Qualia or Given

Qualia and Given. Those are two words I’ve used in the posts so far, to refer to the same thing. Something which was distinguished vs. abstract. However because both words have history of philosophical usage, I will try to explain on example what I mean by them in order to avoid misunderstandings.

two greens

Look at this picture. Both circles have green color, but the colors are not same. Why is that? Because “being colors“, and “being green“… the two abstractions that can cover one part of what we see on the picture, merely determine each of colors of the circles as abstractions from the whole situation. But we don’t see the abstracts qua abstracts, nor is the situation some configuration of abstracts – we see the concrete which is determined as abstract.
First we have as concrete which is given the whole situation, then we can abstract each of the circles, and we can abstract the color of each of the circles, and we determine it as abstract green.

That’s why it is possible two greens to be different, even the two colors are covered by same abstract, they are not in our perceptions qua abstractions.

We don’t look at the one color, and put it under an abstract, and then look at the other and put it under other abstract, and then somehow mechanically compare if the both colors are the same abstract. That is something that color expert might do. He can look at the upper circle and say it is scarab green, and then look at the bottom circle, and say it is spring green. The expert who can do that, who has more precise abstractions which cover only one type of green but not other, can do that even if the colors are not close to one another. He might look at one of the circles today, and look at the other one tommorow, and conclude that they were not the same color.

But to non-expert who doesn’t have those precise abstractions the difference appears in the concreteness of the given.

Of course one needs to focus on the issue if the colors are same. For example, one might fail to put his attention to the difference, he might not notice that two greens are different. But that wouldn’t mean that there is no given there, it would be same starting given, but on which different abstractions are done. If he would’ve used same abstractions, he would’ve been given same resulting givens.

The result of one abstraction as given, should not to be taken as some kind of part of the experience in such way that one could create the whole experience from those parts.

Given, Abstractions and Existence

In the post Existence of Abstraction (as result) I said that the given exists. That as result of an abstraction, we come to a concrete existing quale, which can be further determined. The given exists in its immediacy.

No abstraction will result with some abstract red as such. The possibility to “make peace” between the concrete and abstract, I argued, is just on one place – nothing, where certain abstraction covers the whole given – if we abstract from it we end up with impossibility for further abstraction.

The abstractions as such don’t ever exist by themselves, without being connected to a given – only a given can be determined as abstraction. So only a given can be red, circular, flat, etc…

Note 1:That we can imagine red, green, big and other abstracts, without those being given to us, is not saying that we won’t imagine them as given which is red, green, big, circular, flat and so on. In fact I can’t imagine red differently then by imagining that it is a given which is red, I can’t imagine a circular without imagining that it is given which is circular, and so on.

Existence of Abstraction (as result)

As result of certain abstraction, be it focus or attention, we get to a certain and concrete given, which is not given in general, but is the specific given (on which we can do further abstractions).

The concrete, as given, and not as abstract, exists as actual.
It can be further determined as abstract.

For example, if you focus on the color of the ball, the resulting quale is what is concrete and actual, and which exists. It can be further determined as red for example, but it doesn’t have its existence as abstraction; but that which is given, and which is existant can be further determined as abstraction.

Note 1:If we combine this with what was said about where the concrete meets the abstract, we get to the funny result that one abstraction which is same with the given,”nothing”, can be said that comes closest to concrete existence then any other abstraction.

Note 2:This connection between given and existence, ammounts in its simplest form to the giveness of fact that “experience of something exists as experience of that something”. How that something is further determined (real thing, or illusion, or ostensible object, or maya, etc..), is separate question.

Note 3:Existence of abstractions as acts (abstractions as result is concrete) will need to be analyzed in some other post. Do they exist? If true, in what way do they exists, as Platonic forms, as transcendental categories, as cognitive powers, or something else?

The Given and Determining

I already said that as result of our attention, something is given to us.
The attention as act is act of abstracting, and the result of the abstraction is given.

It was also said, in the notes there that in one other sense, that which is given as result is not abstract – if we put our focus on the color of the object, when we ignore all other things, what is left, is given and concrete result (we can call it qualia or not, depending on your preferences), and is set against abstract (abstract in this sense would be absense of the given/concrete).

But here we stumble into a problem. If the result of the abstraction is always something which is given, how can then “determining” make sense ? When we want to determine color of a thing, we want to say it is red, or when we want to determine its size to say it is big, etc…
So, let’s rephrase this problem in this way: the result of abstraction is given and concrete, but one can’t determine something as a concrete/given. We need to determine something as abstraction.

The idea is this – we have an object on which we focused by our attention, and thus abstracted it from the whole experience of the world (or whatever, let’s not discuss this for now). To determine its color, we need to focus on the color, and we end up with the concrete/given (color). But something is still missing, we didn’t get to abstract color, so we can’t say that we determined the color of the object as red, green or some other.
Maybe we need one more abstraction, but wound’t one new abstraction just return another given, and still leave us with the same problem (just on different place)?

How to make peace between the concrete and the abstract ?

The given and our attention

This is further development of the concept of attention, and explains further how attention connects to abstraction.

I want you to notice now the distinction of what we attend to, and what is the result of the attention.
Or to give examples – attention is attention to size, color, position, movement in
general, or focus is focus on size, color, position, movement, etc. in
general. We don’t focus on the things bigness, redness, nearness and so on. We ask people to focus on the size of the thing, by saying “notice its size”, or “look at its size”.

This is important, as it makes it clear (I hope) that there are two separate things in the whole of attention. One thing is the part of attention as act, which can be controlled by us, so we can focus on things size, color, position, and so on…

The other is the thing which is left in our attention, to our focus. It can be the redness when we focus on the color, or some form of circular movement when we focus on the movement, and so on.

We can now more closely relate attention with the abstraction. As I noticed when talking about abstraction, the same word is used both for the act of abstracting, and the result of the abstraction. Now we see both of those things in the process of attention. The act of focusing is the abstraction as act of abstracting, and what is given to he focus, is abstraction as result of abstracting.


Or put it in other way, you can try, and it is up to you to focus on the apple size, color, number, or anything else on this picture. But if you do you will find yourself attending to something which doesn’t come from you. The result will be given to you, to your attention.
We can thus say that the act of focusing is subjective act of abstraction, but that it doesn’t determine what will be abstracted. What is abstracted (if anything) is given to our attention.

Note 1:I mentioned in previous post about attention, that the attention can be drawn to something. But that doesn’t mean this makes the act of attending not-subjective. What is rather more possible explanation, is that this points that attention like some other acts can be done by reflex.

Note 2:The result as given, is not given AS abstract, it is given and concrete. So as a result of our attention to color, number or shape, we don’t end up with focused on abstract red-ness, two-ness or circular-ness. This issue will be discussed later.

Note 3:Though it might be possible, for one to require from us to focus to redness, for example when talking of qualia, that wouldn’t be attention which would be abstraction of the object, it would be asking for one to become aware of the fact that it is somehow to observe red object, when one abstracts from the abstraction. So to say… asking to become aware that there is more to the perceptual situation then the mere abstractions by which we may describe it. It is talking about the distinction that was already brought forward in the previous note.

Note 4:The terminology of “given” abstraction (result), is not best way to describe how we experience the whole thing. Phenomenologically, what is rather given is the whole world situation in which we are, or to which we got through our lives. And through our focusing, we are attending on the specific parts of that given. But phenomenological description, and analysis of its meaning, will have to wait some other post.