Rescuing Qualia

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Abstract
Daniel Dennett provides many compelling reasons to question the existence of phenomenal experiences in his paper titled Quining Qualia, however, from the perspective of the individual, qualia appear to be an inherent feature of consciousness. The act of reflecting on one’s experiences suggests that subjective feelings and sensations are a necessary element of human life, as personal opinions on various artistic works are apt to demonstrate. This paper argues that by considering subjective experiences from a naturalized functionalist perspective, a comprehensive explanation for qualia can be provided given its origins in evolutionary biology. As information passing through the nervous system, qualia serve to guide the behaviour of individuals to ultimately facilitate survival. Specifically, qualia are representations of environmental features, existing as information messages supported by neural physiology and encoded in electrochemical formats. In addition to addressing the Hard Problem of Consciousness and clarifying the four properties Dennett associates with qualia, this theoretical foundation enables further metaphysical discussion on the nature of consciousness more generally. Although many outstanding questions on the contents of subjective experiences are apt to linger given the explanatory gap, a robust theory for the existence of qualia can be developed through the integration of ideas and concepts from a variety of domains.
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Archival date: 2021-11-23
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2021-11-23

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