Richard Brown and Keith Frankish

Richard Brown (left) and Keith Frankish (right) on qualia.

Suppose you’re a physicalist and you want to include qualia in your ontology. Unfortunately, “classic qualia” (intrinsic, ineffable, private properties of experience) seem incompatible with physicalism, while “zero qualia” (mere dispositions to judge that we have classic qualia) don’t seem like genuine qualia at all. After all, even zombies have zero qualia! Perhaps you can be satisfied with “diet qualia” (subjective feels of experience). But are there meaningful distinctions between diet qualia and the other two conceptions? Is the notion of diet qualia even coherent? Frankish and Brown discuss the issue.

Related works

by Brown:
“Deprioritizing the A Priori Arguments Against Physicalism” (2010)
“The Higher-Order Approach to Consciousness” (draft)

by Frankish:
“Quining Diet Qualia” (forthcoming)
“The Anti-Zombie Argument” (2007)
Consciousness (2005)

See also:
Guest posts by Frankish at the Splintered Mind



Filed under Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Psychology

44 Responses to Richard Brown and Keith Frankish

  1. Thanks, Richard, Keith, and Philosophy TV. That was very educational!

    There were lots of claims about this or that idea being out of favor, or about things we can no longer, or can now do, and so on, that we are making progress about what are bad and good theories… But wouldn’t it be better to have more than just claims, that many can doubt? To have some rigorous open survey measure? Wouldn’t it be great to know more than just what the few experts like Block, Churchland, Dennett(and Frankish), Chalmers… think about this? Wouldn’t it be great to know, definitively, when people like Brown swing like a pendulum from one doctrine to the other, and why? And wouldn’t it be great to have concise agreed on definitions of the best theories you seem to think are emerging and quantitative measures of how many experts agree with them, beyond just these few…?

    That is exactly what we are attempting with the consciousness survey project at This is a consensus building open survey system that is doing just that, allow the experts to collaboratively develop concise descriptions of the best theories, and get a rigorous quantitative measure of just how many experts, and lay people alike, are convinced by their ideas.

    It seems to me that the early emerging early consensus theory, the experts participating recently decided to call “Representational Qualia Theory” explains and resolves many of the issues you guys were talking about and struggling with in all this.

    Most of us participating so far, are property duelists (of either functional or materialist type) so it would be great to get some other expert views included, to see just how many people are in each of your camps, along with knowing, definitively, what they currently are.

    Brent Allsop

  2. Hi Brent, thanks for this. I will look into this…have you seen the PhilPapers Philosophical Survery?

    Re Eliminativism: I think that thoughts and propositional attitudes more generally have a qualitative dimension so I would view elieminativism about thoughts as essentially eliminativism about consciousness…

  3. Another thing I should’ve said RE pain asymbolia: I agree that there will be a standoff of intuitions about whether these people are really experiencing pain but I am only interested in trying to show that it is conceivable, so possible, that pain and painfulness come apart…whether that is what is actually going on in these cases is another thing…

  4. Funny you should ask if I know about Chalmers’ survey.

    Volunteers got started on the consciousness survey project, and the significant preparations to build the canonizer system for such, more than a year before Chalmers started his survey. During this time we sent multiple communications to him, basically recruiting him to participate in the survey.

    Then in 2009, I finally caught up with him in person at a conference, right before he announced his survey. He immediately recognized me and opened our conversation with “you’ll be happy to know we are doing a survey”. So I know, if our survey work didn’t seed his ideas for his survey, he knew about what we were doing the entire time he was working on his survey. I of course was very excited to hear this news, as I’ve always believed surveying for and monitoring expert consensus is critically important to still controversial theoretical fields like this. We offered any and all of what we had, in hopes of being able to collaborate with his survey, but he resisted all such efforts and offers. And as I discovered his methodology, basically a primitive closed survey where he comes up with the questions, I figured the results would likely not be as good as they could be, using modern open survey techniques like we are doing at

    When I finally saw David’s survey come out, I was very disappointed, as most everyone I talked to about it also seemed to be. The one question most related to qualia was the infamous question number 21: “Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism, or sense-datum theory?”

    No single person, even a brilliant superman like Chalmers, has a hope of constructing any such question such that it can accurately represent what all the participators believe, and this question is clearly simply revealing just David Chalmers personal view of this philosophical space. I found nobody that was able to get any useful information out of this, and people only argue over what any of the participators might have meant, when they checked any of these choices. For an example of how bad so many people are interpreting this data, and the damage it is doing, see the talk page on Wikipedia on Naïve realism under the heading “Stupid Representationalism”.

    I loved what you said in the video when you challenged the neural scientist’s assertion that philosophers were supposed to tell us about consciousness, but have failed. You pointed out how much philosophers have achieved during the last decade, and I now believe that even you are completely failing to notice how much progress and agreement all the experts have managed to achieve in this field in recent years. If you stop and really think about it seriously, there are a great many things that most all the experts really do agree about in this field. It is just that, like this issues we point out the introduction on the main page, people are trapped in the endless rat holes of infinitely repeated yes no arguments about ever less important things, while completely failing to notice how much everyone actually really agrees on. All Chalmers’ survey did was confirm everyone’s gross miss perceptions, that philosophers haven’t accomplished anything, and the I believe completely mistaken idea that there is no agreement on anything in this field.

    I’m not even an academic, let alone a professional philosopher, and don’t have a staff of researchers… so we can’t just announce to the world we are doing a survey, and have all the worlds philosophers crawling to our door like David can. Our results are still very early and far from comprehensive. But we do, already have a significant list of experts that have participated at various degrees, including Steven Lehar, John Smythies, Jonathan Edwards, Stuart Hameroff, and yes, even Chalmers, himself, at least a bit (along with many followers building the camps that represent his newly named, and agreed on by David, “Functional Properly Dualism” camp.) The amazing amount of consensus developing despite such diverse experts participating is even blowing my wildest dreams away.

    I truly look forward to when this survey starts to become much more comprehensive, and everyone can finally definitively rigorously measure just how much progress the theoretical experts are making in this field. It clearly instantly shows how much any new scientific data has falsified any theory by how many experts suddenly abandon the camp that represents it. I think we are on the verge of making the greatest scientific discovery / achievement of all time, it’s just that everyone is still blind to it and unable to connect all the dots, or can’t see the signal that is there amongst all the eternal yes no noise.

    Looking forward to more of your, and everyone’s, ideas and thoughts on any of this.

    Brent Allsop

    • Hi Brent. I’ve had a look at what you’re doing at It looks like an interesting project, and I think it would be great if more professional philosophers got involved in this sort of thing. In my experience, most academics are happy to discuss their work with interested amateurs (using that word in a positive sense), but many don’t have the time.
      As for surveys, it’s interesting to chart philosophers’ views about consciousness, but it will only show which way the theoretical wind is blowing at the moment. Theories go in out of fashion, and I don’t think we can infer a lot from short-term trends. A really meaningful survey would need to have an historical span of several decades at least. It’s also useful to survey laypeople’s intuitions about consciousness, as the x-phi people do, so long as we remember that what we’re getting is evidence about how things seem rather than how things are.

  5. Hi Keith Frankish,

    I’ve been working for many years now in an attempt to recruit Daniel Dennet, or someone in that camp, to help concisely explain, and defend the “We don’t have Qualia, it just seems like we do” camp. I wondered if you might be willing to give us a hand? From my perspective, the simple short statement about this “it only seems like we do” view is in the Representational Qualia Theory camp is utterly devastating, so I could never be a supporter of this, for me, clearly falsified camp. The fact that it is so difficult to find any supporters of this view, compared to the early leading consensus camp, seems to be more evidence that this seems camp is clearly on its way out, since nobody is willing to stand up and face the current thriving and growing competition?

    Also, You had many comments that indicate that you seem to agree with much that is declared in the Representational Qualia Theory camp, such as you “don’t have an argument against qualia”, that it is “uncontrovertable that diet qualia exist”. (Any hard data to back such a statement up against the non believing – that is what I would like?) So it would be great to have a concise statement describing just what people in Your and Dennett’s camp do and don’t disagree with, how you address the simple obviously falsifying to many statement in the Representational Qualia Theory statement. Would it be possible to provide a nice concise statement describing what you mean by “dispositional properties that make everyone think we have classic qualia” – i.e. please provide an acceptable mechanical definition of what ‘to seem’ means, like the very clear definition, and obviously convincing to many one provided in the Representational Qualia Theory camp?

    Also, you said you would like to challenge your opponents to provide some way to get a real grip on qualia? But it seems to me the experts that have collaboratively developed the Representational Qualia Theory camp have done exactly this. You seem to claim, or think that qualia are “ineffable”, but this theory predicts that they can be effable, and that we are about to achieve the ability to start effing. (For a new and powerful version of the statement being proposed, see the forum thread here: ).

    The various competing sub camps to the Representational Qualia Theory make various different predictions about how science will find this relationship between a qualia and the underlying neural correlate.

    Chalmers’ current leading “Functional Property Dualism” theory predicts this relationship will be found to exist with anything that is functioning properly, from silicon to neurons. Though to me it is very ‘hard’ to imagine how this functional relationship might actually be mapped to something like a red quale.

    Stuart Hameroff’s possibly about to take the lead “Material Property Dualism” camp simply predicts you just need the right material stuff that will have these phenomenal qualities. Basically we will enhance what we do know about the appropriate elements in the periodic table to also include reliable experiencable ineffable phenomenal qualities when they are assembled in the right neural correlate.

    And there are also “Higher Dimensional” supporting theories, like that of John Smithies that predict this correlation will be found in the higher dimensions of string theory.

    You can tell from the forum conversations that Steven Lehar is obviously very against “Functional Property Dualism”, and seems to lean toward “Material Property Dualism” but has currently simply fallen back to the more well accepted higher level “Mind Brain Identity” supporting sub camp. As far as I can tell, this is the same camp Ned Block would be in, I need to try to contact him again, and see if we can see definitively? And if so if he would also tend to lean towards material, or functional, or some other more specific yet to be falsified sub theory.

    And Richard, I have heard you say nothing that indicates you would disagree with the general “Representational Qualia Theory” camp. Would you be willing to help us, as a leading philosopher, communicate to the world full of neural scientists that only think philosophy still hasn’t provided an answer? And help us show how much consensus there is, after all, about what to look for – qualia, where to look for it – a property of some neural correlate, and how – effing the ineffable? Or if there are any problems with any of these views, we’d like to know that too, so we can find out how many experts agree…


    Brent Allsop

    • Yes, I would be willing to explain and defend the “It just seems as if we have qualia” view. If I get time, I’ll put up a post on my blog (the blog’s just getting started; please bear with me). By the way, you mischaracterize my view when you say I think it is “incontrovertible that diet qualia exist”. Quite the opposite! In my recent paper (which Richard and I discussed), I argue that there are no such things as diet qualia, as distinct from classic or zero qualia. (I also think classic qualia don’t exist, but I don’t argue that in the paper.)

      You ask what I mean by ‘dispositional properties that make us think we have classic qualia’. I mean properties of experiences that are such as to dispose us to make judgements of the form ‘This experience has a certain intrinsic, ineffable, subjective feel’ (or, if you’re me, ‘Damn it, I can’t shake the intuition that this experience has a certain intrinsic, ineffable, subjective feel’!). Candidates for these properties are those identified in naturalistic theories of consciousness, such as possession of a certain sort of analog representational content or availability to higher-order representational mechanisms of some kind. (Of course these theories are offered as theories of something else — diet qualia — but I think that’s an error.)

      • Hi Keith,

        So great to hear from you! Thank you for taking this time. This is all great. The goal is to definitely survey more “professional philosophers”, and to also get these ranked by their peers (see: ) as there are clearly some “professionals” that are better than others, and likely some non professionals better than some of these. I’ve been attending academic conferences, interviewing people face to face, soliciting via e-mail, having conversations like this one, for more than 4 years know, with at least some hard won success having recruited participators like Lehar, Hameroff, Smythies… So obviously, I’m not yet a Chalmers, that can just make one simple survey request, and get hundreds of participants. We are finally starting to get some traction and help by others.

        It sounds like you believe there isn’t much of a consensus in this field (only that various theories “go in and out of fashion”), nor that there could ever be any improvement towards any scientifically verifiable truth? I once had this as my working hypothesis, and as I interviewed more and more experts, and found they all had the experience like I was having of finding so many things in the peer reviewed academic publications that seemed to be just ridiculous arguments, but having no quantitative way of knowing just how many people, other than the few peer reviewers, that really buy into such arguments, or don’t.

        But with concise and quantitative open survey capabilities rigorously measuring for this we seem to be finding something entirely different. There is exciting early significant consensus survey results at, with the many diverse experts already participating. This indicates to us that the idea that we are not making any progress has been falsified and I have been firmly converted to the camp that thinks that not only is there significant progress going on, there is a clear and growing consensus in this field on a great many things, making real falsifiable scientific predictions. Regardless of who is right, real quantitative data, tracked over time, is critical to this field. Even if only to measure the ‘laypeople’ so experts can see how successful the experts are with their current education and arguments, to better find out what works, what doesn’t, and so on. That which you measure improves.

        Brent Allsop

        • Hi Brent

          I do think we can make progress in this area and that we are gradually moving towards better and better theories. But within this progressive current there are local trends that are less important and sometimes retrograde (for what it’s worth, I think the present fashion for panpsychism is an example of that). That’s why I said one needs to take a long view to get a sense of progress — to be able to distinguish theoretical climate change, as it were, from mere weather.

          By the way, peer review isn’t about ‘buying into’ an argument; it’s about assessing a paper against the appropriate professional standards (argumentative rigour, command of the literature, critical awareness, originality, etc.). Whether one agrees with the position argued for is irrelevant. In my experience most peer reviewers are careful and conscientious.

          Best, Keith

      • I apologize! My previous reply was meant to be a reply to your previous post to me in this conversation. That below was intended to be in this spot…

        Hi Keith,

        That would be fantastic to finally have a concise description of the “It just seems as if we have qualia” theory. I’m sure there are more people in this camp than just you and Dennett. Hopefully we can then start to get some kind of quantitative measure of if this theory is waxing or waning in its acceptance, compared to other theories, and as ever more demonstrable scientific data, and better arguments, comes in over time.

        My understanding is that nobody with a “Representational Qualia Theory” working hypothesis can currently accept your description of these dispositional properties nor your arguments that we don’t have qualia based on such, for the reasons described in the camp statement. I also made some additional claims in the camp forum, specifically addressed to your description of these dispositional properties in the camp forum (see: ).

        Brent Allsop

        • Hi Brent

          Is your Representational Qualia view a form of indirect realism? That is, do you hold that the only things we are directly aware of are qualia, and that we infer the presence of external objects from our qualia (see e.g. That sort of view was quite popular with philosophers in the early half the C20th, but it’s been widely rejected since then, and (if it is your view) I wondered how you respond to the objections to it.

          All best, Keith

          • As I indicated below, to your 1:35 reply, “Representational Qualia Theory” is a general set of doctrines agreed on by many diverse philosophies. Yes we do believe that the only thing we are aware of, are the phenomenal properties of our knowledge of such, and that this knowledge tracks reality, thanks to the data gathered by our senses, which we infer exists.

            When I first got interested in this topic, I saw statements like you are saying many times: “that sort of view was quite popular with philosophers in the early half of the C20th, but it’s been widely rejected since then”. With such data, I assumed a working hypothesis that this type of beliefs was indeed, retrograding out of favor. One reason I started, is because I wanted to get a better handle on any possible competing theories, and get some quantitative measures of which were the best ones. I was completely shocked, to find out how many people do, after all, at least today, seem to believe in the general doctrines contained in “Representational Qualia Theory”. I once considered people like Hameroff, all pan psychists, as competitors, that had it wrong, but I discovered there is a whole lot of stuff we all do agree on, after all. And that is where the strength of the consensus building system becomes so clear. Instead of focusing on all the lessor important things everyone disagrees on, it allows everyone to focus on what they do agree on.

            As far as the objections to indirect realism, most of them that I am aware of, have serious flaws, that have been addressed and pointed out so many times by everyone. Take the infinite regress objection, as one example. The one where people ask who is watching, and aware of, the movie that is going on in the head, and so on, in an infinite way. I once include refutation of such objections, explaining that there is no regression in this theory where we simply have knowledge that is the awareness, and that this awareness includes knowledge of a spirit, perceiving this knowledge, that has no referent in reality, unlike the knowledge of the strawberry, which does. The flaws in such now seem so obvious to so many of us, that we find addressing them as a waste of time?

            Perhaps there is a particular flaw that you think is the biggest problem to indirect realism, one that doesn’t suffer from such obvious flaws? I would very much like to know of which ones you might have in mind when you make such an unclear general statement as this. If such does indeed exist, that many experts agree is a critical problem without such errors, it would be nice to get such definitively canonized and tracked.

          • Hi Brent

            [This may appear above your last message, which won’t let me reply to it directly.]

            Thanks for your reply. Many objections have been raised to indirect realism. For example, it’s epistemologically very unattractive, threatens to make consciousness non-physical and epiphenomenal, can’t deal with perceptual indeterminacy, etc. You can find the arguments in any textbook (or look at the SEP entries on Perception and Sense Data). But it’s not just that there are arguments against the view; it’s that there’s a far more elegant and economical alternative, namely intentionalism, versions of which are advocated by Byrne, Dretske, Harman, Lycan, and Tye, among many others. (For a very persuasive statement of the intentionalist case, see Tye’s 1995 book *Ten Problems of Consciousness*.) One of the key issues here is whether experience is diaphanous. If it is, then it can be argued that even a minimal form of representationalism entails intentionalism. See Frank Jackson’s excellent chapter on consciousness in the *Oxford Handbook to Contemporary Philosophy* edited by Jackson and Michael Smith. (Jackson himself is a convert to intentionalism, having previously written one of the best defences of sense data theory; viz, *Perception* 1977.)

            Best, Keith

  6. Gary Williams

    Richard and Keith,

    Instead of saying either that we are not zombies, or that we are zombies, why not say that we are zombies much of the time but often engage in conscious thought and/or experience conscious feelings/sensations? Depending on how we define the ability to have such experiences and thoughts, we might end up with a theory of consciousness that grants that some entities can achieve consciousness but also that many can’t, perhaps the majority of nonhuman animals. It seems that the “illusion” or “delusion” that people like Dennett talk about is not so much that consciousness itself exists (which is undeniable), but rather, the illusion is about the relative amount of nonconscious mental content to conscious mental content. Most laymen mistakenly think that they are more conscious relative to nonconscious states than they really are. But cognitive neuroscience tells us that the real ratio of nonconscious to conscious might be around 90/10, although the unique phenomenal character of conscious content includes the feeling that the ratio is inversed and that conscious content dominates our subjective “what it is like”. But since the conscious mind will always find itself continually present if it asks itself how dominate it actually is in experience, we are left in a strange paradox of introspective verification concerning the extent of our conscious mind relative to a nonconscious background, like asking a flashlight to search around for a dark spot in a room; wherever we look, we find consciousness, but this is itself a trick of consciousness.

    • Hi Gary. I think you’re right that we underestimate the amount of our mental life that is unconscious. (This is an important lesson of dual-process theories of reasoning.) However, I think this issue is tangential to the one Richard and I were discussing, which was about the *nature* of consciousness, not its extent. I accept that there’s at least a rough-and-ready distinction between conscious and non-conscious mental states, but I deny that a mental state’s being conscious consists in its having classic or diet qualia, as opposed to zero qualia. (In the case of propositional attitudes, even zero qualia might not be necessary; suitable access relations might be enough.) So my claim isn’t that we’re never conscious, it is that consciousness isn’t what people think it is.

      The notion of a zombie can be confusing here since it’s easy to conflate two types of zombie, psychological and phenomenal. Psychological zombies do not have conscious mental states at all; they do not claim to be conscious and act entirely on autopilot. Phenomenal zombies do have conscious mental states (in a functional sense), but these states do not have any (classic or diet) qualia. When I suggest we’re zombies, I mean phenomenal zombies, and that’s compatible with our being psychological zombies only some of the time.

  7. Jay Jeffers

    I must be walking around with a wrong impression of what philosophical zombies are. My understanding was that zombies have no conscious experience whatsoever, only behavior. That means that not only do zombies have no feelings or sensations, but no thoughts or beliefs (is it possible to have thoughts, beliefs, judgments, without consciousness?!). But the way the philosophers discussed qualia and zombies in this episode makes me think my understanding has been wrong.

    Based on the understanding that Zombies lack all consciousness whatsoever, I must admit that I find it incomprehensible that I might be a one. I am conscious, so I know I’m not a philosophical zombie. I might not know for sure whether *you* are a zombie (though ultimately I stop short of solipsism), but I know for sure that I’m not one. If you’re like me, you too are conscious in an undeniable way.

    Now, if I have a disposition to judge that I have qualia, how could it be that I lack consciousness? If I don’t lack consciousness, then how can I be a Zombie?

    I take it, for what it’s worth, that *saying* that I’ve judged that I have qualia is not the same as actually judging that I have qualia; I do the latter (and am capable of doing the former), the Zombie only does the former.

    I look forward to being set right on the concept of philosophical Zombies and how it was used in the conversation in this episode.

    BTW, I really enjoyed the discussion. I haven’t gotten excited about philosophy of mind in quite a while.

    • Michael Amundsen

      Hi, Jay!

      You’re of course right that zombies are supposed to have no conscious experience whatsoever. But some philosophers treat thoughts and beliefs as theoretical posits of folk psychology, they’re just notions that we invoke to predict the behavior of intentional systems. On this sort of view both zombies and humans have beliefs and thoughts, because all it takes to have them is to be predictable from the point of view of a folk psychologist. But some might say that zombies can’t have occurrent thoughts, since occurrent thoughts are thoughts you are conscious of having. So you might say that zombies can have unconscious thoughts and beliefs, if you think the notion of an unconscious thought is coherent.

      • Jay Jeffers

        Hey Michael! Thanks for the reply. It helps.

        I’m still hung up a bit though.

        I’ve never been sure if eliminativism about thoughts and beliefs asserts that thoughts and beliefs literally don’t exist, (the former) or that they’re just not doing the work over our actions we think they do (the latter).

        If it’s the former, well that’s tough for me, because I know I have thoughts and beliefs. For example, I believe that if I don’t finish a paper by 5 p.m. Tuesday I will fail a class. I can’t doubt this belief sincerely. Now, maybe the fact that I’m writing a paper can be fully explained by reference to the workings of my brain, so we can do away with my belief about failing the class when we explain why I am writing a paper (the subjective feeling of having a belief is enough to count as a belief, though it might not *do* as much as I imagine).

        If it’s the latter interpretation of eliminativism, well OK, it seems like we’re dealing with a kind of epiphenomenalism then (but qualia can influence other conscious states). The latter interpretation of eliminativism seems counter-intuitive to me, but I think it makes sense, and I’m open to it.

        So, I’m still stuck on the fact that my subjective experience of qualia is all qualia is. Ditto for my thoughts and beliefs. Now perhaps all that stuff doesn’t cause me to move my body at all (I’m not sure what this would be called.. something like “one way causal epiphenomenalism?”).

        With this backdrop, if eliminativism eliminates the mere existence of subjective feeling, then if someone tells me they can’t be sure they have subjective feeling, then perhaps I should believe them, since someone that had subjective feeling would be incapable of sincerely doubting it. So, maybe there really are zombies among us. 😉

        • Michael Amundsen

          There are many ways of being an eliminativist. If you’re an eliminativist with regard to thoughts and beliefs you might say that talk about such things is dispensable, and that this is enough to say that they don’t really exist – they might hold, with Quine, that to be is to be the value of a bound variable in our best scientific theories. Another way is to say that because they don’t do the work you think they do (don’t have the properties you think they have), they literally don’t exist.

          I don’t think an eliminitavist could say that beliefs exist, but they don’t do the work you think (if that’s what you’re getting at). Or, if they did, they wouldn’t mean it in a way that would commit them to epiphenomenalism.

          And I certainly don’t think people who are eliminativist with regard to qualia are so because they’re failing to recognize a feature of their own consciousness. They’re conscious in just the same sense as you are, but they think it is a mistake to talk about what it is like to be you in terms of qualia.

          • Jay and Michael: Interesting exchange about eliminativism. Michael captures pretty well what I would say, especially in his last post. Eliminativists deny that we have mental states and properties of the kind we take ourselves to have. The basic claims are (a) mental concepts derive their meaning from their role in a tacit theory, and (b) this theory is badly flawed — so badly flawed that it and its conceptual apparatus should be abandoned. That’s what some people say about the concepts of belief and desire, and that’s what I say about the concept of qualia (subjective feel, what-it-is-likeness etc.). I’m not denying that we have conscious experiences. I’m just denying that having a conscious experience involves being acquainted with some intrinsic, ineffable, subjective property of the experience. (And I’m also denying that there’s a coherent ‘diet’ notion of qualia that’s weaker than this, but stronger than the functional notion of zero qualia.)

            Note that if it’s true that mental concepts are theoretically defined, then one can’t respond to the eliminativist simply by banging the table and saying, “But I know I have beliefs, dammit! I’m introspectively aware of them”. You may be introspectively aware of *something* — of some events occurring in your mind/brain. But you can’t be sure that these events are correctly described as *beliefs*. For that, you’d need to know that our tacit theory of mind is true and that you’re applying it correctly in the present case, and introspection alone can’t tell you that. I’d argue that the something similar goes for qualia.

            Best, Keith

  8. Thanks, everyone. It is great to see what different people think ‘zombies’ are. Obviously quite a lot of diversity of thought here. I get kind of an idea what people’s working theories are from posts like this, but it would sure be nice to have concise descriptions, and quantitative measures of just how many people think the various different ways about zombies. Wouldn’t it be great to have a concise reference of what everyone really thought zombies were, and how many people thought each of those particular ways, and be able to track and measure this consensus as scientific data falsifies various incorrect theories?

    The early leading consensus “Representational Qualia Theory” (see: ) predicts the very real possibility of extreme diversity of experience amongst different people, up to and including some people, and machines, behaving identically, yet having no phenomenal knowledge at all – everything being simply interpreted representations for which what the knowledge is represented by, doesn’t matter, as long as the representations are interpreted properly to produce the same behavior. (At least until you ask them what their representations are phenomenally like…)

    The collaborators developing and supporting that camp are developing a new version of the statement describing the theory that proposes something called a “Qualia Interpretation Principle”. (see the forum post: ) for a recent portion of this new version of the camp statement being collaboratively developed) For me, this “Qualia Interpretation Principle” makes the difference between computer (or zombie?) knowledge and conscious knowledge perfectly clear and obvious.

    As usual, it would be great to know what others thought of all this, and also, what everyone thinks a zombie is, if their idea of a zombie is different than this early leading consensus theory predicts.

    Brent Allsop

  9. Jay Jeffers


    Movin back down here to the bottom, perhaps I got a little too snarky there on zombies. Let me straighten up.

    First, on epiphenomenalism, I’ll shelve that, throw it away, or what have you. I was just trying to get my head around eliminativism on thoughts and beliefs. I’ll move on to something I find more important…

    So, I’m afraid I’m still at a complete lack of understanding on eliminativism with respect to qualia. I may be wrong about a lot of things. I may not have an enduring core self (per Buddhism) or free will (per determinism) or even if I have a self, I may lack an underlying character (per John Doris), and on and on. But what I am not wrong on, is the fact that experience is being had. “I” see stuff, hear stuff, feel stuff, and so on. I may be wrong about what that stuff is, but I do experience it. Ergo, qualia exists. Q.E.D.

    Having said that, I don’t doubt that eliminativist philosophers recognize their own experiences. I’m only saying that since that’s true, I can’t see how they could be tempted to even entertain the notion that qualia don’t exist; if you recognize qualia in your own experience, qualia exists, even if it turns out to be irrelevant to explaining the brain/behavior of homosapiens.

    So I keep going back to trying to find an assumption that would make the fact that the people who don’t doggedly believe qualia exist, and the assumption that they actually have no qualia seems to do the trick. Now, I know the next step in the argument is to say that of course they have qualia (after all, they experience the world as well), but then again if they do experience these things, they ought to say “I smell flowers, see red, feel thorns, and so on. Therefore, qualia exist. Q.E.D.”

    But they don’t say that, so I’m confused.

    • Michael Amundsen

      You can be an eliminativist about qualia and still agree that you see stuff, smell stuff, and have headaches over philosophical discussions. An eliminativist can argue that you can’t “observe” your conscious states as being impossible to account for in terms of structure and dynamics. How could you ever infallibly know that what you are observing must be a non-functionalizable aspect of your consciousness?

      And if you say that qualia might well be functionalized, they’re just whatever properties in virtue of which it is like something to be you (this is the “neutral” conception of qualia), then, according to Frankish, you’re failing to talk about something other than zero qualia (which aren’t qualia at all) or something like classic qualia. And the problem with insisting that there must be classical qualia is that it begs the question against those who say that we cannot individuate something like an intrinsic feature of consciousness by just pointing our attention and saying “qualia-here-now”.

      One can also argue that there is a problem with the idea of the sort of infallible knowledge you might want to say that you can have about your own mind. Dennett points this out in “How could I be wrong? How wrong could I be?”. The problem is that if there is no way in principle of showing that you are wrong, then nothing testable can follow from what you’re saying. This is ridding your statement of meaning.

      Of course, one can disagree with this, but it shouldn’t be obvious to anyone that you cannot be wrong in thinking that you know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about your qualia. I think qualia-believers and -disbelievers have no decisive arguments against each other. I certainly don’t have one in this short post. So there should be no “Q.E.D” here (though I wish there could).

      But I have a reading suggestion. If you haven’t already checked out Frankish’ presentation of an earlier version of “Quining Diet Qualia” and the following discussion on Consciousness online, you should:

      And you might want to read the Dennett paper I mentioned:

      • Again, Michael sums up the eliminativist position well here. Eliminativist philosophers do recognize their own experiences, but they deny that doing so involves recognizing qualia. It’s helpful here to think about (phenomenal) zombies. Eliminativists about qualia claim we are zombies. This seems outrageous until one reflects on just how much zombies can actually do. Your zombie twin makes exactly the same perceptual discriminations you do; it entertains the same thoughts about its experiences that you do; and it is as convinced that it has qualia as you are. This is admitted on all sides, pretty much (see David Chalmers’s discussion of ‘the paradox of phenomenal judgement’ in TCM chapter 5). So can you be sure you aren’t a zombie? There’s a great paper by Allin Cottrell, called ‘Sniffing the Camembert’ (JCS 6 (1), 1999) which makes this point forcefully.

        • Jay Jeffers

          Keith Frankish,

          Thanks so much for your replies. I wonder if you can help me make sense of this:

          “Your zombie twin makes exactly the same perceptual discriminations you do; it entertains the same thoughts about its experiences that you do; and it is as convinced that it has qualia as you are.”

          The problem I’m having is that I don’t know what it means for the zombie to entertain thoughts, (much less about its experiences) or to be convinced of anything, if in fact it’s not conscious.

          I can see what it means for the zombie to report thoughts about (claimed) experiences, and to report being convinced, but these words (entertain thoughts, experiences, convictions) refer to internal subjective states, yes? And we’ve stipulated that the zombie has none.

          • Michael Amundsen

            I’m sorry to jump in here, but it means that you must interpret the zombie as doing those things, based on his behavior and inner biological workings. The reason it sounds strange is that zombies are stupid. The notion of consciousness you end up with if you believe in zombies is useless. Consciousness is not the sort of thing you can remove without making a physical difference, and denying this is what should be considered denying the manifest.

  10. Jay Jeffers

    That last paragraph of mine is unbearable. Lemme try again..

    What I’m looking for is something that would make sense of the idea that someone could fail to be completely confident in the existence of qualia. The only thing that works is to assume that some philosophers (e.g. qualia eliminativists) are in fact zombies. This is tongue in cheek, and I do it to illustrate my utter lack of comprehension when it comes to eliminativism with respect to qualia.

  11. Jay,

    “I may be wrong about what that stuff is, but I do experience it. Ergo, qualia exists. Q.E.D.”

    You obviously know this, I know this, Even people like Keith Frankish and Daniel Dennett say things like: “almost uncontrovertible that diet qualia exist”. Everywhere I go amongst experts and reading papers, it is almost uncontrovertable. If this is the case, as I agree that it is, then the wikipedia article on qualia is clearly lying to everyone, making everyone think there is no lack of consensus whatsoever on this issue, and that there are as many reputable qualophobes, as there are qualophiles?

    Am I wrong? Am I the only one that is outraged by this or the only one that sees this as a terrible hindrance on humanities progress in this most important of all scientific fields?

    Brent Allsop

  12. Jay Jeffers


    Is it fair to say then, that those philosophers that aren’t sure whether or not they’re zombies are on the fringe, if the idea of diet qualia is incontrovertible?

  13. Hi Jay,

    Well, Keith Frankish seems to be one that thinks he could be a zombie, but he is also the one that stated diet qualia are incontrovertible.

    I think such a belief comes from out natural intuitions. Our brain tends to represent things as the sun going around the earth, not the other way around, so it takes some work to get over that intuition. For some it is much more difficult than others. Similarly, it’s much more difficult to get your head around the idea that a red quale is not a property of the strawberry (and the implication being nothing more than that is required, so I’m probably a zombie) but rather is a property of our knowledge of such, and thereby is very necessary and most definitely exists.

    Many “Type A materialists”, are clearly revealing there inability to get their head arround this like you can. True qualophobes, (Keith, Dennett… are not these, because of the way they admit that ineffable qualities exist…), I think these struggling people are the ones that are more and more “on the fringe” or in the becoming falsified and abandoned camps. It’s just that nobody is able to know for sure, because nobody is working on rigorously surveying for such.

    This theoretical field of science is being terribly hindered by extreme ideologies. On the one hand you have the ghostly spiritualists, that think consciousness is not approachable via science, exists in some neither world, is mysterious, ghostly, out of bodyish…. On the other ideological side, you have the hard nosed, I’m only interested in what my instruments can detect, nuts and bolts neural researchers. If the latter side even hears the word qualia, or anything like it, they instantly shut down, will not by the book, and turn back to studying their instruments. On the other side, you have the same refusal to listen or be interested – as they know, as sure as they know what red is like, there is something more than what those instruments can tell you.

    Both sides are throwing the baby out with the bath. Intelligent people like Dennett, and Frankish, who at least understand what things like “diet qualia” are, still become famous, and get rich selling books, by pandering to the scientific side, telling them what they want to hear. These ignorant people completely miss interpret what the experts say, and think there is nothing beyond what their instruments can tell them, and so on. And they become much more than someone like Keith, that at least thinks “diet qualia” exist. They are proud to call themselves zombies.

    But, as usual, in between these extremes, is where reality lies. And I think we already have the tools to make the greatest and most significant scientific discovery of all time – the discovery of the relationship between qualia, and the neural correlates that have them. All we need is some kind of open survey tool that can find the best theories, definitions of what qualia are, and are not…, and a rigorous measure of how many people believe in the best theories/descriptions of such. Something that will allow everyone to connect all the dots contained in all the papers documented in Chalmer’s bibliography (now more than 20K publications) And the ability to measure this consensus, enabling it to improve much faster, and for people to finally see such so that they can not doubt it.

    Finally, the nuts and bolts neural researchers will be able to realize: Oh, that’s what qualia are (they are important and do exist after all), Oh that’s where qualia are (a property of a neural correlate), oh, that’s how you look for qualia (by effing the ineffable) and will finally be able to get enough research to do some real ineffable science, will finally be able to see them and say: That is them right there, and this is what my red is like.

    But, of course, you can’t communicate such about what everyone is thinking, overcome these terrible ideologies, and the only way to achieve any kind of survey, is if people are willing to participate in such.

    Brent Allsop

    • Hi again Brent

      I’m afraid I don’t recognize your characterization of my position. You say I hold that it’s incontrovertible that diet qualia exist. But the whole thrust of my paper and my talk with Richard was exactly the opposite: I deny that there’s a coherent concept of diet qualia, and I argue that the notion of diet qualia should be rejected.

      A question for you: you have a lot of faith in the value of surveying people’s intuitions about consciousness as a way of deciding between different theories. One problem with this, it seems to me, is that our zombie twins would give exactly the same responses to survey questions as we would. Your zombie twin would endorse the representational qualia view, mine would endorse a form of eliminativism, etc. This is pretty much built into the standard definition of a zombie (zombies are physically and functionally identical to us, and therefore speak and act identically). How then can a survey tell us anything about what’s distinctive of human consciousness, assuming we are not zombies?

      As for being rich and famous, I wish!

      Best, Keith

      • Hi Keith,

        I apologize for completely miss characterizing your statement around 17:50 in the video where you said:

        “it’s taken to be almost completely uncontroversial.. I don’t know of anyone who really argues for, it is just taken as a starting point. It is often said that it is undeniable that diet qualia exist, although I take it that Type A materialists might want to differ on that”

        You were talking about general beliefs of others, to which you find exception?, and my recollection of what you said got completely twisted in the process. Thanks for the assistance on this issue.

        I think “Representational Qualia Theory” has much to do with these “completely uncontroversial” beliefs which you point out so many people agree on. It has become a collaboratively developed combination of many of these agreed on doctrines. Many of the doctrines in this general theory are similar to doctrines contained in everything from Cartesian Dualism, to “Qualia Theory”, to “Representationalism” to “Sensa Data theory”, and there are a whole lot of other names for various forms of these ideas that share these general doctrines.

        I completely agree with you, that the popularity of panpsychism is an example of incorrect beliefs becoming popular, or us retrograding away from what will turn out to be demonstrable reality. What most people don’t realize at first, as that many philosophies, including panpsychism, are subset theories of the much more general “Representational Qualia Theory” doctrines. I’ve heard John Gregg, who has contributions to the Representational Qualia Theory statement, and is currently a supporter of the sub camp theory “Material Property Dualism” express the surprising to me view that he favors “Pan Experiential” views. Also notice that Hameroff’s “Orchestrated Objective Reduction” theory, which he contributed, is also a supporting sub camp of “Representational Qualia Theory”. The way the consensus building system is designed to work, is to find all the most important things that everyone agrees on, and enabling these to remain in the more general and acceptable higher level consensus camps, in agreed on terminology, while the things people disagree on get pushed towards sometimes parallel branching trees of competing sub camps.

        This survey project isn’t so much “a way of deciding between different theories”, as it is simply a way of being more educated about getting a handle on the now more than 20K publications in Chalmers Bibliography, and eliminating all the eternally repetitive yes, no, yes, no arguments. We fully expect the popular opinion to lag far behind what a few early leading experts know. It’s all meant to just get a rigorous handle on all this, even to allow the experts that are the first to realize what will turn out to be right, to see what the general prevailing ideas still are, and get a better handle on where they are mistaken, and provide a tool for the few that do agree to speak in a unified team work way, without requiring each of them to repeat themselves, over and over again…

        I have a question for you. How often, when you are reading published works in this field, do you come across an argument or doctrine someone is espousing, that you think is obviously mistaken, or completely absurd? How often do you wonder how many people by unto such, or how many people agree with you, that such is mistaken?

        Brent Allsop

        • Hi Brent

          Thanks for clearing up that misunderstanding.

          You ask how often I come across an argument in the published literature that I think is obviously mistaken or completely absurd. The answer is very rarely. Most articles published in major journals are written by trained professional philosophers and have been through a rigorous review and revision process. So if something looks obviously wrong or absurd to me, my reaction is that I’ve probably misunderstood, and I work harder to get at what the writer’s trying to say. This usually helps and leads to me gaining a better understanding both of the writer’s position and of my own. Of course, I often end up disagreeing with an argument or theory, sometimes strongly, but I hardly ever write one off as simply absurd.

          Best, Keith

          • Hi Keith,

            We seem to be talking past each other. I completely agree that nothing obviously wrong on the surface makes it through a good peer review process. I’m talking about the diverse simple disagreement of opinion that exists by so many experts on so many things in this field. When “Tye” and others people talk about things like knowledge being ‘transparent’, perhaps calling it ‘absurd’ is a bit strong, but as it is clearly stated in our statement, we very much disagree with his transparent arguments for such terminology. I would hope you have some interest in just how absurd people think, whether expert or not, various ideas and terminologies are, concisely and quantitatively? And would it not be valuable to know which ideas were waxing, and waning, in expert popularity? My hypothesis is that the complete lack of any such concise and quantitative information about how much people disagree, is what is still keeping this theoretical field of the science of the mind in the complete failure to communicate dark ages.

            Best, Brent

  14. Hello everyone. Thanks for your comments and my apologies for not responding sooner. It will probably be easier if I reply to individual posts rather than posting one long message. A lot of points have been made, so I may not be able to reply to everything. If you’d like me to comment on something I’ve missed, please get back to me.

  15. Jay Jeffers

    Keith Frankish,

    Once again thank you for your replies. No problem on the wait. It takes me several days in between as well..

    I think we’ve exhausted the thread capability on one thread above I’m interested in, so I’ll move my reply down here. In a post of yours, you wrote,

    “I’m not denying that we have conscious experiences. I’m just denying that having a conscious experience involves being acquainted with some intrinsic, ineffable, subjective property of the experience.”

    So I’m clear, the subjective and ineffable part comes from the (supposed) fact that one must experience say, red, to know what it’s like to experience red? It comes from the claim that 3rd person explanation is not able to fully explain what qualia are, because there is a (supposed) private, 1st person character to qualia that is closed to the “outside?”

  16. Jay Jeffers

    Hi Michael,

    Once again, I can’t seem to reply to you (this happens to me after several replies in a thread) so I’m moving down here, in reply to this comment,

    “I’m sorry to jump in here, but it means that you must interpret the zombie as doing those things, based on his behavior and inner biological workings. The reason it sounds strange is that zombies are stupid. The notion of consciousness you end up with if you believe in zombies is useless. Consciousness is not the sort of thing you can remove without making a physical difference, and denying this is what should be considered denying the manifest.”

    First of all, jump, jump! Second, and more importantly, I don’t think the issue turns on whether or not anyone actually “believes in” zombies (I hope I haven’t taken what you said too literally). I take it that the issue is about whether zombies are conceivable. This gets into how this is different, if at all, from whether something is imaginable, whether it has anything to do with possibility and what kind of possibility, etc. This is where it gets a little hairy for me, but I think it’s worth mentioning. But perhaps you deny that this is distinct, in any interesting way, from actually believing in zombies, since even entertaining the notion is entertaining the possibility of removing consciousness, which you’re not prone to do. In any case, I take it that the physicalist flirtation with zombies(i.e. toying with the idea that we might not be able to tell whether or not we’re zombies) is something you find wasteful, since it involves denying the manifest?

    • Michael Amundsen

      Sorry to leave you hanging, Jay. I’m aware that there are materialists (many of them) who say zombies are conceivable, but not metaphysically possible. “Believing in zombies” would be believing in the metaphysical possibility of zombies (as opposed to believing in the epistemic possibility of zombies), I just got carried away. But this position (type-B materialism) is conceding too much to the dualists, I think. I don’t care whether conceivability entails possibility, because I can’t conceive of zombies, and I don’t think other people really can either. If they think they can, they haven’t tried hard enough.

      The remark about zombie conceivers denying the manifest is just the expression of a hope. I hope that it will be obvious for everyone one day that zombies are silly.

      But maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t see why consciousness should be any different if it turned out that zombies are both epistemically and metaphysically impossible. That is type-A materialism is not obviously false.

      • Hi Michael,

        Thanks for your continued pursuit of this topic. I very much like much of what you say, think it is important and agree with you that most ideas of a zombie, especially ones where we have no thoughts, are just silly, and simply reveal ones naiveté about what phenomenal knowledge really is. It sounds like you would likely agree with everything in the “Representational Qualia Theory” description? (see: )

        That is, except for an intelligent robot, of today, could obviously be considered a zombie in a way. As I said above, any such abstracted knowledge doesn’t matter what you represent it with, as long as you interpret whatever is doing the representation correctly. Hence a zombie, that can behave far more intelligent than us, about red and everything, it just can’t know what our phenomenal knowledge of red is like, and can’t tell us what it’s knowledge is like – that is without lying.

        Best, Brent Allsop

        • Michael Amundsen

          Hi Brent!

          No, I would not agree with the representational qualia theory. I think qualia are unwittingly posited, so it’s a confusion to say that qualia is what a theory of consciousness must explain. I don’t think the Hard Problem is a real problem.

          On my view, all that the Hard Problem can be is “Why do people insist on talking about qualia?”.

          • Michael,

            Oh, OK.

            Representational Qualia Theory predicts redness is not a property of the strawberry, but instead is a property of our knowledge of such or a property of something in our brain.

            It predicts that once we know what has such a property, we’ll be able to do things like, use our instruments to detect the same thing going on in your brain, and then reliably announce to you that that is Brent’s red. Upon which you could say something like, no that is my green, or maybe – yes, that is the same as my red, or any of a bunch of other possible answers about the phenomenal differences between our minds.

            So, if science does indeed end up doing all this kind of stuff, you will be forced to admit that your theory is incorrect, incomplete, and has been falsified, and be converted to our camp right?

            In case you can’t tell, I’m trying to get an idea of just what your theory of redness is, and get an idea of how, according to you, science might falsify our theory, to prove your way of thinking about it, whatever that way is? And, hopefully, if we can do that, concisely, it’d be great to see just how many people are currently in your camp, and whether this camp is waxing or waning, compared to other theories of redness?

            Brent Allsop

  17. This is a direct reply to Keith Frankish’s May 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm reply to me, which was itself posted out of order since this thread is getting so deep.

    Hi Keith,

    Ah, finally some real arguments I can work with, if you can call such an argument. Thanks so much for your continued participation and help.

    It would be nice to know, concisely, just what type of ‘indirect realism’ you are referring to which suffers from these problems. I suspect it is a collection of straw man ideas and arguments, taken from misconceptions, of various primitive ideas reprentationalists from the distant past have had.

    It is also evident that you haven’t yet read or fully understand much of what is contained in current concise state of the art description of what the general “Representational Qualia Theory” is that Lehar, Smythies, Hameroff, and the 13 other experts continue to collaboratively developed and have all explicitly signed, declaring this is our current working hypothesis. Because what it describes including the predictions it makes suffer from non of these problems:

    “Threatens to make consciousness non-physical and epiphenomenal” – Representational Qualia Theory, mechanically describes just what, where and how qualia are. And most importantly, it tells us, or if you must merely predicts, how to look for them – via effing the ineffable. In very real, scientific, objective terms. It describes the critical importance of these phenomenal properties to our ability to distinguish things like knowledge represented with red from green – and points out how different such phenomenal knowledge is from today’s computer knowledge for which, what it is represented with, doesn’t matter what it is like, as long as you properly interpret the differences.

    “can’t deal with perceptual indeterminacy” It deals with perceptual indeterminacy, such as a Necker cube, quite easily. Our knowledge of the Necker cube, for example, can simply switch, often at will, form one representation to another.

    “it’s not just that there are arguments against the view; it’s that there’s a far more elegant and economical alternative, namely internationalism, versions of which are advocated by Byrne, Dretske, Harman, Lycan, and Tye, among many others. (For a very persuasive statement of the intentionalist case, see Tye’s 1995 book” I know at least some about some of these works. IF you could come up with a concise collaboratively developed description of what all these people believe (and these so call proponents where willing to attach a definitive online signature of such, so I didn’t have to take your word for it, or possibly think that some of them have abandoned some of these falsified ideas, I bet there would be a huge amount of overlap of this and most of the doctrines in Representational Qualia Theory. From my point of view, from what I’ve heard from you, you seem to be very naive about this overlap? Also, your judgment that these kind of ‘transparent’ ideas, at least as far as they are different from “Representational Qualia Theory”, if any are ‘far more elegant and economical’ is obviously a very biased judgment, that supporters of “Representational Qualia Theory” would disagree with, for the reasons concisely stated there in.

    And finally “it’s epistemologically very unattractive”. Now, with this, you are just making me mad, and pushing one of my hot buttons. It seems to me that all other forms of epistemology you are talking about think the best or only way to solve the problem of other minds, is via some kind of Turning Test – or in other words, you can’t epistimically know about other minds in any way, almost by definition. There is no prediction of any ability to eff the ineffable. Most of them, such as Naieve realism, suffer from a critical naiveté about what it means to know something, especially such as what it is phenomenally like. Representational Qualia Theory resolves all these epistemological problems in a way that is far more elegant and economical and is perfectly consistent with all we know. Unlike other theories, it also makes real falsifiable predictions about just what the phenomenal is and how it will be discovered, solves the problem of other minds….

    All the best
    Brent Allsop

  18. Michael Amundsen

    Answer to Brent’s post at May 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm:

    I’m having a hard time seeing how anything could convince me that redness is something in the brain. It seems to me like looking for numbers and meanings in the brain. I might come back to you about what I think redness is later.

  19. Hi Richard and Keith,

    I’ve sent multiple personal e-mails to each of you, with no responses. They were about the fact the we published an open letter to Daniel Dennet and got a response from him. This resulted in the creation of a new camp named: Dennett’s Predictive Bayesian Coding Theory which documents a significant update to his multiple drafts theory. (see: )

    I suspect I’m not reaching you? Would you mind sending me an e-mail, so I might know if you have received any of them or not? (my e-mail is first name dot last name at If you’re not interested, just let me know and I’ll cease my effort to reach you in some other way.


    Brent Allsop
    Volunteer – Consciousness Survey Project.