Analysis Of Frank Jackson 's ' What Mary Didn 't Know '

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Within the realm of philosophy, new ideas are formed, applauded, often questioned, and most carefully analyzed. These new ideas are what provoke thought, and help move progressive thinkers forward. This can be said to be true in Frank Jackson’s case, with his essay “What Mary Didn’t Know”. Jackson presents an argument that challenges the thoughts of physicalism, physicalism being, “…the challenging thesis that [the actual world] is entirely physical” (Jackson 291). Jackson creates what he calls the ‘knowledge argument’. In his essay Jackson presents the example of Mary, a woman who lives in an entirely black and white world. She is confined to her room, and everything is controlled so that all that Mary views is black and white. It is…show more content…
However, Mary just learned something new. This new knowledge is not explainable in physical terms; it is something that must be experienced, and therefore Jackson creates an argument against the supposed truth of physicalism.
Frank Jackson successfully proves his knowledge argument in his essay “What Mary Didn’t Know”. He shows that before leaving the black and white room, Mary was said to know all the physical facts, which under physicalism, encompasses knowing everything. After leaving the room, Mary has the new experience of seeing the color red, and gains new knowledge from it. Jackson states, “The contention about Mary is not that, despite her fantastic grip of neurophysiology and everything else physical, she could not imagine what it is like to sense red; it is that, as a matter of fact, she would not know” (Jackson 292). Thus, Jackson is able to prove that when leaving her room, Mary has learned something new.
However, there are still several objections raised against this argument. One of the strongest objections comes from one questioning if when Mary leaves the room she has actually acquired some sort of new knowledge. The objection claims that since Mary truly knows all the physical facts, then from her vast knowledge she should be able to deduce what the color red looks like. Furthermore, if she does acquire new knowledge, it is only because she herself hasn’t drawn out the consequences of experiencing the color red.

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