Hermeneutical Trumps

A. The qualia (the “what it is like” characteristics) of an experience are by definition inaccessible to anyone other than the one to which they occur. That is, I can never know what it feels like for you to be happy, hurt, eager, surprised, enlightened, in love, angry, in this place or that place, in this body or that body, male if I am female or vice versa, you rather than me.

B. People lie. They lie with their facial expressions, they lie with their words, they lie (at least with respect to their wants and desires and opinions) with their actions. Which means that, pace Ekman's studies even of microexpressions, there is no way whatsoever to gain unambiguous access to what other people are thinking or feeling.

Are we then supposed just to give up?


  1. You forgot the bit where people lie to themselves.

    Think about it though - would you REALLY want to know exactly what it's like inside someone else's head? That just seems too boundary-crossing to me. I think everyone needs corners of themselves to keep to themselves.

    Best advice I've ever heard: when people show you who they are, believe them.


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