Thursday, June 28, 2012

Experiential Relationships - Not the Experiences Themselves

We can not communicate directly what it is like to experience something.

We can communicate the way experiences (qualia, if you like) relate to one another.

In this way, we can say that "lasagna tastes like spaghetti, just cheesier." Or we could say, more generally, "lasagna tastes mild, saucy, meaty, and Italian." But to say "mild," "saucy," "meaty," and "Italian," is to refer to other qualia. If someone has never experienced sauciness, meatiness, mildness (or, perhaps no variations in intensity so that they do not realize a variation called "mildness" is possible) or experienced oregano, basil, and garlic seasoning, there is no real way to communicate it to them.

Someone who has never eaten lasagna, but has eaten ricotta cheese, noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, and Italian seasoning could conceivably form a picture of what lasagna would be like without ever tasting it. And someone could communicate the experience to him by describing the taste of lasagna as a relation between these other more basic experiences.

The qualia is still not communicated. Only the relationship between qualia is communicated. If the person lacks the prior experience, it is like a missing word in his vocabulary. He misses part of the description, there is a word without significance for him.

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