Qualia

The Idea

Contributed by @philhagspiel |  Edited and curated by @philhagspiel

→ Want to contribute an idea and see it posted on MindVault? Click here.

'What it is like' to experience something is inexplicable.

icon

Self-Perception

icon

Navigation

image

While we can describe the taste of a wine with words associated with objectively understood flavors (berries, wood, sour, ...), we cannot convey the actual subjective experience of the tasting of the wine.

Likewise, the blueness of an ocean, the emotional pain of a breakup or the sound of a fingernail scratching on a classroom blackboard are all experiences we can try to describe objectively with word associations — while the subjective experiencing of color, emotions and other perceptions remains inexplicable.

Verbal descriptions of what we experience aim at objective understandability — while our conscious experience itself is purely subjective.

Qualia (/ˈkwɑːliə/) is a controversial term and idea in philosophy describing experiential properties of sensations that cannot be described or analyzed fully objectively.

The concept is closely related to the so called hard problem of consciousness; the challenge to understand why and how experiences "feel like something" that goes way beyond our understanding of how our thinking and feeling is powered by our body and brain.

The concept of Qualia is an entrypoint to both the philosophy and science of consciousness and a fascinating exploration of the mysteries and beauty of the human experience.

Understanding the omnipresent gap between the description of an experience and the experiencing itself can help us to make more sense of the unique peculiarities of other people, to cultivate more empathy and to more deeply appreciate our own everyday experience of life.

“It's weird to try to write lyrics for somebody else. They can't really get behind what you're saying or what you want them to say because they didn't experience it.”

— Wes Borland

“Consciousness is a quantum leap from the physical to the non-physical dimension.”

— Sadhguru

Explore

This 4-min. video walks you through a famous thought experiment that will make you instantly understand what Qualia is about.

➞ For an overview of Qualia and related philosophical models, dive into this Wikipedia article.

Resources

If this idea resonates with you, some of these resources might add value to your life.

LinkNAMEFormatAuthor
Conscious
Book
Annaka Harris
Sum - Forty Tales From The Afterlives
Book
David Eagleman
Happy
Book
Derren Brown
The Power Of Now
Book
Eckhart Tolle
Siddharta
Book
Hermann Hesse
The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, And Joy
Book
John Brehm
The Little Book Of Stoicism
Book
Jonas Salzgeber
The Prophet
Book
Khalil Gibran
Tao Te Ching
Book
Lao Tzu
Dao De Jing
Book
Laozi
Meditations
Book
Marcus Aurelius
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck
Book
Mark Manson
Courage
Book
Osho
The Obstacle Is The Way
Book
Ryan Holiday
Ego Is The Enemy
Book
Ryan Holiday
Waking Up
Book
Sam Harris
Great Thinkers
Book
The School Of Life
Happiness
Book
Thich Nhat Hanh
Man's Search For Meaning
Book
Viktor E. Frankl
The Story Of Philosophy
Book
Will Durant
Zhuangzi
Book
Zhuang Zhou
Zenhabits
Blog
Leo Babauta
The School Of Life: Eastern Philosophy
Blog
Modern Wisdom
Podcast
Christ Williamson
Lex Fridman Podcast
Podcast
Lex Fridman
The Daily Stoic
Podcast
Ryan Holiday
Philosophize This!
Podcast
Stephen West
Philosophy For Our Times
Podcast
Kurzgesagt
YouTube Channel
Pursuit of Wonder
YouTube Channel
Academy of Ideas
YouTube Channel
Einzelgänger
YouTube Channel
Daily Stoic
YouTube Channel
The School of Life
YouTube Channel
Waking Up
App
Daily Stoic
Instagram