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The Knowledge Argument.docx - The Knowledge Argument The...

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The Knowledge ArgumentThe complete physical nature of man has been an unanswered question since humanity firstattained consciousness, with the mind-body connection at the heart of the mystery of whatreally is a person. From the dualist perspective, a person is comprised of both a body and asoul, as we cannot explain everything about the human experience in purely physical terms.On the other hand, the physicalist perspective argues that a person is just a body, andeverything can be explained by chains of causal physical processes. In attempt to argue forthe existence of a ‘non-physical’ aspect of the human body, Australian professor FrankJackson’s thought experiment ‘Mary’s Room’ posited that if epiphenomenal qualia can beshown separate from physical information, then that would by extension imply that thehuman body cannot purely be expressed in physical terms. I reject not only Jackson’shypothesis, but the validity of the thought experiment as a whole, as it relies on humanintuition to answer a question predicated upon an inconceivable premise, and therefore servesnot to support or deny physicalism or dualism, but rather merely flush out an individual’sintuitions on the debate. Instead, to answer Mary’s question we must look to the validity ofnon-physical or epiphenomenal qualia, and attain whether qualia can be causally potent onphysical processes.Mary’s Room and the Dualist ApproachFrank Jackson’s thought experiment is as follows:Mary is trapped in a black and white room from birth, forced to learn all of the physicalinformation there is to learn about colour. She learns “wave-length combinations”, the“stimulation of the retina”, how we perceive colour “via the central nervous system” and the
complete internal physical processes relating to colour perception. One day, Mary is releasedfrom her black and white room and sees colour for the first time. The question is: has shelearnedsomething new about colour? For Jackson, the question seems obvious, of course shelearns something new about “the world and our visual experience of it”, and thus there mustbe information that is not physical. Jackson’s argument can be laid out as such:Premise 1: Mary has access to all physical information regarding colour visionprior to her release.Consequence 1: Mary has complete physical knowledge regarding colourvision prior to her release.Premise 2: There is some kind of knowledge regarding facts about colourvision that Mary could not have had prior to her release.Consequence 2: Therefore (from P1 and P2) there are non-physical facts aboutcolour vision.Consequence 3: Therefore (from C2) not everything relating to the humanbody can be described in physical terms. Ergo physicalism is false.Physicalist ApproachesYet, I don’t believe the question to be as simple. For a physicalist, there seems to be onlythree solutions. Either:

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Physicalism, Qualia, thought experiment, Mary learning

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