Qualities

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 261.6 Hz.

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 "ours".

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