Explain and assess Jackson's Knowledge Argument.
The Knowledge Argument was first formulated by Frank Jackson in order to refute
Physicalism. Whilst he no longer refers to it, it still remains one of the most profound
arguments in Philosophy of the Mind. The idea that conscious experience, the
existence of qualia suggests non-physical properties is at the heart of the ontological
debate between monism and dualists. It aims to establish that one can have
complete physical knowledge regarding another conscious entity, but still lack
specific knowledge of what it feels like to have that experience of the entity. In the
first part of my essay I will outline and explain Jackson Knowledge argument.
Following on from this I will assess this argument by analysing the responses to this
argument and assessing the ways in which Jacksons knowledge argument can be
defended against its criticism.
The Knowledge Argument
Physical information can be defined as the ‘physical, chemical, and biological
sciences which provide information about the world we live in (Jackson, 1982).
Jackson believed that there are experiences whereby no amount of information
regarding its physical properties can explain. He suggests that consciousness is
depicted by qualia which he describes as “certain features of the bodily features of
the bodily sensations, but also of certain perceptual experiences, which no amount
of bodily sensations, but also of certain perceptual experiences, which no amount of
purely physical information includes”. He begins by using two hypothetical situations.
The first example is that of Fred, who is described as having an elite level of color
vision and when presented with two batches of tomatoes, he is able to sort them into
two equal groups, even when blindfolded. When questioned on how he sorts the
tomatoes, Fred responds by stating that there are two distinct colors between each
group. Whilst others are only able to visualize one red color, Fred is able to
distinguish them between ‘red1’ and ‘red2’, the same way we distinguish between
red and yellow. We can therefore perceive Fred’s ability to discriminate between the
tomatoes, yet we are incapable of understanding what it feels like to see reds as two
different colors. Jackson highlighted the fact although we can obtain all of Fred’s
physical information the still be unable to know what it is like to see the color the way
Jackson similarly uses Mary, who has been confined within a monochromatic
environment since birth. Apart from black, white and different shades of grey, she
has never seen any colors for the duration of her life. On the other hand, she
familiarized herself with everything there is to physically know about the color red
from ‘completed physics, chemistry and neurophysiology’ (Jackson, 1986) she
knows every physical fact about red. She is acquainted with every fact concerning
color vision, the eye, the brain, including the physical’. The question that the...