Why qualia and consciousness seem mysterious

  • José M. Musacchio
Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


Qualitative experiences (qualia) and consciousness seem mysterious, but are easily understood when we realize that they are neural processes that provide language-independent information about external objects and about the state of the organism. Thus, colors, sounds, smells, and emotions can be named, but they are ineffable because they cannot be transmitted through explanations. Experiences are neural processes that compress large amounts of information into messages that are directly perceived and understood by association to other experiences, which provide their aboutness. Qualitative experiences are phylogenetically determined and allow humans and organisms without language to navigate in their environment, communicate, and satisfy their biological needs. Consciousness is an active process maintained by oscillating neural activity, which can focus on specific subjects or produce the simultaneous awareness of multiple experiences.


External World Neural Process Conscious Experience Phenomenal Character External Object 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • José M. Musacchio
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyNew York University Langone Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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