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Presentation on Ned Block’s “Inverted Earth” Justin C. Fisher. 2004.03.20.

Block notes an ambiguity in “Grass looks green to S”

Intentional Content: “S associates the look of grass with the surface color green.”

This allows that grass may ‘look green’ to someone even if it does so by causing qualia in
them that are qualitatively just like my red qualia.

Qualitative Content: “The look of grass for S is qualitatively just like the look of green things for me.”

 If you and I are color-qualia inverts, then this makes ‘green’ (when used in this
sense) mean different things coming out of each of our mouths. Block thinks this is
not the most common usage of ‘green’.
 Notice that Q-content can be representational even if Block doesn’t call it
‘intentional’. One might hold, for example, that…
o By having a color quale, one (perhaps truly) represents the world as
containing a surface with properties of the sort that typically cause this sort
of experience in beings like me; or
o One might (falsely) represents the world as containing a surface with Edenic
color intrinsically just like the quale itself.
 So Block’s argument can’t completely refute representationalism (the view that
qualia are nothing but representational properties) – instead his main target is a
certain sort of functionalism, including Harman’s wide functionalism about qualia.

Functionalism about M: Any thing’s M-Properties supervene on its functional properties.


Which functional properties must be included in the (minimal) supervenience base?

Very Deep Completely


(teleo-functionalism) Pretty Shallow Shallow

Narrow

Wide

Block argues against


Wide, Pretty Shallow
Functionalism

http://cyberpingui.free.fr/humour/evolution-white.jpg
Fisher 2

Block’s argument against Wide (Pretty Shallow) Functionalism about Qualia:

(1) Qualia are narrow (and completely shallow).

o Block says, without argument, that “presumably” this is true.


o Could be supported by intuitions that changing things external to a person can’t
change her qualia (and by swampman intuitions).
o Externalists like Tye, Dretske, Harman or me deny this.

(2) But Wide (Pretty Shallow) Functionalism about Qualia says otherwise.
This follows directly from W-PS-F’s claim that NF is not wide enough (and that CS-F
isn’t deep enough). There’s really no need for any fancy thought experiments, but
Block gives us two anyway:
Both involve Inverted Earth, a place where all surface-colors are inverted from
Earth’s, but all color terms are also systematically inverted. Inverted Earthlings
say“The sky is blue” but this is just their way of saying that their sky is yellow.
(1) While asleep, you could be abducted to Inverted Earth and be given inverting
lenses and inverted skin pigmentation. Upon awakening you wouldn’t notice
any difference. However, many [but not all!] of your wide (pretty shallow)
functional properties would (at least eventually) be quite different, even
though nothing important would have changed narrowly.

(2) At birth your twin sibling could have been sent to live a parallel life on
Inverted Earth, developing many wide functional properties that differ from
yours, even while being narrowly just the same as you.
These thought experiments do nothing more than illustrate that wide (pretty shallow)
functional properties may differ independently of narrow (and completely shallow)
properties, which should have been obvious. These might also be used to help pump
our intuitions that qualia are narrow, though Block just asserts that they are.

Possible Responses.
(1) Accept that qualia are narrow and completely shallow.
a. Adopt a narrow, completely shallow version of functionalism.
Block challenges the functionalist to propose a viable version.
(HOT-theory, Global Workspace theory, Loar’s recognitional concepts?)
b. Reject functionalism.
(2) Insist that qualia are wide and at least somewhat deep.
a. Go deeper. I agree with Block’s intuitions about Inverted Earth, and yet insist
that qualia do supervene on properties even deeper in one’s history. The reason
an abductee’s qualia might never change despite the change in her pretty shallow,
wide functional properties is that her deep historical functional properties are still
(pretty much) the same. She’s still getting into states whose evolutionarily
normal role was to detect Earth-colors, so she still has Earthly qualia.
b. Hold that qualia are wide and pretty shallow, but that the differences between
Earth and Inverted Earth aren’t the sorts of differences that would affect qualia –
e.g., hold that qualia involve indexical content that is unchanged on Inv-Earth.
c. Otherwise, the W-PS-functionalist must bite the bullet and allow that some
abductee’s qualia could eventually change without her noticing it.