The Knowledge Argument

Edited by David Chalmers (New York University, Australian National University, Indiana University, Bloomington)
About this topic
Summary The knowledge argument against physicalism centers on the claim that complete physical knowledge does not enable knowledge of consciousness.  In Frank Jackson's formulation, Mary is brought up in a black-and-white room and learns the complete neuroscience of color processing in humans, but she still does not know what it is like to see red: she learns a new fact about color experience when she leaves her room and sees red for the first time.  Jackson argues that Mary knows all the physical facts but not all the facts about color experience, so some facts about color experience are not physical facts.  Physicalists have replied in many different ways.  Some argue that Mary gains an ability without learning a new fact.  Others argue that she gains acquaintance with a property without learning a new facts.  Others argue that she learns a fact she already knew under a new mode of presentation.
Key works Jackson's original papers on the knowledge argument are Jackson 1982 and Jackson 1986 (he changes his mind in 2003).  Nemirow 1990 and Lewis 1990 give the ability reply: on leaving the black-and-white room, Mary gains an ability without learning a new fact.  Loar 1990 gives the old-fact reply: Mary learns a fact she already knew under a new mode of presentation.  Conee 1985 gives the acquaintance reply: Mary gains acquaintance with a property without learning new facts.  Dennett 2006 argues that Mary could know about color experience from inside her room.  Two excellent collections of papers on the topic are Ludlow et al 2004 and Alter & Walter 2006.
Introductions Encyclopedia articles include Nida-Rumelin 2002, Alter 2005, and Gertler 2005Stoljar & Nagasawa 2003 is a thorough introduction including a historical discussion.
Related categories

349 found
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  1. Mary’s Dilemma: A Novel Take On Jackson’s Famous Thought Experiment.Noah O. Abolafia-Rosenzweig - unknown
    This paper explores and evaluates the famous Mary case put forward by Frank Jackson in support of what he calls the knowledge argument against physicalism. After laying out Jackson’s position, I set out to determine whether certain previous physicalist attempts at undermining it have been successful. Finding that they have not, I use their shortcomings to inform the construction of a new position, one which I argue renders the Mary case at odds with itself and frees physicalism from the knowledge (...)
  2. Colour Physicalism, Naïve Realism, and the Argument From Structure.Keith Allen - 2015 - Minds and Machines 25 (2):193-212.
    Colours appear to instantiate a number of structural properties: for instance, they stand in distinctive relations of similarity and difference, and admit of a fundamental distinction into unique and binary. Accounting for these structural properties is often taken to present a serious problem for physicalist theories of colour. This paper argues that a prominent attempt by Byrne and Hilbert to account for the structural properties of the colours, consistent with the claim that colours are types of surface spectral reflectance, is (...)
  3. Deviant Phenomenal Knowledge.Torin Alter - manuscript
  4. Social Externalism and the Knowledge Argument.Torin Alter - 2013 - Mind 122 (486):fzt072.
    According to social externalism, it is possible to possess a concept not solely in virtue of one’s intrinsic properties but also in virtue of relations to one’s linguistic community. Derek Ball (2009) argues, in effect, that (i) social externalism extends to our concepts of colour experience and (ii) this fact undermines both the knowledge argument against physicalism and the most popular physicalist response to it, known as the phenomenal concept strategy. I argue that Ball is mistaken about (ii) even granting (...)
  5. Phenomenal Knowledge Without Experience.Torin Alter - 2008 - In Edmond Wright (ed.), The case for qualia. MIT Press. pp. 247.
  6. Knowledge Argument.Torin Alter - 2007 - In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell. pp. 396--405.
  7. The Knowledge Argument.Torin Alter - 2007 - In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.
    The knowledge argument aims to refute physicalism, the doctrine that the world is entirely physical. Physicalism is widely accepted in contemporary philosophy. But some doubt that phenomenal consciousness.
  8. Does Representationalism Undermine the Knowledge Argument?Torin Alter - 2006 - In Torin Alter & Sven Walter (eds.), Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism. Oxford University Press. pp. 65--76.
    The knowledge argument aims to refute physicalism, the view that the world is entirely physical. The argument first establishes the existence of facts about consciousness that are not a priori deducible from the complete physical truth, and then infers the falsity of physicalism from this lack of deducibility. Frank Jackson gave the argument its classic formulation. But now he rejects the argument . On his view, it relies on a false conception of sensory experience, which should be replaced with representationalism (...)
  9. Review of P. Ludlow, Y. Nagasawa & D. Stoljar , There's Something About Mary: Essays on Phenomenal Consciousness and Frank Jackson's Knowledge Argument. [REVIEW]Torin Alter - 2005 - Psyche 11.
    The titular ‘Mary’ refers to Jackson’s famous protagonist. Her story takes place in the future, when all physical facts have been discovered. This includes “everything in completed physics, chemistry, and neurophysiology, and all there is to know about the causal and relational facts consequent upon all this, including of course functional roles” . Mary learns all this by watching lectures on a monochromatic television monitor. But she spends her life in a black-and-white room and has no color experiences. Then she (...)
  10. Knowledge Argument Against Physicalism.Torin Alter - 2005 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  11. Know-How, Ability, and the Ability Hypothesis.Torin Alter - 2001 - Theoria 67 (3):229-39.
    David Lewis and Laurence Nemirow claim that knowing what an experience is like is knowing-how, not knowing-that. They identify this know-how with the abilities to remember, imagine, and recognize experiences, and Lewis labels their view ‘the Ability Hypothesis’. The Ability Hypothesis has intrinsic interest. But Lewis and Nemirow devised it specifically to block certain anti-physicalist arguments due to Thomas Nagel and Frank Jackson . Does it?
  12. The Knowledge Argument.Torin Alter - 1999 - A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind.
    Frank Jackson first presented the Knowledge Argument in "Epiphenomenal Qualia" 1982). The KA is an argument against physicalism, the doctrine that everything is physical. The general thrust of the KA is that physicalism errs by misconstruing or denying the existence of the subjective features of experience. Physicalists have given numerous responses, and the debate continues about whether the KA ultimately succeeds in refuting any or all forms of physicalism. Jackson himself has recently.
  13. A Limited Defense of the Knowledge Argument.Torin Alter - 1998 - Philosophical Studies 90 (1):35-56.
    Mary learns all the physical facts that one can learn by watching lectures on black-on-white television. According to Jackson, Mary learns new facts when she leaves the room and has color experiences, and that this undermines physicalism. Physicalists have responded by denying the new facts thesis; they argue, she acquires abilities, acquaintance knowledge, or new guises. I argue that the NFT is more plausible than any of the proposed alternatives. I also argue that the NFT does not undermine physicalism unless (...)
  14. Mary's New Perspective.Torin Alter - 1995 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (4):585-84.
    I wish to consider an objection to Frank Jackson's knowledge argument recently made by Derk Pereboom.
  15. Knowing What It is Like.Torin Andrew Alter - 1995 - Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles
    I examine the notion of knowing what an experience or emotion it is like. What kind of knowledge is this? Is it, for example, a species of factual knowledge? If so, what sort of fact is known by someone who possesses this kind of knowledge? ;Knowing what it is like plays a central role in a recent, influential argument, which runs : complete knowledge of the physical facts would fail to provide one with knowledge of what it is like to (...)
  16. Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism.Torin Alter & Sven Walter (eds.) - 2006 - Oxford University Press.
    What is the nature of consciousness? How is consciousness related to brain processes? This volume collects thirteen new papers on these topics: twelve by leading and respected philosophers and one by a leading color-vision scientist. All focus on consciousness in the "phenomenal" sense: on what it's like to have an experience. Consciousness has long been regarded as the biggest stumbling block for physicalism, the view that the mind is physical. The controversy has gained focus over the last few decades, and (...)
  17. A Simple Refutation of the Knowledge Argument Against Physicalism.James T. Anderson - manuscript
    One of the most persuasive objections to the identity thesis.
  18. Mary of Nazareth.Mary Aquin - 1948 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 23 (4):748-748.
  19. Mary for Earth and Heaven: Essays on Mary and Ecumenism.Francesca Aran Murphy - 2004 - New Blackfriars 85 (996):253-253.
  20. Review of Torin Alter and Sven Walter (Eds.) Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge[REVIEW]István Aranyosi - 2008 - Mind 117 (467):665-669.
  21. Martha and Mary: The Two Lives.Saint Augustine - 1945 - New Blackfriars 2 (s22):170-174.
  22. Qualia and Theory Reduction: A Criticism of Paul Churchland.Jay E. Bachrach - 1990 - Iyyun 281.
  23. Recontextualizing Knowledge: An Epistemological Ambiguity.J. P. Bagchi - 2002 - Journal of Human Values 8 (2):157-163.
    The encounter of the cognitive apparatus with the phenomenal world had led to the emergence of independent thought processes either based on scientific method of enguiry or on meditative experiences. In the course of time these have developed into a systematized body of knowledge. They purport to provide peace and happiness, but when seduced by power a distorted value structure has been legitimized. The plethora of evidences suggest the 'self' has been incapacitated for long. The scientific experiences have been given (...)
  24. There's Something About Mary.Julian Baggini - 1999 - The Philosophers' Magazine 7:37-38.
  25. There’s Something About Mary. [REVIEW]Derek Ball - 2014 - The Philosophers' Magazine 64:119-121.
  26. There’s Something About Mary. [REVIEW]Derek Ball - 2014 - The Philosophers' Magazine 64:119-121.
  27. Consciousness and Conceptual Mastery.Derek Ball - 2013 - Mind 122 (486):fzt075.
    Torin Alter (2013) attempts to rescue phenomenal concepts and the knowledge argument from the critique of Ball 2009 by appealing to conceptual mastery. I show that Alter’s appeal fails, and describe general features of conceptual mastery that suggest that no such appeal could succeed.
  28. There Are No Phenomenal Concepts.Derek Ball - 2009 - Mind 118 (472):935-962.
    It has long been widely agreed that some concepts can be possessed only by those who have undergone a certain type of phenomenal experience. Orthodoxy among contemporary philosophers of mind has it that these phenomenal concepts provide the key to understanding many disputes between physicalists and their opponents, and in particular offer an explanation of Mary’s predicament in the situation exploited by Frank Jackson's knowledge argument. I reject the orthodox view; I deny that there are phenomenal concepts. My arguments exploit (...)
  29. Review of Torin Alter, Sven Walter , Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism[REVIEW]Katalin Balog - 2008 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (5).
    The book under review is a collection of thirteen essays on the nature phenomenal concepts and the ways in which phenomenal concepts figure in debates over physicalism. Phenomenal concepts are of special interest in a number of ways. First, they refer to phenomenal experiences, and the qualitative character of those experiences whose metaphysical status is hotly debated. There are recent arguments, originating in Descartes’ famous conceivability argument, that purport to show that phenomenal experience is irreducibly non-physical. Second, phenomenal concepts are (...)
  30. What RoboDennett Still Doesn't Know.Michael Beaton - 2005 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (12):3-25.
    The explicit aim of Daniel Dennett’s new paper ‘What RoboMary Knows’ is to show that Mary will necessarily be able to come to know what it is like to see in colour, if she fully understands all the physical facts about colour vision. I believe we can establish that Dennett’s line of reasoning is flawed, but the flaw is not as simple as an equivocation on ‘knows’. Rather, it goes to the heart of functionalism and hinges on whether or not (...)
  31. Bain's Reservations About Jackson's and Ferrier's Theory of Brain Localizations.Daniel Becquemont - 2007 - Revue d'Histoire des Sciences 60 (2):303-326.
  32. There's Something About Mary: Phenomenal Consciousness and its Attributions.David Beisecker - 2000 - Southwest Philosophy Review 16 (2):143-152.
  33. Mary of Cleophas.Elizabeth Belloc - 1931 - New Blackfriars 12 (131):108-108.
  34. Mary Magdalen.Elizabeth Belloc - 1926 - New Blackfriars 7 (77):484-484.
  35. Précis of "E-physicalism-a physicalist theory of phenomenal consciousness".Reinaldo Bernal Velasquez - 2013 - Ideas Y Valores 152 (152):268-297.
    El libro E-physicalism - A Physicalist Theory of Phenomenal Consciousness presenta una teoría en el área de la metafísica de laconciencia fenomenal. Está basada en las convicciones de que la experiencia subjetiva -en el sentido de Nagel - es un fenómeno real,y de que alguna variante del fisicalismo debe ser verdadera.
  36. E-Physicalism. A Physicalist Theory of Phenomenal Consciousness.Reinaldo J. Bernal - 2012 - Ontos Verlag.
    This work advances a theory in the metaphysics of phenomenal consciousness, which the author labels “e-physicalism”. Firstly, he endorses a realist stance towards consciousness and physicalist metaphysics. Secondly, he criticises Strong AI and functionalist views, and claims that consciousness has an internal character. Thirdly, he discusses HOT theories, the unity of consciousness, and holds that the “explanatory gap” is not ontological but epistemological. Fourthly, he argues that consciousness is not a supervenient but an emergent property, not reducible and endowed with (...)
  37. Why Physicalists Needn't Bother with Perry's Recent Response to the Knowledge Argument.J. Berntsen - 2004 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 42 (2):135-148.
  38. Re-Acquaintance with Qualia.John C. Bigelow & Robert Pargetter - 2006 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (3):353 – 378.
    Frank Jackson argued, in an astronomically frequently cited paper on 'Epiphenomenal qualia '[Jackson 1982 that materialism must be mistaken. His argument is called the knowledge argument. Over the years since he published that paper, he gradually came to the conviction that the conclusion of the knowledge argument must be mistaken. Yet he long remained totally unconvinced by any of the very numerous published attempts to explain where his knowledge argument had gone astray. Eventually, Jackson did publish a diagnosis of the (...)
  39. Acquaintance with Qualia.John C. Bigelow & Robert Pargetter - 1990 - Theoria 61 (3):129-147.
  40. The Knowledge Argument Can Be Introduced Through a Variety of Differ-Ent Illustrations. Here Are Three.(I) Consider a Complete Physical Theory of the Light Spectrum, Including the Effects Different Wavelengths of Light Have on the Neural Systems of Humans. There Are Also the Phenomenal Properties We Experience When We. [REVIEW]John Bigelow & Robert Pargetter - 2004 - In Yujin Nagasawa, Peter Ludlow & Daniel Stoljar (eds.), There's Something About Mary. MIT Press. pp. 179.
  41. Jackson's Classical Theory of Meaning.John Bigelow & Laura Schroeter - unknown
  42. Jackson's Classical Model of Meaning.Laura Schroeter & Bigelow & John - 2009 - In Ian Ravenscroft (ed.), Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals: Themes From the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Oxford University Press. pp. 85.
  43. Red, White, and Oh so Blue a Memoir of a Political Depression.Mary Kay Blakely - 1996
  44. "The Nature of Physical Knowledge", Ed. L. A. Friedrich, S. J. [REVIEW]R. D. Bradley - 1962 - Mind 71:281.
  45. Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ; the Text with Commentaries and Study Guide. By Donald Bolen and Gregory Cameron (Editors)Mary for Time and Eternity: Essays on Mary and Ecumenism. By William McLoughlin and Jill Pinnock (Editors)Mary: The Complete Resource. By Sarah Jane Boss (Editor). [REVIEW]Paul Brazier - 2008 - Heythrop Journal 49 (2):357–360.
  46. The Public Worth of Mary Somerville.Claire Brock - 2006 - British Journal for the History of Science 39 (2):255-272.
    This article assesses the reputation of Mary Somerville in the 1830s and suggests that critical confusion over her status in the changing world of early nineteenth-century science is not new. Drawing on Somerville’s own writings, contemporary newspaper and periodical reviews, political debates and unpublished manuscripts, Somerville's ‘uniqueness’ as a public figure is examined through the eyes of both the nascent scientific community of the time as well as the wider audience for her work. Somerville's status as a popularizer and an (...)
  47. Mary Somerville and the World of Science. [REVIEW]Claire Brock - 2006 - British Journal for the History of Science 39 (2):297-298.
  48. A Brief Look at Peter Jackson's Adapration Of.Devin Brown - 2002 - The Chesterton Review 28 (3):438-439.
  49. David Chalmers on Mind and Consciousness.Richard Brown - 2014 - In Andrew Bailey (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: The Key Thinkers. Continuum. pp. 283-292.
  50. Deprioritizing the A Priori Arguments Against Physicalism.Richard Brown - 2010 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4):47-69.
    In this paper I argue that a priori arguments fail to present any real problem for physicalism. They beg the question against physicalism in the sense that the argument will only seem compelling if one is already assuming that qualitative properties are nonphysical. To show this I will present the reverse-zombie and reverse-knowledge arguments. The only evidence against physicalism is a priori arguments, but there are also a priori arguments against dualism of exactly the same variety. Each of these parity (...)
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