Mary the Super-Scientist

Frank Jackson:

What Mary Didn’t Know

Jackson’s Knowledge Argument

(1)Physicalism is the challenging thesis that the actual world is entirely physical.

(2)Thus under physicalism, complete physical knowledge is the complete knowledge of the actual world.

(3)However, a physicist Mary could know all there is to know about the physical nature of the world, while not knowing the qualia of others’ experiences.

(4)Hence, physicalism is false.


What Jackson’s Argument Assumes about Physicalism

That if physicalism is true, then if you know everything expressed or expressible in explicitly physical language, you know everything.


Can we claim that every object and every event is a physical object and a physical event while at the same time deny that a complete physical language can explain everything?

   Namely: Can we have the following distinction–

  • Weak Physicalism[WP] (i) Every object and event in our world is a physical object and a physical event in the sense that there is nothing that is not governed by physical laws.
  • Strong Physicalism[SP] (i) WP. (ii) Every event and property in our world is either explicable in terms of physical laws, or explanatorily reducible to physicalistic explanation.


What Jackson claims based on the Knowledge Argument

(1)Mary does not know all there is to know.

(2)The trouble for physicalism is that, after Mary sees her first ripe tomato, she will realize how impoverished her conception of the mental life of others has been all along. She will realize that there was, all the time she was carrying out her laborious investigations into the neurophysiologies of others and into the functional roles of their internal states, something about these people she was quite unaware of.

Do you agree that Mary lacks knowledge of certain facts about the world?




(*) Camps obligatoris

L'enviament de comentaris implica l'acceptació de les normes d'ús