discussions, would it make you 'believe in qualia', if you didn't have it?


No. Consider religion and belief in the supernatural. Due to the existence of pareidolia and other psychological phenomena, people may exhibit a shared set of psychological mechanisms that cause them to mistakenly infer the presence of nonphysical or supernatural entities where there are none. While I believe culture and experience play a significant role in shaping the spread and persistence of supernatural beliefs, such beliefs are built on the foundations of psychological systems people share in common. Even if culture and learning were wiped out, due to the nature of human psychology it is likely that such mistakes would emerge yet again. People would once again see faces in the clouds and think that there's someone up there.

So too, I suspect, people would fall into the same phenomenological quicksand with respect to many of the problems in philosophy. Even if we stopped teaching philosophy and all discussion of qualia vanished, I would not be surprised to find the notion emerge once again. People are not good at making inferences about what the world is like based on their phenomenology. I mean no disrespect, but your account sounds far more like the testimony of a religious convert than a robust philosophical argument for the existence of qualia. Take this blunt remark:

I know for certain that consciousness and qualia exist.

I've spent a lot of time discussing religion with theists, and one could readily swap out "consciousness and qualia" for "Jesus" our "God": "I know for certain that [God] exist[s]." I don't know for certain that qualia don't exist. I don't know for certain that God doesn't exist. I don't generally make a point of telling others that I know something "for certain," and if I did, I think I would appreciate if someone else suggested to me, hopefully kindly, that perhaps my declaration that I know something for certain serves more to convince myself than to convince others. 

I take the hallmark of a good idea to be its utility. The notion of qualia has no value. On the contrary, I see it as a product of confusions and mistakes born of overconfidence in our intuitions and phenomenology and to the poor methods of academic philosophy, which serve to anoint such errors with the superficial appearance that they are backed by intellectual rigor.

I'd believe in qualia if and when the concept appears meaningful and when it can figure into our best scientific explanations of what the world is like. That is, I'd accept it if it were a useful feature of our explanations/allowed use to make more accurate predictions than alternative models that didn't posit qualia.

I take you'd likely disagree, and that's totally fine with me. But if we survive this century and colonize the stars, it will be due to knowledge and discoveries that pay their way by allowing us to understand and anticipate the world around us, and augment it to our ends. It will not be due to the notion of qualia, which will be little more than a footnote buried deep in the pages of some galactic empire's archives.

Cornell Meetup

I'm at Cornell. I study psychology and metaethics, but I do not work on AI alignment. I am always happy to provide insights from the areas I study to anyone working on AI alignment, though.

2020 PhilPapers Survey Results

When it comes to describing moral discourse in general, I endorse semantic pluralism / 'different groups are talking about wildly different things, and in some cases talking about nothing at all, when they use moral language'.

I agree, but this is orthogonal to whether moral realism is true. Questions about moral realism generally concern whether there are stance-independent moral facts. Whether or not there are such facts does not directly depend on the descriptive status of folk moral thought and discourse. Even if it did, it's unclear to me how such an approach would vindicate any substantive account of realism. 

You could call these views "anti-realist" in some senses. In other senses, you could call them realist (as I believe Frank Jackson does).

I'd have to know more about what Jackson's specific position is to address it. 

But ultimately the labels are unimportant; what matters is the actual content of the view, and we should only use the labels if they help with understanding that content, rather than concealing it under a pile of ambiguities and asides.

I agree with all that. I just don't agree that this is diagnostic of debates in metaethics about realism versus antirealism. I don't consider the realist label to be unhelpful, I do think it has a sufficiently well-understood meaning that its use isn't wildly confused or unhelpful in contemporary debates, and I suspect most people who say that they're moral realists endorse a sufficiently similar enough cluster of views that there's nothing too troubling about using the term as a central distinction in the field. There is certainly wiggle room and quibbling, but there isn't nearly enough actual variation in how philosophers understand realism for it to be plausible that a substantial proportion of realists don't endorse the kinds of views I'm objecting to and claiming are indicative of problems in the field.

I don't know enough about Jackson's position in particular, but I'd be willing to bet I'd include it among those views I consider objectionable.

2020 PhilPapers Survey Results

I also wanted to add that I am generally receptive to the kind of approach you are taking. My approach to many issues in philosophy is roughly aligned with quietists and draws heavily on identifying cases in which a dispute turns out to be a pseudodispute predicated on imprecision in language or confusion about concepts. More generally, I tend to take a quietist or a "dissolve the problem away" kind of approach. I say this to emphasize that it is generally in my nature to favor the kind of position you're arguing for here, and that I nevertheless think it is off the mark in this particular case. Perhaps the closest analogy I could make would be to theism: there is enough overlap in what theism refers to that the most sensible stance to adopt is atheism.

2020 PhilPapers Survey Results

I think there's enormous variation in what people mean by "moral realism", enough to make it a mostly useless term


I disagree with this claim, and I don’t think that, even if there were lots of variation in what people meant by moral realism, that this would render my claim that the large proportion of respondents who favor realism indicates a problem in the profession. The term is not “useless,” and even if the term were useless, I am not talking about the term. I am talking about the actual substantive positions held by philosophers: whatever their conception of “realism,” I am claiming that enough of that 60% endorse indefensible positions that it is a problem.

I have a number of objections to the claim you’re making, but I’d like to be sure I understand your position a little better, in case those objections are misguided. You outline a number of ways we might think of objectivity and subjectivity, but I am not sure what work these distinctions are doing. It is one thing to draw a distinction, or identify a way one might use particular terms, such as “objective” and “subjective.” It is another to provide reasons or evidence to think these particular conceptions of the terms in question are driving the way people responded to the PhilPapers survey.

I’m also a bit puzzled at your focus on the terms “objective” and “subjective.” Did they ask whether morality was objective/subjective in the 2009 or 2020 versions of the survey? 

It would be better to ask questions like 'is it a supernatural miracle that morality exists / that humans happen to endorse the True Morality

I doubt that such questions would be better. 

Both of these questions are framed in ways that are unconventional with respect to existing positions in metaethics, both are a bit vague, and both are generally hard to interpret. 

For instance, a theist could believe that God exists and that God grounds moral truth, but not think that it is a “supernatural miracle” that morality exists. It's also unclear what it means to say morality "exists." Even a moral antirealist might agree that morality exists. That just isn't typically a way that philosophers, especially those working in metaethics, would talk about putative moral claims or facts.

I’d have similar concerns about the unconventionality of asking about “the True Morality.” I study metaethics, and I’m not entirely sure what this would even mean. What does capitalizing it mean? 

It also seems to conflate questions about the scope and applicability of moral concerns with questions about what makes moral claims true. More importantly, it seems to conflate descriptive claims about the beliefs people happen to hold with metaethical claims, and may arbitrarily restrict morality to humans in ways that would concern respondents.

I don't know how much this should motivate you to update away from what you're proposing here, but I can do so here. My primary area of specialization, and the focus of my dissertation research, concerns the empirical study of folk metaethics (that is, the metaethical positions nonphilosophers hold). In particular, my focus in on the methodology of paradigms designed to assess what people think about the nature of morality. Much of my work focuses on identifying ways in which questions about metaethics could be ambiguous, confusing, or otherwise difficult to interpret (see here). This also extends to a lesser extent to questions about aesthetics (see here). Much of this work focuses on presenting evidence of interpretative variation specifically in how people respond to questions about metaethics. Interpretative variation refers to the degree to which respondents in a study interpret the same set of stimuli differently from one another. I have amassed considerable evidence of interpretative variation in lay populations specifically with respect to how they respond to questions about metaethics. 

While I am confident there is interpretative variation in how philosophers responded to the questions in the PhilPapers survey, I'm skeptical that such variation would encompass such radically divergent conceptions of moral realism that the number of respondents who endorsed what I'd consider unobjectionable notions of realism would be anything more than a very small minority.

I say all this to make a point: there may be literally no person on the planet more aware of, and sensitive to, concerns about how people would interpret questions about metaethics. And I am still arguing that you are very likely missing the mark in this particular case.

2020 PhilPapers Survey Results

The number of moral realists, and especially non-naturalist moral realists, both strike me as indications that there is something wrong with contemporary academic philosophy. It almost seems like philosophers reliably hold one of the less defensible positions across many issues.

I Really Don't Understand Eliezer Yudkowsky's Position on Consciousness

I don’t know the answer to these questions. I’m not sure the questions are sufficiently well-specified to be answerable, but I suspect if you rephrased them or we worked towards getting me to understand the questions, I’d just say “I don’t know.” But my not knowing how to answer a question does not give me any more insight into what you mean when you refer to qualia, or what it means to say that things “feel like something.”

I don’t think it means anything to say things “feel like something.” Every conversation I’ve had about this (and I’ve had a lot of them) goes in circles: what are qualia? How things feel. What does that mean? It’s just “what it’s like” to experience them. What does that mean? They just are a certain way, and so on. This is just an endless circle of obscure jargon and self-referential terms, all mutually interdefining one another.

I don’t notice or experience any sense of a gap. I don’t know what gap others are referring to. It sounds like people seem to think there is some characteristic or property their experiences have that can’t be explained. But this seems to me like it could be a kind of inferential error, the way people may have once insisted that there’s something intrinsic about living things that distinguishes from nonliving things, and living things just couldn’t be composed of conventional matter arranged in certain ways, that they just obviously had something else, some je ne sais quoi.

I suspect if I found myself feeling like there was some kind of inexplicable essence, or je ne sais quoi to some phenomena, I’d be more inclined to think I was confused than that there really was je ne sais quoiness. I’m not surprised philosophers go in for thinking there are qualia, but I’m surprised that people in the lesswrong community do. Why not think “I’m confused and probably wrong” as a first pass? Why are many people so confident that there is, what as far as I can tell, amounts to something that may be fundamentally incomprehensible, even magical? That is, it’s one thing to purport to have the concept of qualia; it’s another to endorse it. And it sounds not only like you claim to grok the notion of qualia, but to endorse it.




I Really Don't Understand Eliezer Yudkowsky's Position on Consciousness

It is a functional difference, but there must be some further (conscious?) reason why we can do so, right?

Do you mean like a causal reason? If so then of course, but that wouldn’t have anything to do with qualia.

Where I want to go with this is that you can distinguish them because they feel different, and that's what qualia refers to.

I have access to the contents of my mental states, and that includes information that allows me to identify and draw distinctions between things, categorize things, label things, and so on. A “feeling” can be cashed out in such terms, and once it is, there’s nothing else to explain, and no other properties or phenomena to refer to. 

I don’t know what work “qualia” is doing here. Of course things feel various ways to me, and of course they feel different. Touching a hot stove doesn’t feel the same as touching a block of ice. 

But I could get a robot, that has no qualia, but has temperature detecting mechanisms, to say something like “I have detected heat in this location and cold in this location and they are different.” I don’t think my ability to distinguish between things is because they “feel” different; rather, I’d say that insofar as I can report that they “feel different” it’s because I can report differences between them. I think the invocation of qualia here is superfluous and may get the explanation backwards: I don’t distinguish things because they feel different; things “feel different” if and only if we can distinguish differences between them.

This "feeling" in qualia, too, could be a functional property.

Then I’m even more puzzled by what you think qualia are. Qualia are, I take it, ineffable, intrinsic qualitative properties of experiences, though depending on what someone is talking about they might include more or less features than these. I’m not sure qualia can be “functional” in the relevant sense. 

How would you cash out "desire to move my hand away from the object" and "distinguish it from something cold or at least not hot" in functional terms?

I don't know. I just want to know what qualia are. Either people can explain what qualia are or they can’t. My inability to explain something wouldn’t justify saying “therefore, qualia,” so I’m not sure what the purpose of the questions are. I’m sure you don’t intend to invoke “qualia of the gaps,” and presume qualia must figure into any situation in which I, personally, am not able to answer a question you've asked. 

I'm asking you cash out desire and distinguishing in functional terms, too, and if we keep doing this, do "qualia" come up somewhere?

I don’t know what you think qualia are, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you. People keep invoking this concept, but nobody seems able to offer a substantive explanation of what it is, and why I should think I or anyone else has such things, or why such things would be important or necessary for anything in particular, and so on.

I hope I'm not coming off as stubborn here. I'm very much interested in answering any questions I'm able to answer, I'm just not sure precisely what you're asking me or how I might go about answering it. "What are the functional properties of X?" doesn't strike me as a very clear question.

I Really Don't Understand Eliezer Yudkowsky's Position on Consciousness

Most people don't know the word "qualia". Nonetheless, most people will state something equivalent....that they have feelings and seemings that they can't fully describe. So it's a "speaking prose" thing.


There are many reasons why a person might struggle to describe their experiences that wouldn't be due to them having qualia or having some implicit qualia-based theory, especially among laypeople who are not experienced at describing their mental states. It would be difficult to distinguish these other reasons from reasons having to do with qualia.

So I don't agree that what you describe would necessarily be equivalent, and I don't think it would be easy to provide empirical evidence specifically of the notion that people have or think they have qualia, or speak or think in a way best explained by them having qualia.

Even if it could be done, I don't know of any empirical evidence that would support this claim. Maybe there is some. But I don't have a high prior on any empirical investigation into how laypeople think turning out to support your claim, either.

And something like that is implicit in Illusionism. Illusionism attempts to explain away reports of ineffable subjective sensations, reports of qualia like things. If no one had such beliefs, or made such reports, there would be nothing for Illusionism to address.

You know, I think you're right. And I believe the course of this discussion has clarified things for me sufficiently for me to recognize that I do not, strictly speaking, endorse illusionism.

Illusionism could be construed as the conjunction of two claims:

(1) On introspection, people systematically misrepresent their experiential states as having phenomenal properties.

(2) There are no such phenomenal properties.

For instance, Frankish (2016) defines (strong) illusionism as the view that:

“[...] phenomenal consciousness is illusory; experiences do not really have qualitative, ‘what-it’s-like’ properties, whether physical or non-physical” (p. 15)

Like illusionists, I deny that there are phenomenal properties, qualia, what-its-likeness, and so on. In that sense, I deny phenomenal realism (Mandik, 2016). As such, I agree with (2) above. Thus, I agree with the central claim of illusionism, that there are no phenomenal properties, and I deny that there are qualia, or that there’s “what it’s likeness” and so on. However, what I am less comfortable doing is presuming that things seem this way to nonphilosophers, and that they are all systematically subject to some kind of error. In that regard, I do not fully agree with illusionists.

To the extent that illusionists mistakenly suppose that people are subject to an illusion, we could call this meta-illusionism. Mandik distinguishes meta-illusionism from illusionism as follows:

“The gist of meta-illusionism is that it rejects phenomenal realism while also insisting that no one is actually under the illusion that there are so-called phenomenal properties” (pp. 140-141).

Mandik goes on to distance his position from illusionism, in reference to Frankish as follows:

“One thing Frankish and I have in common is that neither of us wants to assert that there are any properties instantiated that are referred to or picked out by the phrase ‘phenomenal properties’. One place where Frankish and I part ways is over whether that phrase is sufficiently meaningful for there to be a worthwhile research programme investigating how it comes to seem to people that their experiences instantiate any such properties. Like Frankish, I’m happy with terms like ‘experience’, ‘consciousness’, and ‘conscious experience’ and join Frankish in using what he calls ‘weak’ and functional construals of such terms. But, unlike Frankish, I see no use at all, not even an illusionist one, for the term ‘phenomenal’ and its ilk. The term ‘phenomenal’, as used in contemporary philosophy of mind, is a technical term. I am aware of no non-technical English word or phrase that is accepted as its direct analogue. Unlike technical terms in maths and physics, which are introduced with explicit definitions, ‘phenomenal’ has no such definition. What we find instead of an explicit definition are other technical terms treated as interchangeable synonyms. Frankish follows common practice in philosophy of mind when he treats ‘phenomenal’ as interchangeable with, for instance, ‘qualitative’ or, in scare-quotes, ‘“feely”’. (p. 141)

I can’t quote the whole article (though it’s short), but he concludes this point by stating that:

“We have then, in place of an explicit definition of ‘phenomenal properties’, a circular chain of interchangeable technical terms — a chain with very few links, and little to relate those links to nontechnical terminology. The circle, then, is vicious. I’m sceptical that any properties seem ‘phenomenal’ to anyone because this vicious circle gives me very little idea what seeming ‘phenomenal’ would be.” (p. 142)

Mandik is not so sure he wants to endorse meta-illusionism, since this might turn on concerns about what it means for something to be an illusion, and because he’s reluctant to state that illusionists are themselves subject to an illusionism. What he proposes instead is qualia quietism, the view that:

“the terms ‘qualia’, ‘phenomenal properties’, etc. lack sufficient content for anything informative to be said in either affirming or denying their existence. Affirming the existence of what? Denying the existence of what? Maintaining as illusory a representation of what? No comment. No comment. No comment” (p. 148)

This is much closer to what I think than illusionism proper. So, in addition to denying that there are qualia, or phenomenal properties, or whatever other set of terminology is used to characterize some putative set of special properties that spell trouble for those of us ill-disposed to believe in such things, I also deny that it seems this way to nonphilosophers. 

My entire academic career has centered on critiquing work in experimental philosophy, and close scrutiny of this and related articles might reveal what I take to be significant methodological problems. Nevertheless, insofar as research has been conducted on the subject of whether nonphilosophers have phenomenal properties, or think about consciousness in the same way as philosophers, at least some of the results indicate that they may not. See here, for instance Sytsma & Machery (2010):

Abstract: “Do philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in the same way? In this article, we argue that they do not and that the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness does not coincide with the folk conception. We first offer experimental support for the hypothesis that philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in markedly different ways. We then explore experimentally the folk conception, proposing that for the folk, subjective experience is closely linked to valence. We conclude by considering the implications of our findings for a central issue in the philosophy of mind, the hard problem of consciousness.”

I doubt this one study is definitive evidence one way or the other. What I will say, though, is that whether people think of consciousness the way philosophers do is an empirical question. I suspect they don’t, and absent any good reasons to think that they do, I’m not inclined to accept without argument that they do.

Trying to attack qualia from every possible angle is rather self-defeating. For instance, if you literally don't know what "qualia" means, you can't report that you have none. And if no one even seems to have qualia, there is nothing for Illusionism to do. And so on.

I disagree. You can claim to both not know what something means, and claim to not have the thing in question. 

In some cases, you might not know what something means because you’re ignorant of what is meant by the concept in question. For instance, someone might use the term  “zown zair” to refer to brown hair. I might not know this, even if I do have brown hair. In that case, I would not know what they mean, even though I do have brown hair. It would be a mistake for me to think that because I don’t know what they mean, that I don’t have “zown zair.” And it would be foolish to insist both that “zown zair” is false, and that “zown zair” is meaningless. I would simply have failed to find out what they were referring to with the term.

But this is not the case with qualia. I am not merely claiming that I don’t understand the concept. I am claiming that nobody understands the concept, because it is fundamentally confused and meaningless.

First, in the course of an exchange, This is especially the case when one is responding to a host of people, over an extended period of time, who are incapable of explaining the putative concept in a way that isn’t circular or vacuous. 

In the course of an exchange, people may employ a concept. They might say that, e.g. some objects have the property A. Yet when asked to explain what A is, they are unable to do so, or they provide unsatisfactory attempts. For instance, they might point to several objects, and say “all these objects have property A.” This is what was done earlier in this thread: I was given examples, as though this was independently helpful in understanding the concept. It’s not. If I pointed to a truck, a flock of geese, and a math textbook and said “these all have property A,” you wouldn’t be much closer to knowing what I was talking about. In other cases, they might use metaphors. But the metaphors may be unilluminating. In still other cases, they might appeal to other terms or concepts. Yet these terms or concepts might themselves be obscure or poorly defined, and if one asks for clarification, one begins the journey through an endless loop of mutual interdefinitions that never get you anywhere.

In such cases, it can become apparent that a person’s concepts are circular and self-referential, and don’t really describe anything about the way the world is. They might define A in terms of B, B in terms of C, and C in terms of A. And they might insist that A is a property we all have.

When numerous people all claim that we have property A, but they cannot define it, one may reasonably wonder whether all of these people are confused or mistaken. That is, one might conclude that property A is a pseudoconcept, something vague and meaningless.

In such cases, I am fine saying both that 

(a) I don’t have property A

(b) I don’t know what people referring to property A are talking about

I can believe that (a), because it’s meaningless. I don’t have meaningless properties. And I can conclude that (b), because it’s meaningless. I can’t understand a meaningless concept, because there isn’t anything to understand.

Maybe that’s an awkward way of framing why one would reject circular concepts that ascribe meaningless properties to people, in which case I’d be happy to revise the way I frame my rejection of qualia.

But then , why insist that you are right? If you have something like colour blindness , then why insist that everyone else is deluded when they report colours?

There are very good reasons to think people can see colors, and one would have such reasons even if they were colorblind. We can point to the physical mechanisms involved in color detection, the properties of light, and so on. We can point to specific color words in our and other languages, and it would be fairly easy to determine that nonphilosophers can see colors. I don’t think any of these conditions apply to qualia. So, first, there's that.

To emphasize just the last of these,  I don’t think “everyone else” is deluded. I think philosophers are deluded, and that people who encounter the work of these philosophers often become deluded as well. I don’t think the notion of qualia is a psychological mistake so much as it is an intellectual mistake only a subset of people make.

I suspect such mistakes are endemic to philosophy. The same thing has occurred, to an alarming extent, in contemporary metaethics. Moral realists frequently invoke the notion of decisive or external reasons, irreducible normativity, categorical imperatives, stance-independent normative and evaluative facts, and so on. I reject all of these concepts as fundamentally confused. And yet philosophers like Parfit, Huemer, Cuneo, and others  have not only tangled themselves into knots of confusion, their work has trickled out into the broader culture. I routinely encounter people who have come across their work claiming to “have” concepts that they are incapable of expressing. And these philosophers, when pressed, will fall back on claiming that the concepts in question are “brute” or “primitive” or “unanalyzable,” which is to say, they can’t give an account of them, and don’t think that they need to. Maybe they do "have" these concepts, but since I am very confident we can explain everything there is to now about the way the world is without invoking them, I suspect they're vacuous nonsense, and that these philosophers are uniformly confused.

And, like the notion of qualia, philosophers have for a long time presumed that ordinary people tend to be moral realists (see e.g. Sinclair, 2012). My own academic work specifically focuses on this question. And like the question of what people think about consciousness, this, too, is an empirical question. So far, little empirical evidence supports the conclusion that ordinary people tend to be moral realists, or at least that they tend to be consistently and uniformly committed to some kind of moral realism. By and large, they struggle to understand what they are being asked (Bush & Moss, 2020). I suspect, instead, that something like Gill’s (2009) indeterminacy-variability thesis is much more likely: that people have variable but (I suspect mostly) indeterminate metaethical standards.

The same may turn out to be the case for the only other issue I looked into: free will. This has led me, in my own work, to point towards the broader possibility that many of the positions philosophers purport to be intuitive, and that they claim are widespread among nonphilosophers, simply aren’t. Rather, I suspect that philosophers are over-intellectualizing some initial pool of considerations, then generating theories that are neither implicitly nor explicitly part of the way ordinary people speak or think.

I don’t think this is a situation where I am color blind, while others have color vision. Rather, it’s more like recognizing that many of the people around you are subject to a collective, and contagious, hallucination. So I suspect, instead, that I have come to recognize over time that academic philosophy has played an alarming role in duping large numbers of people into a wide range of confusions, then duped them further by convincing them that these confusions are shared by nonphilosophers.



Bush, L. S., & Moss, D. (2020). Misunderstanding Metaethics: Difficulties Measuring Folk Objectivism and Relativism. Diametros, 17(64). 6-21

Frankish, K. (2016). Illusionism as a theory of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23(11-12), 11-39.

Gill, M. B. (2009). Indeterminacy and variability in meta-ethics. Philosophical studies, 145(2), 215-234.

Mandik, P. (2016). Meta-illusionism and qualia quietism. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23(11-12), 140-148.

Sinclair, N. (2012). Moral realism, face-values and presumptions. Analytic Philosophy, 53(2). 158-179


I Really Don't Understand Eliezer Yudkowsky's Position on Consciousness

Hmm, I'm not sure it's vacuous, since it's not like they're applying "redness" to only one thing; redness is a common feature of many different experiences. 14 could have "sevenness", too.


One can apply a vacuous term to multiple things, so pointing out that you could apply the term to more than one thing does not seem to me to indicate that it isn't vacuous. I could even stipulate a concept that is vacuous by design: "smorf", which doesn't mean anything, and then I can say something like "potatoes are smorf." 

Maybe we can think of examples of different experiences where it's hard to come up with distinguishing functional properties, but you can still distinguish the experiences? 

The ability to distinguish the experiences in a way you can report on would be at least one functional difference, so this doesn't seem to me like it would demonstrate much of anything. 

Some of the questions you ask seem a bit obscure, like how I can tell something is hotter. Are you asking for a physiological explanation? Or the cognitive mechanisms involved? If so, I don'tknow, but I'm not sure what that would have to do with qualia. But maybe I'm not understanding the question, and I'm not sure how that could get me any closer to understanding what qualia are supposed to be.

What would be basic functional properties that you wouldn't cash out further?

I don't know. Likewise for most of the questions you ask. "What are the functional properties of X?" questions are very strange to me. I am not quite sure what I am being asked, or how I might answer, or if I'm supposed to be able to answer. Maybe you could help me out here, because I'd like to answer any questions I'm capable of answering, but I'm not sure what to do with these.





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