Dr. Roger Wasserman
PHIL 110: Introduction to Philosophy
WRITING EXERCISE #3
(Frank Jackson, Epiphenomenal Qualia/What Mary Didnt Know and Postscript on Qualia;
David Chalmers, The Puzzle of Conscious Experience and The Hard Problem of
Consciousness; Thomas Nagel, What Is It Like to Be a Bat?)
Choose one topic from the two listed below:
(1) Jackson (in Epiphenomenal Qualia and in What Mary Didnt Know) and Chalmers (in The
Hard Problem of Consciousness and The Puzzle of Conscious Experience) both argue against
physicalism. (You may take the thesis Jackson calls physicalism to be the same as the one
Chalmers calls materialism.) Jackson, in a subsequent article, Postscript on Qualia, now
argues for physicalism essentially on the ground that we should not have opinions that outrun
what is required by the best theory of those opinions causal origins. What do you think he
means by this? If physicalism is true, where do you think the knowledge argument and the
zombie argument go wrong? If physicalism is false, what do you think is the flaw in Jacksons
later argument for it? (Make sure to define clearly what you think Jackson and Chalmers mean
by physicalism, i.e. materialism.)
(2) A philosopher, Patricia Churchland, has objected to Jacksons knowledge argument on the
How can I assess what Mary will know and understand if she knows everything
there is to know about the brain? Everything is a lot, and it means, in all
likelihood, that Mary has a radically different and deeper understanding of the
brain than anything barely conceivable in our wildest flights of fancy.
Her objection has been interpreted in three different ways:
a. We have no idea whether someone who knew everything that current neuroscience tells us
about the brain would know what its like to see red.
b. Granted, someone whose knowledge was limited by current neuroscience wouldnt know
what its like to see red, but we have no idea whether someone who knew everything that
complete neuroscience (neuroscience that human scientists could not improve any further)
tells us about the brain would know what its like to see red.
c. Granted, someone whose knowledge was limited by complete neuroscience would not know
what its like to see red, but this is no reason for denying that consciousness is entirely
physical. Why should our physical theories, even the ones that we cannot improve any
further, tell the whole physical story about the universe? Maybe there are physical aspects
of the universe (and in particular, of our brains) that our best physical theories are going to
leave out. And we have no idea whether someone who knew about these hidden physical
aspects of our brains would know what its like to see red.
Do you think any of these three versions of Churchlands objection is strong enough to refute
Jacksons argument? If so, which one(s) and why? Which version(s) do you think presents the
strongest argument? What is wrong with the other version(s)?
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