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.  Dennet 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 2004 is a thorough introduction including a historical discussion.
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333 found
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  1. Solving the Mind-Body Problem - the Real Significance of the Knowledge Argument.Dennis Nicholson - manuscript
    The Knowledge Argument is misconstructed. Knowing that it is ‘just obvious’ that Mary will learn something new on leaving her black and white room, we nevertheless assume she can acquire a complete knowledge of the physical inside it – thereby predetermining the outcome of the thought experiment in favour of a refutation of physicalism. If we reformulate the argument to leave the question of what she can learn in the room open, it becomes clear, not only that physicalism can survive (...)
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  2. Phenomenal Concepts and Wittgenstein's Private Language Argument.Martina Prinz & François-Igor Pris - manuscript
  3. What It is Like to Perceive Colour.John Gardner - manuscript
    I argue that the knowledge argument is best understood as an argument for the existence of non-physical properties of material objects, or colours. I suggest that the knowledge argument is standardly presented as an argument for the existence of qualia because it is implicitly assumed that physics “tell us” that what it is like to perceive colour is determined, not by properties of material objects, but by properties of perceiving subjects; hence any gaps in Mary’s knowledge must be gaps in (...)
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  4. Knowledge Argument.Yujin Nagasawa - manuscript
    The knowledge argument is an argument against physicalism that was first formulated by Frank Jackson in 1982. While Jackson no longer endorses it, it is still regarded as one of the most important arguments in the philosophy of mind. Physicalism is the metaphysical thesis that, roughly speaking, everything in this world—including tables, galaxies, cheese cakes, cars, atoms, and even our sensations— are ultimately physical. The knowledge argument attempts to undermine this thesis by appealing to the following simple imaginary scenario: Mary (...)
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  5. The Know-How Response to Jackson's Knowledge Argument.Author unknown - manuscript
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  6. What Mary Really Didn't Know.Michael Metzler - unknown - Proceedings of the Heraclitean Society 21.
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  7. The Moral Parody Argument Against Panpsychism.Zach Blaesi - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    I exploit parallel considerations in the philosophy of mind and metaethics to argue that the reasoning employed in an important argument for panpsychism overgeneralizes to support an analogous position in metaethics: panmoralism. Next, I raise a number of problems for panmoralism and thereby build a case for taking the metaethical parallel to be a reductio ad absurdum of the argument for panpsychism. Finally, I contrast panmoralism with a position recently defended by Einar Duenger Bohn and argue that the two suffer (...)
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  8. What Gary Couldn’T Imagine in Advance.Tufan Kiymaz - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Research.
    I propose an anti-physicalist argument, namely, the imagination argument, and defend it against possible objections. My argument is inspired by Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument, or rather its misinterpretation by Daniel Dennett and Paul Churchland. They interpret the knowledge argument to be about the ability to imagine an unexperienced phenomenal state, which Jackson explicitly denies. The imagination argument, in its rudimentary form, can be briefly put as the following. Let Q be a visual phenomenal quality that is imaginable based on one’s (...)
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  9. Non-Eliminative Reductionism: The Basis of a Science of Conscious Experience?Dennis Nicholson - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology.
    A physicalist view of qualia labelled non-eliminative reductionism is outlined. If it is true, qualia and physicalism can co-exist without difficulty. First, qualia present no particular problem for reductionist physicalism - they are entirely physical, can be studied and explained using the standard scientific approach, and present no problem any harder than any other scientists face. Second, reductionist physicalism presents no particular problem for qualia – they can be encompassed within an entirely physicalist position without any necessity, either to reduce (...)
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  10. Artificial Consciousness, Meta-Knowledge, and Physical Omniscience.Ron Chrisley - 2020 - Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness 7 (2):199-215.
    Previous work [Chrisley & Sloman, 2016, 2017] has argued that a capacity for certain kinds of meta-knowledge is central to modeling consciousness, especially the recalcitrant aspects of qualia, in computational architectures. After a quick review of that work, this paper presents a novel objection to Frank Jackson's Knowledge Argument (KA) against physicalism, an objec- tion in which such meta-knowledge also plays a central role. It is first shown that the KA's supposition of a person, Mary, who is physically omniscient, and (...)
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  11. Dualism: How Epistemic Issues Drive Debates About the Ontology of Consciousness.Brie Gertler - 2020 - In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    A primary goal of this chapter is to highlight neglected epistemic parallels between dualism and physicalism. Both dualist and physicalist arguments employ a combination of empirical data and armchair reflection; both rely on considerations stemming from how we conceptualize certain phenomena; and both aim to establish views that are compatible with scientific results but go well beyond the deliverances of empirical science. -/- I begin the chapter by fleshing out the distinctive commitments of dualism, in a way that illuminates the (...)
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  12. Knowing What an Experience Is Like and the Reductive Theory of Knowledge‐Wh.Kevin Lynch - 2020 - Analytic Philosophy 61 (3):252-275.
    This article discusses a kind of knowledge classifiable as knowledge-wh but which seems to defy analysis in terms of the standard reductive theory of knowledge-wh ascriptions, according to which they are true if and only if one knows that p, where this proposition is an acceptable answer to the wh-question ‘embedded’ in the ascription. Specifically, it is argued that certain cases of knowing what an experience is like resist such treatment. I argue that in some of these cases, one can (...)
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  13. Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs: A New Précis.Marc Champagne - 2019 - American Journal of Semiotics 35 (3/4):443-462.
    I will be talking today about the limits of cognitive science. I won’t be talking about contingent shortcomings that could perhaps be remedied with, say, more time, resources, or ingenuity. Rather, I will be concerned with limitations that are “baked into” the very enterprise. The main blind spot, I will argue, is consciousness—but not for the reasons typically given. Current work in philosophy of mind can sometimes seem arcane, so my goal today will be to answer the question: why bother? (...)
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  14. The Knowledge Argument.Sam Coleman (ed.) - 2019 - Cambridge University Press.
    Frank Jackson's knowledge argument imagines a super-smart scientist, Mary, forced to investigate the mysteries of human colour vision using only black and white resources. Can she work out what it is like to see red from brain-science and physics alone? The argument says no: Mary will only really learn what red looks like when she actually sees it. Something is therefore missing from the science of the mind, and from the 'physicalist' picture of the world based on science. This powerful (...)
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  15. Epistemic Gaps and the Mind-Body Problem.Thomas Foerster - 2019 - Dissertation, Cornell University
    This dissertation defends materialism from the epistemic arguments against materialism. Materialism is the view that everything is ultimately physical. The epistemic arguments against materialism claim that there is an epistemic gap between physical and phenomenal truths (for example, that knowing the physical truths does not put you in a position to know the phenomenal truths), and conclude from this that there is a corresponding gap in the world between physical and phenomenal truths, and materialism is false. -/- Chapter 1 introduces (...)
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  16. Grounding, Essence, and the Knowledge Argument.Philip Goff - 2019 - In Sam Coleman (ed.), The Knowledge Argument. Cambridge University Press.
    Few these days dispute that the knowledge argument demonstrates an epistemic gap between the physical facts and the facts about experience. It is much more contentious whether that epistemic gap can be used to demonstrate a metaphysical gap of a kind that is inconsistent with physicalism. In this paper I will explore two attempts to block the inference from an epistemic gap to a metaphysical gap – the first from the phenomenal concept strategy, the second from Russellian monism – and (...)
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  17. The Physical as the Nomalous.J. Goldwater - 2019 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 26 (5-6):65-88.
    I argue physicalism should be characterized as the thesis that all behavior is law-governed. This characterization captures crucial desiderata for a formulation of physicalism, including its broad import and worldview defining features. It also has more local virtues, such as avoiding Hempel’s dilemma. A particularly important implication, I argue, is that this thesis makes the question of the mind’s physicality turn on what the mind can do- rather than what experience is like.
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  18. What Acquaintance Teaches.Alex Grzankowski & Michael Tye - 2019 - In Thomas Raleigh & Jonathan Knowles (eds.), Acquaintance: New Essays. Oxford University Press. pp. 75–94.
    In her black and white room, Mary doesn’t know what it is like to see red. Only after undergoing an experience as of something red and hence acquainting herself with red can Mary learn what it is like. But learning what it is like to see red requires more than simply becoming acquainted with it. To be acquainted with something is to know it, but such knowledge, as we argue, is object-knowledge rather than propositional-knowledge. To know what it is like (...)
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  19. Semantic Gaps and Protosemantics.Benj Hellie - 2019 - In Acacio de Barros & Carlos Montemayor (eds.), Mind and Quanta. Berlin: Springer.
    Semantic gaps between physical and mental discourse include the 'explanatory', 'epistemic' (Black-and-White Mary), and 'suppositional' (zombies) gaps; protosemantics is concerned with what is fundamental to meaning. Our tradition presupposes a truth-based protosemantics, with disastrous consequences for interpreting the semantic gaps: nonphysicalism, epiphenomenalism, separatism. Fortunately, an endorsement-based protosemantics, recentering meaning from the world to the mind, is technically viable, intuitively more plausible, and empirically more adequate. But, of present significance, it makes room for interpreting mental discourse as expressing simulations: this blocks (...)
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  20. Mary Does Not Learn Anything New: Applying Kim's Critique of Mental Causation to the Knowledge Argument and the Problem of Consciousness.Adam Khayat - 2019 - Stance 2019 (1):45-55.
    Within the discourse surrounding mind-body interaction, mental causation is intimately associated with non-reductive physicalism. However, such a theory holds two opposing views: that all causal properties and relations can be explicated by physics and that special sciences have an explanatory role. Jaegwon Kim attempts to deconstruct this problematic contradiction by arguing that it is untenable for non-reductive physicalists to explain human behavior by appeal to mental properties. In combination, Kim’s critique of mental causation and the phenomenal concept strategy serves as (...)
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  21. Mary's Powers of Imagination.Amy Kind - 2019 - In Sam Coleman (ed.), The Knowledge Argument. Cambridge University Press. pp. 161-179.
    One common response to the knowledge argument is the ability hypothesis. Proponents of the ability hypothesis accept that Mary learns what seeing red is like when she exits her black-and-white room, but they deny that the kind of knowledge she gains is propositional in nature. Rather, she acquires a cluster of abilities that she previously lacked, in particular, the abilities to recognize, remember, and imagine the color red. For proponents of the ability hypothesis, knowing what an experience is like simply (...)
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  22. Phenomenal Concepts and Physical Facts: A Dialogue with Mary.Tufan Kıymaz - 2019 - Filozofia 74 (10):797-807.
    This is a dialogue between an opponent of the phenomenal concept strategy and Mary from Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument. In this dialogue, Mary, who has complete physical knowledge about what it is like to see red, but has never seen red, is a physicalist and she defends the phenomenal concept strategy against her interlocutor’s objections. In the end, none of them is able to convince the other, but their conversation, through considerations of different versions of the knowledge argument and different (...)
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  23. Phenomenal Knowledge Why: The Explanatory Knowledge Argument Against Physicalism.Hedda Hassel Mørch - 2019 - In Sam Coleman (ed.), The Knowledge Argument. Cambridge University Press.
    Phenomenal knowledge is knowledge of what it is like to be in conscious states, such as seeing red or being in pain. According to the knowledge argument (Jackson 1982, 1986), phenomenal knowledge is knowledge that, i.e., knowledge of phenomenal facts. According to the ability hypothesis (Nemirow 1979; Lewis 1983), phenomenal knowledge is mere practical knowledge how, i.e., the mere possession of abilities. However, some phenomenal knowledge also seems to be knowledge why, i.e., knowledge of explanatory facts. For example, someone who (...)
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  24. On the Self-Knowledge Argument for Cognitive Phenomenology.M. A. Parks - 2019 - Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics 1 (6):91-102.
    The present paper will be primarily concerned with criticizing the defense of cognitive phenomenology presented by David Pitt’s (2011) self knowledge argument, focusing on his response to Joseph Levine (2011). In this essay, I argue that Pitt’s self-knowledge argument appears to presuppose that a person makes voluntary judgments about their beliefs on the basis of recognition of distinctive phenomenal states, the way we recognize what we see, hear, or smell. However, many of those who reject the existence of cognitive phenomenology (...)
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  25. Mastering Mary.Gabriel Oak Rabin - 2019 - American Philosophical Quarterly 56 (4):361-370.
    I make three claims about the interactions between concept mastery and the knowledge argument. First, I argue that, contra Ball, the concept mastery response to the knowledge argument does not suffer from the heterogeneity of concept mastery. Second, I argue that, when doing metaphysics by relating propositions on the basis of whether a hypothetical agent who knew a base collection could infer a target proposition, it is legitimate to rely on propositions that are not contained in the base, as long (...)
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  26. Modal Rationalism and the Demonstrative Reply to the Scrutability Argument Against Physicalism.Gabriel Oak Rabin - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 8):2107-2134.
    According to the scrutability argument against physicalism, an a priori gap between the physical and conscious experience entails a lack of necessitation and the falsity of physicalism. This paper investigates the crucial premise of the scrutability argument: the inference from an a priori gap to a lack of necessitation. This premise gets its support from modal rationalism, according to which there are important, potentially constitutive, connections between a priori justification and metaphysical modality. I argue against the strong form of modal (...)
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  27. Online Overview Article: Materialism.Jan G. Michel - 2018 - SDA, Digital Humanities Project, Oxford University.
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  28. Qualitative Attribution, Phenomenal Experience and Being.Mark Pharoah - 2018 - Biosemiotics 11 (3):427-446.
    I argue that the physiological, phenomenal and conceptual constitute a trichotomous hierarchy of emergent categories. I claim that each category employs a distinctive type of interactive mechanism that facilitates a meaningful kind of environmental discourse. I advocate, therefore, that each have a causal relation with the environment but that their specific class of mechanism qualifies distinctively the meaningfulness of that interaction and subsequent responses. Consequently, I argue that the causal chain of physical interaction feeds distinctive value-laden constructions that are ontologically (...)
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  29. How Mary Defeated the Zombies; Destabilizing the Modal Argument with the Knowledge Argument.Amber Ross - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (5-6):499-519.
    Several of the most compelling anti-materialist arguments are motivated by the supposed existence of an unbridgeable epistemic gap between first-person subjective knowledge about one’s own conscious experience and third-personally acquired knowledge. The two with which this paper is concerned are Frank Jackson’s ‘knowledge argument’ and David Chalmers’s ‘modal argument’. The knowledge argument and the modal argument are often taken to function as ‘two sides of the same coin … in principle each succeeds on its own, but in practice they work (...)
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  30. The Knowledge Argument and Two Interpretations of 'Knowing What It's Like'.Daniel Stoljar - 2018 - In Dale Jacquette (ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Consciousness. London, UK:
  31. The Structure and Dynamics Argument Against Materialism.Torin Alter - 2016 - Noûs 50 (4):794-815.
  32. How to Befriend Zombies: A Guide for Physicalists.Bradford Saad - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (9):2353-2375.
    Though not myself a physicalist, I develop a new argument against antiphysicalist positions that are motivated by zombie arguments. I first identify four general features of phenomenal states that are candidates for non-physical types; these are used to generate different types of zombie. I distinguish two antiphysicalist positions: strict dualism, which posits exactly one general non-physical type, and pluralism, which posits more than one such type. It turns out that zombie arguments threaten strict dualism and some pluralist positions as much (...)
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  33. The Ability Hypothesis: An Empirically Based Defense.Mahdi Zakeri & Majid Ghasemi - 2016 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):23-38.
    We defend Laurence Nemirow’s and David Lewis’s Ability Hypothesis against Paul Raymont’s criticisms in defense of Jackson’s Knowledge Argument. According to the Ability Hypothesis, what Mary lacked when she was in her black-and-white room was a set of abilities; she did not know how to recognize or imagine certain types of experience. Her subsequent discovery of what it is like to experience color amounts to no more than her acquiring these abilities. Appealing to the Molyneux test, Raymont has argued that (...)
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  34. 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 (...)
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  35. Recognitional Identification and the Knowledge Argument.Erhan Demircioglu - 2015 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 15 (3):325-340.
    Frank Jackson’s famous Knowledge Argument moves from the premise that complete physical knowledge about experiences is not complete knowledge about experiences to the falsity of physicalism. Some physicalists (e.g., John Perry) have countered by arguing that what Jackson’s Mary, the perfect scientist who acquires all physical knowledge about experiencing red while being locked in a monochromatic room, lacks before experiencing red is merely a piece of recognitional knowledge of an identity, and that since lacking a piece of recognitional knowledge of (...)
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  36. Phenomenal Concepts.Andreas Elpidorou - 2015 - Oxford Bibliographies Online.
    Phenomenal concepts are the concepts that we deploy when – but arguably not only when – we introspectively examine, focus on, or take notice of the phenomenal character of our experiences. They refer to phenomenal properties (or qualities) and they do so in a subjective (first-personal) and direct (non-relational) manner. It is through the use of such concepts that the phenomenal character of our experiences is made salient to us. Discourse about the nature of phenomenal concepts plays an important role (...)
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  37. The Physicalist's Tight Squeeze: A Posteriori Physicalism Vs. A Priori Physicalism.Robert J. Howell - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (12):905-913.
    Both a priori physicalism and a posteriori physicalism combine a metaphysical and an epistemological thesis. They agree about the metaphysical thesis: our world is wholly physical. Most agree that this requires everything that there is must be necessitated by the sort of truths described by physics. If we call the conjunction of the basic truths of physics P, all physicalists agree that P entails for any truth Q. Where they disagree is whether or not this entailment can be known a (...)
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  38. Lewis on Materialism and Experience.Daniel Stoljar - 2015 - In Barry Loewer & Jonathan Schaffer (eds.), A Companion to David Lewis. Oxford, UK:
  39. There’s Something About Mary. [REVIEW]Derek Ball - 2014 - The Philosophers' Magazine 64:119-121.
  40. David Chalmers on Mind and Consciousness.Richard Brown - 2014 - In Andrew Bailey (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: The Key Thinkers. Continuum. pp. 283-292.
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  41. God and Phenomenal Consciousness: A Novel Approach to Knowledge Arguments. By Yujin Nagasawa. Pp. Xiii, 162, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008, $85.00. [REVIEW]Bradford McCall - 2014 - Heythrop Journal 55 (1):144-145.
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  42. Comments on Mary Gwin’s “IrRational Analysis”.Todd M. Stewart - 2014 - Southwest Philosophy Review 30 (2):85-88.
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  43. Mary Leng * Mathematics and Reality.Alan Weir - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (3):657-664.
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  44. 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 (...)
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  45. 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.
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  46. Précis of "E-physicalism-a physicalist theory of phenomenal consciousness".Reinaldo Bernal Velasquez, Pierre Jacob, Maximilian Kistler, David Papineau & Jérôme Dokic - 2013 - Ideas Y Valores 62 (152):268-297.
    El libro "E-physicalism - A Physicalist Theory of Phenomenal Consciousness" presenta una teoría en el área de la metafísica de la conciencia 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.
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  47. Physicalism and Phenomenal Concepts.Erhan Demircioglu - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (1):257-277.
    Frank Jackson’s famous Knowledge Argument moves from the premise that complete physical knowledge is not complete knowledge about experiences to the falsity of physicalism. In recent years, a consensus has emerged that the credibility of this and other well-known anti-physicalist arguments can be undermined by allowing that we possess a special category of concepts of experiences, phenomenal concepts, which are conceptually independent from physical/functional concepts. It is held by a large number of philosophers that since the conceptual independence of phenomenal (...)
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  48. RoboMary, Blue Banana Tricks, and the Metaphysics of Consciousness: A Critique of Daniel Dennett's Apology for Physicalism.John M. DePoe - 2013 - Philosophia Christi 15 (1):119-132.
    Daniel Dennett has argued that consciousness can be satisfactorily accounted for in terms of physical entities and processes. In some of his most recent publications, he has made this case by casting doubts on purely conceptual thought experiments and proposing his own thought experiments to "pump" the intuition that consciousness can be physical. In this paper, I will summarize Dennett's recent defenses of physicalism, followed by a careful critique of his position. The critique presses two flaws in Dennett's defense of (...)
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  49. What Did Mary Know?Marina Gerner - 2013 - Philosophy Now 99:32-35.
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  50. Mary's Menses and Morality.Kevin J. Murtagh - 2013 - In Robert Arp & Kevin S. Decker (eds.), The Ultimate South Park and Philosophy: Respect My Philosophah! Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 108--118.
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