- Feelings and experiences vary widely. For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is like for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philosophers often use the term ‘qualia’ (singular ‘quale’) to refer to the introspectively accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives. In this standard, broad sense of the term, it is difficult to deny that there are qualia. Disagreement typically centers on which mental states have qualia, whether qualia are intrinsic qualities of their bearers, and how qualia relate to the physical world both inside and outside the head. The status of qualia is hotly debated in philosophy largely because it is central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness. Qualia are at the very heart of the mind-body problem.
- The entry that follows is divided into eight sections. The first distinguishes various uses of the term ‘qualia’. The second addresses the question of which mental states have qualia. The third section brings out some of the main arguments for the view that qualia are irreducible1 and non-physical. The remaining sections focus on functionalism and qualia, the explanatory gap, qualia and introspection, representational theories of qualia, and finally the issue of qualia and simple minds.
- Other Uses of the Term ‘Qualia’
- Which Mental States Possess Qualia?
- Are Qualia Irreducible2, Non-Physical Entities?
- Functionalism and Qualia
- Qualia and the Explanatory Gap
- Qualia and Introspection
- Representational Theories of Qualia
- Which Creatures Undergo States with Qualia?
Other Internet Resources
First published Wed Aug 20, 1997; substantive revision Tue Jul 31, 2007; see Stanford Archive: Qualia.
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