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Quanta vs Qualia
A thought from Reading Goethe's Faust
If those earing were only mine!
One looks good right away.
What good is beauty, even youth?
All that may be good and quite fair,
But does it get you anywhere?
Their praise is half pity, you can be sure.
For gold contend,
On gold depend
All things. Woes to us poor!
The above passage is from the character of Margaret in Goethe’s Faust. It got me thinking about the difference between instantiations of beauty or quality and the things that represent the pursuit thereof.
Some examples that might fit this dichotomy:
Jewelry vs Beauty
Money vs Respect
Ego vs Self-Esteem
Knowledge vs Wisdom
Is vs Ought
So what good is beauty?
There’s a value in the latter of the above examples that’s hard to pinpoint. One thing that’s also true of Beauty, Respect, Self-Esteem and Wisdom is that they require maintenance and effort to obtain whereas their counterparts may be had by default or obtained though a one-time exchange. If both serve the same purpose in the present, then why exert the effort required to be in constant pursuit rather than to obtain?
I think that the answer rests in the difference between 2 terms that seem also to be an instantiation of the root dichotomy.
Quanta vs Qualia
The word quanta creeps up more in science, given that it is the plural for quantum, who’s scientific definition is the minimum amount of any physical property involved in an interaction.
Qualia on the other hand, creeps up more in philosophy, with the definition of individual instances of subjective, conscious experience.
Jumping to an analogy to maybe put it more simply —
Quanta : Matter :: Qualia : Consciousness
Matter is what is, and the role of consciousness may just be to determine what ought to be.
I believe that qualia draws us to move towards a direction whereas quanta holds a position. Jewelry, Money, Ego, Knowledge- all four of these things could be said to be products of the present and not things that carry us towards a new direction in the same way as their counterparts.
Many schools of thought reduce consciousness to an epiphenomenon, or a by-product of the matter and processes in our body. I don’t subscribe to this idea. If anything, I believe that consciousness is a guide and our body a vessel. Finding examples of qualia in the universe may just be what helps the guide steer towards a better direction.
So no Margaret, on qualia depend. Gold may maintain the present, but it won’t procure what real beauty can. Money can’t buy respect. All the ego in the world won’t help someone accomplish what self-esteem can.
Next week, I’m going to talk about 3 problems I see in the workforce.
Keep seeking beauty and move towards it.