Is it? Do you experience a blood red sunset the same way I do? Does it stop you in your tracks, does it give you peace, comfort, melancholy and hope? Is your hunger the same as mine? Does salt taste the same, do goosebumps give you the same touch high, does a sneeze feel like a restart button to you as well? How can we know, how can we tell or ever be sure? We can’t. It’s the eternal curse of having only our own singular experience to grasp the world through, as we can never penetrate and comprehend exactly the subjective experience of an exact same objective thing by another. It’s a solipsistic cage and the experience of these phenomena that arises inside is called qualia (from singular – quale). So is your red the same as mine? This is unanswerable and language with which we try to explain and all the descriptive adjectives we try to paste onto the experience just break down as things get irretrievably lost in trying to convey the experience. This is the old question of how you’d explain the experience of colour to a blind man. There are no words that can make him/her experience green as you would standing in a meadow and knowing all factual data about something still is not complete without the experience which cannot be so easily broken down into facts.
Feeling and experiences of various (objective) things in the world can have staggering (subjective) variability. They have a phenomenology (the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience) which suggest that there is something as what “this is like for you”. In philosophy qualia refer to introspectively accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives and it is a hot topic in discussing the nature of consciousness, as well as the dualistic approach of the mind-body aspects of being human. Every single experience we encounter has a phenomenal character aka what it is like for exactly you to undergo that experience – how does this deep blue sky/open horizon/ dirty room make me feel? Qualia is also a name given to the intrinsic, non-representational features such as a nonphysical picture inside emerging from observing a physical painting in the real world. These two are not the same. What you get from the combination of colour blobs is not the same as what I might get. This subjective inner “thing” we produce from the stimuli is called a sense-datum. Qualia are also described as ineffable, nonphysical phenomena given to the one experiencing them without the possibility of error aka you feel what you feel and it is true for you. Our current experiences are influenced by all our experiences so far, by our character, mental and emotional states, all we know, and simply just by who we are.
Does it even matter if your red and mine are the same experience or not and if we could ever explain it sufficiently enough to come to that conclusion, or can we accept this inbuilt discrepancy as a part of the richness of life which makes life much more interesting and a beautiful, private, and somewhat locked in our own experience lonely, affair? We’re gonna subscribe to the beauty and content calm in the fact that we can watch the sunset in peace and live to see another day, however each one of us chooses to experience its reds, oranges and pinks. Qualia pretty much chose us more than we them, so go along for the ride, expose yourself to beauty and soak it in. What we’re exposed to makes a difference.