Playing Cards With Qualia

Here is an example to help illustrate what I think is the relationship between information and qualia that makes the most sense.

Here I am using the delta (Δ) to denote “difference”, n to mean “numbers” or information, kappa for aesthetic “kind” or qualia, and delta n degree (Δn°) for “difference in degree”.

The formula on top means “The difference between numbers and aesthetic qualities is not a difference in degree. This means that there is no known method by which a functional output of a computation can acquire an aesthetic quality, such as a color, flavor, or feeling.

Reversing the order in the bottom formula, I am asserting that the difference between qualia and numbers actually is only a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. That means that we can make numbers out of qualia, by counting them, but numbers can’t make qualia no matter what we do with them. This is to say also that subjects can reduce each other to objects, but objects cannot become subjects.

Let’s use playing cards as an example.

Each card has a quantitative value, A-K. The four suits, their colors and shapes, the portraits on the royal cards…none of them add anything at all to the functionality of the game. Every card game ever conceived can be played just as well with only four sets of 13 number values.

The view which is generally offered by scientific or mathematical accounts, would be that the nature of hearts, clubs, diamonds, kings, etc can differ only in degree from the numbers, and not in kind. Our thinking about the nature of consciousness puts the brain ahead of subjective experience, so that all feelings and qualities of experience are presumed to be representations of more complicated microphysical functions. This is mind-brain identity theory. The mind is the functioning of the brain, so that the pictures and colors on the cards would, by extension, be representations of the purely logical values.

To me, that’s obviously bending over backward to accommodate a prejudice toward the quantitative. The functionalist view prefers to preserve the gap between numbers and suits and fill it with faith, rather than consider the alternative that now seems obvious to me: You can turn the suit qualities into numbers easily – just enumerate them. The four suits can be reduced to 00,01,10, and 11. A King can be #0D, an Ace can be 01, etc. There is no problem with this, and indeed it is the natural way that all counting has developed: The minimalist characterization of things which are actually experienced qualitatively.

The functionalist view requires the opposite transformation, that the existence of hearts and clubs, red and black, is only possible through a hypothetical brute emergence by which computations suddenly appear heart shaped or wearing a crown, because… well because of complexity, or because we can’t prove that it isn’t happening. The logical fallacy being invoked is Affirming the Consequent:

If Bill Gates owns Fort Knox, then he is rich.
Bill Gates is rich.
Therefore, Bill Gates owns Fort Knox.

If the brain is physical, then it can be reduced to a computation.
We are associated with the activity of a brain.
Therefore, we can be reduced to a computation.

To correct this, we should invert our assumption, and look to a model of the universe in which differences in kind can be quantified, but differences in degree cannot be qualified. Qualia reduce to quanta (by degree), but quanta does not enrich to qualia (at all).

To take this to the limit, I would add the players of the card game to the pictures, suits, and colors of the cards, as well as their intention and enthusiasm for winning the game. The qualia of the cards is more “like them” and helps bridge the gap to the quanta of the cards, which is more like the cards themselves – digital units in a spatio-temporal mosaic.

  1. Otmar
    January 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Quiz #3 Multiple choice. More than one, or none, may apply.


    a) I think differently than most others.

    b) I think the same as everyone else.

    c) I think differently than anyone else.

    d) I don’t think.


    a) While awake I am usually in a different state of consciousness than most others.

    b) While awake, I am in the same state of consciousness as most others.

    c) While awake, I am sometimes in a different state of consciousness than most others.


    a) My dreams are usually different than others.

    b) My dreams are usually the same as others.

    c) If I dream, I do not remember them.

    d) There is no fundamental difference between dreams and reality.


    a) My writing is spontaneous.

    b) My writing is carefully planned out.

    c) My writing is artistic creative, entertaining.

    d) My writing is scientific creative, practical.

    e) my writing is … (you fill in the blank)

    Essay portion:

    Sense has/does not have multiple qualities, properties, and characteristics because ….

    • January 10, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      1) Probably all of the above
      2) Probably all of the above
      3) Probably a, b
      4) I don’t really think about what my writing is. I’m just documenting the things that I think about which are most interesting to me.

      Sense has every quality, because it is the primordial identity. Everything is a sensed experience, whether it is sensed directly as a feeling, or indirectly as a feeling of something which cannot be felt.

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