A Brief History of 'Qualia Science'

Demokritos (circa 460-370 BC) Known as the father of modern science and founder of atomic theory. Rejected sensual knowledge as "bastard knowledge". "According to common speech there are colours, sweets, bitters; in reality only atoms and emptiness." But along with this denial of the reality of sensory qualia came a bitter warning from the senses to the intellect: "... from us you took the pieces of evidence and with them you want to throw us down. This throwing down will be your downfall."

Plato and Aristotle. It is important to include these philosophers because one of their major differences had to do with the eidos or 'look' of things, and whether their particular form and qualities, such as a red-like colour, are a poor copy from a pure Platonic realm of universal ideas (for example the idea of Redness), universals in themselves, or mental concepts superimposed on the experience of qualia such as particular hues and shades of red. 

George Berkeley (1685 -1753) Elegantly debunks John Locke’s claim that subjectively experienced perceptual qualities (qualia) are merely “secondary properties” of “objects” that are “caused” in the mind (consciousness) by the brain or by “matter”, i.e. a material substance or substratum of reality with only quantitatively measurable “primary properties” such as figure, extension, number etc. His Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous (1713) are a veritable ‘Qualia Manifesto’, arguing that qualia, as immediate sensory percepts are the prime elements of any truly empirical science. His philosophy becomes known as 'subjective idealism'. 

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 -1914) Introduces (1866) the singular term quale into philosophy (Writings, Chronological Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 477-8). Anticipating Wilberg (2004), he refers to feelings as the most fundamental qualia, i.e. qualitative, non-conceptual elements of experience, since “Of whatever there is in the mind in any state of consciousness there is necessarily an immediate consciousness and consequently a feeling.”

Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804) Argued that sensory phenomena do not exist as properties of an objective substance 'in' space and time, and that possess causal relations, but rather that space, time, causality and (substance are transcendental a priori categories or constructs which structure our phenomenal experience of the world. Thus we can know nothing about 'things in themselves', i.e. any objective 'noumenal' reality behind the phenomenal world of sensory appearances and their qualities. Instead our entire experience of phenomena as sensory percepts is enframed by concepts of them. The notion that the 'thing in itself' might be nothing objective - no thing but another consciousness or subjectivity (which for Berkeley was God) is not entertained. 

Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) Understood 'materialism' "subjectively" - as "sensuous human activity". But in the capitalist system, this activity becomes a commodity in the form of human labour power - sold to employers, as a source of corporate profit. As a result  workers becomes alienated not just from their products of their labour (which are the property of those who own the means of production) but also from the potentially free, creative sensuous activity of their own bodies and minds, awareness and time, which they are forced to prostitute to their employers. Labour becomes a mere means to life, of 'earning' a living through wage-slavery, and is desensualised  through a division of labour into countless mind-numbingly repetitive and desensualising mechanical acts. At the same time, qualia become but a means for the garish packaging and promotion of the products of human labour as saleable commodities in commercial advertising and shopping malls - in which a veritable bombardment of 'commodified qualia' numbs and desensualises our senses themselves. 

Clarence Irving Lewis (1883-1964) introduces the term  "qualia" (1929) to name the variety of immediately sensed experiential qualities or "sensa". He defines them as how phenomena look, sound, smell and feel like to us, but at the same time accepts them as universal qualities, albeit only perceived in relation to each other and as gestalts or "complexes". 

Edmund Husserl (1859-1958) Rejects both physicalist objectivism and psychologism and founds 'phenomenology' as the basis of a new spiritual science of reality as it is lived and experienced. Writing on 'The Crisis in the European Sciences' (1936) he recognises the basic philosophical idealism (not 'materialism') of modern science, which takes its own mental and mathematical ideas and mental constructs (which include the abstract concepts of both mass and energy) as more real than reality as it  is directly experienced. 'Epoche' (the 'bracketing' or suspension of all presuppositions about the nature of experienced phenomena) becomes the foundation of the phenomenological method of research. The question of 'what it is like' to experience a particular phenomenon (itself the original Latin meaning of a 'quale') and of its place and meaning in a shared intersubjective Life World thereby becomes central again in phenomenology, which implicitly deals with qualia by attending to the subjective and relational qualities of phenomena, rather than reducing them to preconceived objects.  

Jakob von Uexkull (1864-1944) Articulates and radicalises the understanding that each species of organism inhabits its own unique subjective time-space and perceptual environment, within which it perceives other species of life, including human beings, in a quite different way to them. His work prefigures Wilberg's use of the term “species of consciousness” and anticipates the latter’s more explicit account of the essentially tonal and musical essence of qualia within the symphony of life, 

Erwin Schroedinger (1887-1961) Pioneer of quantum physics. “The sensation of colour cannot be accounted for by the physicist's objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so.” He argued that scientific theories end up never being able to account for the sensuous qualities they think they explain, but instead just clothe them in theoretical terminologies which overlay and obscure them. 

"... theories are easily thought to account for sensuous qualities; which, of course, they never do." (1958)


Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)  Shows how the sciences, not least physics (despite its much vaunted 'paradigm shift' from classical to quantum mechanics), remain incapable of asking fundamental questions which go beyond their unthought theoretical presuppositions, and constitute a purely calculative mode of thinking in the service of both "planetary technicity" and what Rene Guenon called 'The Reign of Quantity' (Guenon). The very term 'quanta', in contrast to 'qualia', supports this understanding. Heidegger: "Science is the new religion". But he knew from his teacher Husserl that phenomenological science was actually more scientific than the type of science still religiously revered today.  

Samuel Avery: Puts the last nail in the coffin of everyday assumptions about the objective materiality or of things by his argument that this apparent materiality derives solely from the subjective experience of tactile qualia such as hardness or solidity - even though such qualia do not, in themselves, imply that things themselves are made of snobjectively hard or solid corporeal 'substance' called 'matter' - which is not itself a quale but an abstract mental concept, and thus nothing in which any sensuous qualities can, in principle, belong to or be caused by.

Peter Wilberg (1952- ) Introduces the term 'Qualia Science' (2004) for the first time. Departs from the standard identification of qualia  with perceptual qualities such as 'redness' - which are actually universal concepts abstracted from actually experienced colours, i.e. "sensory concepts" rather than "sensory percepts". A true experience of qualia is impossible, therefore, unless we  cease to conceive sensory phenomena 'as' this or that preconceived thing (such as 'a rose') or its abstract universal qualities such as 'redness'. Only art and aesthetic experiencing fill the gap left by absent depth or richness in our everyday experience of qualia. Wilberg replaces the idea of universal qualia with the original concept of the 'simference' (similarity-in-difference) between qualia of the same type. He argues further that qualia are not, in essence, merely sensory qualities we are aware of, such as 'a feeling of warmth', but rather that the latter are an expression of qualities of awareness or 'soul' itself - such as 'warmth of feeling'. He likens all such ‘soul qualia’ to inwardly felt moods or qualities of musical tone. As a qualia-scientific alternative to quantum physics and objectivist sciences, Wilberg has also pioneered the development of a pair-meditational practice he calls "resonation" to research and intersubjectively validate new, "subjective sciences" - under the rubric of 'Cosmic Qualia Science'. This is a science that uses the dyadic or bipersonal field resonance to open portals of consciousness to the entire cosmos - which exists solely within and as an expression of consciousness - as well as to countless new planes, species and qualia of consciousness both within and beyond it. The philosophical foundation of Cosmic Qualia Science is the recognition that we and all things in the cosmos are "... such stuff as dreams are made on", and that that 'stuff' is nothing other than qualia - understood as felt qualities and patterned field qualities of consciousness itself. 



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