Qualia and science

Plato and Aristotle both agreed that when some sense thing was outside of our sense experience, we no longer had any certainty about it- which is in fact evident from the terms, since you can’t have actual sense certitude without actually sensing. Aristotle reared his whole careful theory of physics with this in mind, and he was also careful to allow for a sort of qualified or hypothetical certitude of sense things; i.e. the closer a science got to particular sensible things, the more concrete it would become, but it would also fall further an further from certainty to mere hypothesis. Some modern philosophers have noticed that “to be outside of sense experience” can be said not only of something that has, say, passed from sight or is out of earshot, but it can also apply to the things that are in another person’s consciousness, as opposed to being in our own. This is a clever new way of putting the old problem of sensibles and intelligibles. If a modern philosopher asks me how I would know that his black is not my white, I wouldn’t look for the sort of certitude that one can have about intelligible things; all I could have is some kind of hypothetical certitude. More importantly, though, it is necessary to see the problem like the Greeks did, and take it as incentive to turn away from the merely sensible to the intelligible and speculative things.

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