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Reading: Redefining the Class of Qualitative States—A Reply to Shoemaker


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Redefining the Class of Qualitative States—A Reply to Shoemaker


Michael Pratt

Grand Valley State University, US
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The so-called qualia-type objections to functionalism seem to imply that some qualitative states are not functionally definable (or identical to some functional state type). In “Functionalism and Qualia,” Sydney Shoemaker concedes that functionalists can allow for some types of mental states to be functionally undefinable without committing themselves to a view that cannot account for the class qualitative states. If qualitative states are construed as a relation of qualitative similarity, Shoemaker argues that qualia are functionally definable, and thus do not pose a serious problem for functionalists. In this paper I argue that (i) Shoemaker’s argument against the possibility of absent qualia is untenable, (ii) if cases of absent-qualia are possible, then Shoemaker’s reconciliation fails, and (iii) even if his reconciliation succeeds in functionally defining the class of qualitative states, it still fails to account for qualitative states being capable of existing independently from functional characterization.

How to Cite: Pratt, M., 2013. Redefining the Class of Qualitative States—A Reply to Shoemaker. International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, 5(2), pp.8 (52–62). DOI:
Published on 19 Jun 2013.
Peer Reviewed


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