Light with a wavelength of, say, 460 nanometers is blue. But we
should say that this quality called blue, when described in terms of
wavelengths, is 460.
Sound with a wavelength of 261.6 Hz is middle C. But we should say
this quality, middle C, when described in terms of wavelengths, is
A form with four equal sides with 90 degree angles is a square. But
we should say this quality, a square, when described in terms of
sides and angles, is four-sided with 90 degree angles.
Sounds appear different when we are moving towards or away from
their source. Light changes color depending on the speed with which
a star is moving away or towards us. A square appears to be a
rhombus when viewed at different angles. They are still the same
sound, color, or shape. But our relation to each alters the
experience. The quality is of the event as it impacts on our senses
and we get the opportunity to perceive it and thereby make it
We don't have much trouble with this way of looking at forms, mainly
because the description is so easily derived from the form. The
experiences of sound and light is more difficult. One needs to
understand that a certain frequency, over a certain space of time,
describes a color or note.
Tastes and smells are very similar to forms. We can see a cube. We
can also feel a cube. Tastes and smells are a matter of feeling
shapes at a molecular level. Unfortunately, we don't have another
sense, such as sight, to confirm these miniscule shapes, as we can
with forms that can be both touched and seen.
So I am suggesting that blue, middle C, squares, salty, the smell of
a rose... are all external to our nervous systems and minds. Blue is
in the light.
So this, in my opinion, answers what I see as the easy question of
consciousness. Only if one insists on a world consisting of nothing
more than the information we call matter does quality become a hard
problem. really, the hard question is how we make the experience
"ours". How do we get from "blue" to "I see blue"?
As soon as the blue hits the rhodopsin in our retinas, that's it for
blue. There is no blue in our brains or in our minds. All we get to
keep of the blue is the information processed in our neural
networks. In order to see blue again, we have to put ourselves once
more in the path of blue light.
© C. George Boeree 2015