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Essay on Jackson's Knowledge Argument

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Wells. 1982). is Document for Free 3 of 13 4/10/11 10:38 AM .summarised by Robert Van Gulick in Understanding the Phenomenal Mind: Are We All Just Armadillos? (Van Gulick. Here he makes a brief allusion to The Country of the Blind by H. Jackson demonstrates his knowledge argument for qualia by using two different thought experiments (Jackson. In Epiphenomenal Qualia. that he can genuinely discern more colours than we can. We did not know everything there was to know about Fred. and is unable to convince them that he can see since they can’t imagine his experience of sight.. is not the same as a difference in shade of the same colour. are incomplete. 1982). and finally an evaluation of this response. Fred can discern two distinct colours. particularly accounts of conscious experience.. Jackson then asks: what is it like for Fred to see red1 and red2? No amount of physical information can convey this. He reinforces this conclusion with the following hin document. and therefore there must be non-physical facts concerning them which a purely physical enquiry cannot reveal. To deny that Fred had any special ability would be as unreasonable as the denial made by the blind people in Wells’ story.. 1993).scribd. being entirely unable to detect any difference by normal observation. The First section will constitute an outline and explanation of Jackson’s knowledge argument and the second section will start with the summary offered by Van Gulick of Lycan and Loar’s response. though we knew all the physical / 4 information that could be known about him. The rest of the world is essentially red1-red2 colour-blind.G. Furthermore. his discriminatory abilities are shown to have a physiological basis: his sight organs are shown to be as sensitive to the differences between red1 and red2 as they are to the difference between yellow and blue on the electromagnetic spectrum. This essay will lay out Frank Jackson’s ‘knowledge argument’ against physicalism and evaluate the response put forward in similar forms by Brian Loar and William G. in which the protagonist finds himself in a place inhabited solely by blind people. They do this by illustrating that it is possible to have a full physical description of a subject without having complete knowledge of them. red1 and red2. His behaviour is shown to corroborate his claims: he can consistently discriminate the same objects from a group which most people would consistently classify as part of the same group according to their (red) colour. Essay on Jackson's Knowledge Argument http://www. followed by an elaboration of Van Gulick’s summary. Both of these analogies are intended to prove that physicalist accounts of reality. since normal people cannot see the extra colours and therefore we can never fully appreciate Fred’s phenomenal experience. specifically the knowledge of what Fred’s perceptions of red1 and red2 are like. Essay on Jackson’s ‘knowledge argument’ Outline Jackson’s ‘knowledge argument’ and evaluate one way that a physicalist might respond. where most people see a single colour.. “it follows that Physicalism leaves something out”(Jackson. Jackson contends that we would have to accept. In the first such experiment. but is as conspicuous to him as the difference between yellow and blue is to most The difference between red1 and red2. if Fred existed. a hypothetical person called Fred exists who is capable of greater chromatic distinction than most people. he claims. Jackson concludes that there is some information about Fred which we do not know even after exhaustive physical examination. Fred explains. red. with reference to Lycan and Loar’s original developments. Lycan .

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that Hesperus is Venus but not know that Phosphorus is Venus. it is possible that Mary could have learned a new concept through the phenomenal experience..g. one would say that knowing P amounts to knowing Q since they are identical. firstly asking whether she gains any knowledge at all. since it has a / 4 different conceptual structure. applied to Jackson’s thought experiment. He considers several questions about the knowledge Mary gains in order. In Understanding the Phenomenal Mind Van Gulick makes a multi-tiered defence of physicalism-functionalism against the knowledge argument. 1990). despite the fact that all of these concepts refer to the same celestial body. Mary could learn the hin document. Van Gulick reaches the final defence which appeals to a distinction between “fine-grained” and “course-grained” modes of individuating propositions. So. she understands everything that can be known about the physical state of a person when they perceive colour. He says that is possible to know P but not know Q even if P=Q.. which involves a hypothetical scientist called Mary. She comes to know ‘what it is like’ to perceive colour.. which could not be taught via black-and-white television. and finally asking what mode of individuation Mary learns new propositions on. regarding propositions as functions from possible worlds to truth then they would anticipate that some new insight would be gained that they didn’t possess before despite their physical study of Fred – they would expect to gain new knowledge by experiencing red1and red2 for themselves. Lycan uses the perspectival nature of self-regarding beliefs to illustrate this: the proposition “I am underpaid” is a different proposition to “Lycan is underpaid”. since it is possible to know.. Mary is an expert in all scientific fields which concern visual perception. In a coarse-grained method of individuation. is it knowledge of new facts/propositions/information or simply ‘know-how’?). according to Jackson. This final development in Jackson’s first thought experiment is extended by the second thought experiment. Essay on Jackson's Knowledge Argument http://www. and therefore her studies were complete. she gains a new conceptual understanding of the colour red which still refers to the same features of the physical world that her study of neurophysiology had centred on but is not part of the same proposition. and therefore the physicalist scheme is incomplete as long as it asserts that to know all physical facts is to achieve knowledge of all facts.scribd. Assuming that Mary does learn something which is not merely know-how and is genuinely a new proposition and not just a new way of understanding a proposition she already knew. e. development: if it was learned that everyone could somehow gain Fred’s ability to discriminate red1 from red2. Mary must learn something new about colour perception that she did not previously know. If one takes the coarse-grained approach. since they are genuinely different concepts. this is demonstrably not an accurate account of knowledge. then asking whether the knowledge is genuinely new to her or simply the same knowledge presented in a different way. However. points out the hyperintensional nature of knowledge (Lycan. for example. they simply used a different conceptual framework to the practical activity of engaging in the sensory experience. Lycan. she has been confined to a colourless environment for her entire life and has never perceived colour herself. but this concept applies to the same property that she had previously only had a physical-functional concept of. Upon leaving the colourless room (or receiving a colour television monitor) and perceiving colour. then asking what kind of knowledge it is (i. in What is the “Subjectivity” of the Mental?. yet the concepts “I” and “Lycan” still refer to the same subject.e. is Document for Free 5 of 13 4/10/11 10:38 AM . however. though she has been able to acquire full knowledge of all the physical facts concerning colour perception in humans via a black-and-white television monitor.

whereas to me. Fred’s phenomenal concept of perceiving red is peculiar to him. Loar makes the same contentions in Phenomenal States(Loar. In conclusion. since the physical cause is presumed to be sufficient for the effect in question.. it would have to be reached via a different kind of argument. redness is a quale since it cannot be described adequately to someone who has never experienced it. and explains the intuitive appeal of the knowledge argument by highlighting the distinctness of phenomenal concepts from physical-functional concepts.. objects or events which the physicalist account does not capture. he argues.. Fred is “I”. acquiring new concepts from experience does not amount to gaining knowledge of properties. but this conceptual understanding of the experience is still referring to the same experience as “seeing red stimulates these cells and induces this behaviour [etc]”. but qualia cannot be described using complexes. provided that one makes a sufficiently precise distinction between propositions – namely. more complex features might be described in terms of their constituent qualia. Hence. and can’t be described exhaustively in terms of their functional role. 1990). For example. Epiphenomenalism has many criticisms of its own. This argument appears to be successful in demonstrating that a subject can gain knowledge of new propositions without gaining knowledge of new states. so a counter to Lycan and Loar’s argument would have to involve a defence of epiphenomenalism.. phenomenal states themselves are not subjective since they are ultimately identifiable with objective physical-functional states. Jackson contends that they are epiphenomenal: they are caused by events in the physical world but they have no effect on it. by discriminating on the grounds of their conceptual structure. the anti-physicalist would have to demonstrate that the new proposition that the subject gained knowledge of genuinely referred to something distinct from a physical-functional state. Qualia are features which only bear ostensive definition. features or events. Essay on Jackson's Knowledge Argument http://www. While phenomenal concepts are subjective in that they are specific to the person who holds them. one which demonstrated that qualia / 4 are not physical or functional objects.scribd. In order to refute this. The knowledge hin document. this presents a problem for the conventional view of causality: it implies that an event can have a phenomenal cause in addition to its physical cause. is Document for Free 6 of 13 4/10/11 10:38 AM . For the argument’s conclusion to hold. and hence that a subject could gain knowledge of something that physicalism does not capture. new fact “seeing red is like this”. they still refer to the same state. though both concepts refer to the same state. While the phenomenal concept of a state is radically different to the physical-functional concept of a state. since they are the simplest constituents of conscious experience. One way of doing this may be to emphasise that the proposition that Mary gains knowledge of after experiencing colour refers not to her phenomenal state but to a quale – the subjective quality of her phenomenal state. The false notion that the different concepts refer to different states is due to this distinctness of concepts. Fred is “Fred” – the concepts are inevitably different since we have different For example. the defence against the knowledge argument proposed by Lycan and Loar is successful in refuting the premise that a subject cannot gain knowledge of a new proposition without gaining knowledge of new properties. If qualia are indeed distinct from the physical world. my phenomenal concept of Fred’s perception of red is different since to Fred. To explain the apparent causal redundancy of qualia. it is the subjective nature of the phenomenal concept that prevents its induction from purely physical- functional concepts.

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scribd. (1982).. G. IV. Essay on Jackson's Knowledge Argument http://www. (1990). Van Gulick.). Lycan. Phenomenal States. Oxford: Blackwell. W. 81-108.. is Document for Free 8 of 13 4/10/11 10:38 AM . XXXII (No.. What is the "Subjectivity" of the Mental. W. as illustrated by Lycan and Loar’s defence. Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays (pp. Bibliography Jackson. (1990). & G. IV. Davies. Loar. Philosophical Perspectives: Action Theory and Philosophy of Mind . B.. / 4 hin document. argument itself fails to demonstrate this. Philosophical Perspectives: Action Theory and Philosophy of Mind . Epiphenomenal Qualia. Philosophical Quarterly . 127-130. (1993). F. Understanding the Phenomenal Mind: Are We All Just Armadillos? In 109-130. Humphreys (Eds. 127). R. 141-142).

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