Saturday, July 05, 2014

Saints and Skeptics on the Argument from Reason

Here. 

52 comments:

John Moore said...

Plantinga notes: "We can grant that those faculties which are relevant to survival and reproduction are reliable; however, those faculties which are not relevant to survival should be considered unreliable."

In other words, we have reliable knowledge about the physical world, but there is no reason to suppose we know anything about God, given N&E.

"Anyone who has a defeater for TMR has a defeater for any metaphysical scheme." In other words, we just don't know anything about metaphysics. It's not that theology or naturalism are wrong; it's just that we don't know.

Saints and Sceptics said...

Hi John
Given N (and therefore N&E) there is no God. By definition, on N no-one knows anything about God. If Theism is true, we could know something about God even if E is true (E could be directed).

You are right - naturalism could still be true even if we have no good reason to believe that it is true. But this would leave naturalists saying something like "I have an irrational belief that naturalism is true"; or "I believe in naturalism in spite of the evidence that I shouldn't believe that it is true"; or "I believe in naturalism even though I have no reason at all to believe it is true".

This wouldn't even amount to justified properly basic belief: it is not merely that there is no evidence for naturalism; we would not even have any grounds for believing it was true; we would have reason to doubt the source of our belief in naturalism.

Graham

John Moore said...

Indeed, most atheistic naturalists don't have a dogmatic belief that naturalism must be true. So that's kind of a red herring. It's just that we have no reason to believe one way or the other, so Occam's Razor would lead us to adopt the simplest position by default, instead of inventing a complex mythology out of whole cloth.

You know how those atheists keep telling you that atheism is just a "non-belief"? That's what they mean. They know there's no justified reason to believe in naturalism, but they don't see any reason to believe in anything more complicated either.

Saints and Sceptics said...

So you believe in scientific naturalism, you just don't believe that it's true?
And you believe in naturalism, but that belief is based on a completely untrustworthy source, so I really shouldn't believe it and neither should you?
And evolution - and other large scale theories like QM and GTR - are probably false too?

OK. If that's what "non-belief" amounts to, cool.

Graham

B. Prokop said...

"so Occam's Razor would lead us to adopt the simplest position by default"

Why? On what grounds? Has Occam's Razor somehow been "proven"?

Saints and Sceptics said...

I don't see how Occam's razor would help, if I'm honest.

"I have a set of inconsistent beliefs- but Occam's razor says 'don't add to them'!"

That doesn't really make sense, so far as I can see...
surely you need to remove the inconsistency, not find an excuse to ignore it?

Saints and Sceptics said...

I should point out that naturalism is a very definite philosophical position...it has a preferred ontology and preferred epistemology.

It most certainly is not the lack of a definite position!

John Moore said...

It's definitely a position, but the important thing is not to hold it dogmatically. So it's methodological naturalism. It's just the assumption you go on.

Because what's really important in life is not the ultimate cosmic truth, but the important thing is our practical life here on Earth. The only thing we really care about is "survival and reproduction." That's what naturalists are saying, in effect. (That's just my interpretation, of course.)

John Moore said...

By the way, could you tell me the exact quote from Plantinga, or where you found it? I'm talking about where you wrote:

"Even Plantinga notes ... We can grant that those faculties which are relevant to survival and reproduction are reliable; however, those faculties which are not relevant to survival should be considered unreliable."

I have my copy of "Where the Conflict Really Lies" and I just now downloaded "Naturalism Defeated" via the link you provided.

Saints and Sceptics said...

John
It doesn't matter if you hold to N tentatively or dogmatically. If you hold N&E together you have an inconsistent set of beliefs. And you have to do something about that.
But maybe you mean that people could drop N and replace it with an "unknown"? They could just reject "N" (naturalism) but not believe "T" (ie. Theism).

Well, CS Lewis rejected naturalism for idealism due to the argument from reason. So something like that could be a reasonable move. But be clear that this entails rejecting scientific naturalism.

Graham

Saints and Sceptics said...

You're looking for the last few pages of "WTCRL" John. Plantinga isn't conceding an inch, by the way. He's just pointing out that this version might meet with a better reception.

Papalinton said...

Naturalism is a very definite philosophical position, and with good reason and sound epistemology.

David Papineau, Professor of Philosophy of Science at King's College London, explains it this way: Most philosophers would "accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject ‘supernatural’ entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the ‘human spirit’."
He [Papineau] remarks that philosophers widely regard naturalism as a "positive" term, and "few active philosophers nowadays are happy to announce themselves as ‘non-naturalists’", while noting that "philosophers concerned with religion tend to be less enthusiastic about ‘naturalism’" and that despite an "inevitable" divergence due to its popularity, if more narrowly construed, (to the chagrin of John McDowell, David Chalmers and Jennifer Hornsby, for example), those not so disqualified remain nonetheless content "to set the bar for ‘naturalism’ higher". [Wiki]

The more we grow our knowledge and understanding, further does theological explanation recede. The great German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer eruditely noted: "Faith and knowledge are related as the scales of a balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down."

It seems to be widely acknowledged on both sides of the fence that metaphysical supernaturalism is in serious decline. What are the reasons for this decline? These things don't usually happen in a vacuum. The single biggest reason I would venture is that naturalism works. Despite its fluffy definition and hard to pin down concepts, the general thrust of metaphysical naturalism provides a far more cogent and demonstrable explanation of reality than does supernaturalism. Naturalism, through the fields of psychology, neurology, the neurosciences etc seems to be making it all the more difficult to refute that it is making significant inroads into understanding the various elements that constitute the 'human condition'.

In the end the AFR, even SandS's rendition will ultimately pass into history as an historical example of how we used argument to defend a flawed proposition, the existence of the supernatural.

Saints and Sceptics said...

Thank you for running some of the terms in our article through google and for giving me a good laugh papa! I needed the chuckle this evening.
Very, very funny!

Graham

Saints and Sceptics said...

Here, try this one on consciousness.

http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-evidence-for-god-consciousness/

It deals with some of the fluff about neurology.

Can't wait to see what you come up with! Don't disappoint!

Graham

Bob said...

@Saints and Sceptics

Jackson’s argument can be summarised quite neatly (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia-knowledge/#3.1):

1. Mary knows all the physical facts about human colour vision before her release

2. There are some facts about human colour vision that Mary does not know before her release.

Therefore, from 2 and 1

3. There are non-physical facts about human colour vision.


Until Mary physically sees colour, Mary does not know "all" the physical facts.

Premise one is false, based on the hypothetical situation,(that Mary has only ever experienced black and white), described in your article.

grodrigues said...

@Bob:

"Until Mary physically sees colour, Mary does not know "all" the physical facts."

Then the physical sciences cannot even discover all the physical facts. And if it is a fact that the physical sciences cannot discover, what is the warrant to even call it "physical"?

This thread, even with so few answers, is quite illuminating: the respondents seem to favor the worst response possible.

Bob said...

@grodrigues,

I am not sure what your response has to do with my point that premise 1 of the argument I quoted is false.

Can you elaborate?

Bob said...

@grodrigues

I just wanted to comment on this.

Then the physical sciences cannot even discover all the physical facts. And if it is a fact that the physical sciences cannot discover, what is the warrant to even call it "physical"?

"Physical science" does not discover anything, but people using the methods of physical science do.

Greg said...

Excellent summary of the EAAN.

I would argue that the AfR and EAAN aren't quite identical, it seems that the AfR must include an argument which states we should conclude a rational source for man's contingent rationality and that this rational source is what we call God.

jdhuey said...

"3.) Anyone who has a defeater for R has a defeater for any other belief she thinks she has, including the belief that scientific naturalism is true and the belief that the theory of evolution by natural selection is true."

This strikes me as manifestly untrue. We already know that our brains are not completely reliable - we fool ourselves into believing all sorts of stuff that isn't true. Humans have believed, at one time or another, a vast quantity of false things and there are few things harder to avoid than deceiving ourselves. But, as was pointed out by Plantinga, there is a great advantage to avoiding false beliefs and aquiring true beliefs. So, given that our brains are unreliable at arriving at true beliefs what are we to do? Well, one thing we can do is to test our beliefs to see if they hold up - we bump up our beliefs against reality and see how they fair. We can be very clever and develop machines that can observe the results of our experiments and help us avoid seeing results that just aren't there but we want to believe are. We can ask other people to duplicate our tests to see if they get the same results. To sidestep the defeater for R we use, in a word, science.

Once we accept and embrace the fact that our brains a somewhat unreliable we can overcome the defeator by becoming skeptical of any belief. And even if some belief has been around for a long time, we should be prepared to abandon it if it fails the tests against reality. As was pointed out in the play Galelio , science does not promise everlasting wisdom, only freedom from everlasting error. This means, of course, that no belief should ever be accepted as 100% true - there is always the possibility that everyone has made a mistake - all beliefs are therefore, provisional.

grodrigues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grodrigues said...

@Bob:

"I am not sure what your response has to do with my point that premise 1 of the argument I quoted is false.

Can you elaborate?"

Do not know what else to say. You deny (1) by saying that:

"Until Mary physically sees colour, Mary does not know "all" the physical facts."

Since by hypothesis Mary knows everything that the Sciences can tell about the physical facts, it follows that the Sciences do not tell everything about the physical facts. From the perspective of the defender of the argument you are just jumping from the frying pan into the fire: you are welcome to it.

Edward T. Babinski said...

The AFR?

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/01/prior-prejudices-and-argument-from.html

Bob said...

@grodrigues

Since by hypothesis Mary knows everything that the Sciences can tell about the physical facts, it follows that the Sciences do not tell everything about the physical facts. From the perspective of the defender of the argument you are just jumping from the frying pan into the fire: you are welcome to it.

Here is the argument again:

1. Mary knows all the physical facts about human colour vision before her release

2. There are some facts about human colour vision that Mary does not know before her release.

Therefore, from 2 and 1

3. There are non-physical facts about human colour vision.


You realize that observation, (in this case physically seeing colour), is an integral part of the scientific method, right?

By postulating that Mary knows "all" the physical facts while denying actual observation, the argument is no longer referring to everything physical science can tell us. In this case, it is referring to what physical science can tell us apart from physical observation. It is referring to a model.

This argument seems to commit some sort of reification fallacy.

grodrigues said...

@Bob:

"You realize that observation, (in this case physically seeing colour), is an integral part of the scientific method, right?"

Irrelevant.

I am sure even you realize I can know the Standard Model completely (assume for the sake of argument that it is a complete theory of the elementary particles) without ever setting foot on the LHC.

You are not so much as refuting the argument, but conceding everything that its defender would want. The defender only has to say "Thank you, Bob, you made the point for me. I am done here."

Bob said...

@grodrigues

I am sure even you realize I can know the Standard Model completely

Yes, you can know the Standard Model completely, given your assumptions.

So what?

I am refuting the first premise of the argument. That Mary knows all the physical facts. She doesn't.

Greg said...

jd I don't think you've entirely grasped the argument.

To say that "science" corrects our false beliefs and unreliable conclusions is to ignore what science is--namely a form of human reasoning which uses empirical evidence to learn about the natural world.

So appealing to science is still appealing to reason, and since the reliability of reasoning is what is in question, the argument remains unchallenged.




Saints and Sceptics said...

I'm a little perplexed by some of the criticisms of the AFC.

The article is clear on what we mean by "physical facts" (although, to be fair, we do presuppose some familiarity with philosophy of mind.)


"A subjective “point of view” cannot be understood in physical terms because physical terms describe the world in objective third-person terms, equally understandable from many points of view. The animal stands in a particular relationship to its experiences. A complete third person description of the world leaves out these experiences. Therefore, a third person description of the animal is incomplete."

Saints and Sceptics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saints and Sceptics said...

Explaining what we mean by "physical facts" on naturalism:

"Whenever we seek to explain an event or entity we need appeal only to physical laws and physical objects. This entails that we need never appeal to subjective consciousness, thoughts, plans, intentions or desires to explain the properties of any organism. The scientific naturalist can either attempt to reduce mental properties, like “intentions” and “beliefs”, to physical properties ( for example, the neuro-phsyiological states of organisms); or, the scientific naturalist might argue that mental properties supervene on, or are emergent from, physical properties. In this case mental properties would be determined by physical properties."

"The problem is not simply that we cannot extrapolate from our own experience to that of a bats’. There is something about the bat’s experience, a property of it, that we cannot come to know through gathering information about the physical world. We cannot occupy the bats’ “point of view”"

And, no, the subjective first person point of view is not included in physics. The whole point of modern physics is that the observations/results must be equally available to all observers.

And this is a point made by Dennett, Searle, Papineau, Koch etc. It is, in fact, the whole point of the 'problem of cosnciousness'. It is not a problem dreamt up by apologists or theologians.

G

Saints and Sceptics said...

1) We cannot directly observe another creature’s consciousness, and we cannot measure or quantify conscious experiences. If we could describe every physical fact about a bat’s brain in every detail, we would still not have a description of what the bat experiences. There are facts about animals that are not physical facts – facts about “what it is like”. It does not matter how much data we gather, what we imagine or what new concepts we learn. We are forever barred from another animal’s rich world of experience.

2) Neuroscience can describe animals as a system of causal inputs, or representations, that produce certain casual outputs. But this description of the physical system with its inputs and outputs does not describe intrinsic, subjective feelings. We can only describe and understand emotions like fear and anger when we experience them ourselves in the first person – “from the inside”, as it were.

3) Subjects have privileged access to conscious events. Observers could infer that I was in pain from my behaviour. However, I don’t need to infer that I am in pain by observing my behaviour or brain states; I feel it directly. There is nothing more to this mental event than the way it “appears” to me in subjective experience. I am not picking out a physical event which causes or accompanies that experience.

4) Brain states and events have a complex physical structure that phenomenal awareness lacks. Conscious experience does not have a complex spatial structure; it cannot be broken down into various parts. We do not have privileged access to physical states and events; physical states and events can have a complex physical structure. So consciousness cannot be identical to anything in the physical world.

5) If there is more to the world than the physical, scientific materialism is false.

6) In every worldview some phenomena are foundational: they are not explained in terms of any more basic phenomena. On scientific materialism elementary physical entities and the laws which govern them are foundational. But conscious events are nothing like physical parts; there is nothing about the interaction of physical parts that would lead us to predict or enable us to understand the existence of consciousness. Consciousness arrives very late in the history of the universe and late in the history of life as an inexplicable accident. Consciousness does not “fit naturally” into the materialist’s worldview.

7) However, consciousness is foundational on theism, because conscious agency characterises God as understood within theism. Theism has the explanatory resources to account for the existence of finite conscious beings in terms of God’s omniscience and omnipotence.

8) There is a correlation between physical events and mental events; certain events always produce some kind of pain, others always produce pleasure. There is a connection between the physical world and the world of consciousness. But what could connect the two? We must look to some underlying reality which could bring this connection about. The order present suggests that a mind is involved; and so God emerges as a good explanation, both for human consciousness, and for its connection with the physical world.

Saints and Sceptics said...

The problem of consciousness is explained a little more here:

http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/why-consciousness-makes-our-heads-hurt/

and here: http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/why-science-cant-explain-what-science-cant-explain/

Saints and Sceptics said...

Greg
I agree with your response to JD. We explicitly make this point in the article.

Graham

Saints and Sceptics said...

Bob

You're arguing that Mary can give a complete description of what her own physical state will be when she leaves the room, and a complete description of the physical state of the *rest of the world* and still not know all the physical facts?

I'm very sorry, but to put it gently, I think that's incoherent.

Graham

Bob said...

@Saints and Sceptics

No, I am arguing that, per the scenario posited, Mary does not know all the physical facts.

Specifically, she has no physical memory of colour.

I suppose that it may become possible to recreate such a physical memory, based solely on the application of some model and implant it into Mary's brain in the future, but as of today premise 1 of the argument I referenced would be false based on the background information provided.

Bob said...

@Saints and Sceptics

From your referenced post http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/why-consciousness-makes-our-heads-hurt/:

If we could describe every physical fact about the rat’s brain in every detail, we would still not have a description of what the rat experiences. There are facts about animals that are not physical facts – facts about “what it is like”.

Just because we may not have access does not necessarily imply that these facts are not physical.

I would say that what it is like to be this particular rat resides in this particular rat's physical memory. Similarly, I would say that what it is like to be you resides in your own physical memory.

Perhaps one day we will develop a technology that provides for direct access to fully observe another's memories (thoughts, emotions, etc.), but even if we don't, this has no bearing on the fact that what it is like to be some sentient creature actually physically resides somewhere. This regardless of our ability to access it.

Hal said...

"A subjective “point of view” cannot be understood in physical terms because physical terms describe the world in objective third-person terms, equally understandable from many points of view. The animal stands in a particular relationship to its experiences. A complete third person description of the world leaves out these experiences. Therefore, a third person description of the animal is incomplete."

As far as I can tell, all this amounts to is that a 3rd person description is different from a 1st person description. That doesn't entail any incompleteness in a 3rd person description.

What counts as a complete 3rd person description is different from what counts as a complete 1st description.

Also, seeing is a physical activity. Because we are language users we can describe that act from a 1st person or 3rd person perspective.

Hugo said...

@Graham

Regarding your numbered list...

1) We cannot experience the 'personnal' and thus 'subjective' experience of another being, of course,  this is a tautology. If we could, it would not be personal nor subjective, being experienced simultaneously by others.

Plus, this doesn't make the facts about this experience non-physical in any way. 'What it's like' is described in physical terms by the physical being having the experience (assuming it can).

We can also certainly measure and quantify conscious experience. We can measure electrical activity as we all know, but we also often refer to limits of our consciousness, as in not being able to simultaneously think about every single human we know, or counting in our head from 0 to 1000 in 3 seconds.

2) Correct we can only really understand what 'fear feels like' by feeling it ourselves, another tautology. But we can explain what fear is in physical terms, and share that experience with others and use terms we agreed on, conventions, to refer to 'fear'. Fear is nothing more than dreading a future we cannot predict or know will hurt/make us feel something we don't want to feel. It even causes physical uncontrollable physical reaction within our body.

3) What you describe is your physical brain reacting to physical stimuli. Even just thinking about pain makes some of the same neurons fire up, as if you did literally experienced it.

4) But why should we expect consciousness to be like something 'in' the physical world when we agree that's consciousness is the experience 'of' that same physical world? Plus, it can certainly be broken down in parts, similar to the examples I gave above. You can think of distinct numbers one after the other, but not all at once, you have a finite speed at which you can do so, etc...

Hugo said...

5) Sure, what are these things that you believe exist yet have no dependency on the physical world you live in? Why should we also believe they exist?

6) You are reversing things, because you adhere to the primacy of consciousness and wrongly define what it means to be conscious in the first place. The fact that consciousness evolved slowly over time, and arrived 'late' as you say, fits perfectly with thr idea that it is a consequence of being alive, physically. Same as children who are not quite self-aware; they experience physical stimuli, remember them more and more, but are not quite well aware of the fact that they are a body, have a mind and can control these.

It's only after having acquired enough memories that physical humans can start to really graso what they control, or not, and how their perception of that physical world is either right ir wrong, expected or not, pleasant or not, etc...

If you assume the physical first, there is no problem at all with accounting for the "non-physical", the mental, the abstract, everything we can think of. And it's only after all of that that one can reach the conclusion that this is it, there is probably nothing else outside that physical existence. Materialism is probably true.

7) I don't even see how God would explain anything. Even in theory, how would God create other consciousness? How would a mind like God create physical things by... thinking? It opens up more questions, weird questions that necessitate God to be defined using terms such as
omniscience and omnipotence which are not even proven to be possible in the first place. God has to be a 'super' mind where 'mind' doesn't really mean much anymore since it has nothing to do with the 'only' type of minds we know of: human minds.

8) Physical experiences are consciousness, memories of past experiences is consciousness, imaging and re-organizing bits and pieces of our past physical experiences is consciousness. No bridge to cross, just fascinating studies of how complex consciousness is because of its ability to process physical inputs, yield predictions, reflex, preferences, dreams, and a lot of information that cannot even all come out, because our physical body cannot, in turn, express everything the brain can think of.

Start with the physical and it all makes sense. Existence exists, and in it there are living things with conceptualization abilities, yielding what we refer to as 'non-physical' tools to describe that physical world.

Cheers


--setn uisng my phnoe, pradon any spllenig msitake.

Hugo said...

Forgot... regarding "Mary", did anyone read the Wikipedia entry? (Or is that too 'low' for theist philosopher? ;)

"The knowledge argument (also known as Mary's room or Mary the super-scientist) is a philosophical thought experiment proposed by Frank Jackson in his article "Epiphenomenal Qualia" (1982) and extended in "What Mary Didn't Know" (1986). The experiment is intended to argue against physicalism — the view that the universe, including all that is mental, is entirely physical.
[...]
Frank Jackson initially supported the anti-physicalist implications of the Mary's room thought experiment. Jackson believed in the explanatory completeness of physiology, that all behaviour is caused by physical forces of some kind. And the thought experiment seems to prove the existence of qualia, a non-physical part of the mind. Jackson argued that if both of these theses are true, then epiphenomenalism is true — the view that mental states are caused by physical states, but have no causal effects on the physical world

Thus, at the conception of the thought experiment, Jackson was an epiphenomenalist.

Objection: However, he rejected epiphenomenalism later.[13] This, he argues, is because when Mary first sees red, she says "wow", so it must be Mary's qualia that causes her to say "wow". This contradicts epiphenomenalism because it involves a conscious state causing an overt speech behavior. Since the Mary's room thought experiment seems to create this contradiction, there must be something wrong with it. This is often referred to as the "'there must be a reply' reply".

Jackson now believes that the physicalist approach (from a perspective of indirect realism) provides the better explanation. In contrast to epiphenominalism, Jackson says that the experience of red is entirely contained in the brain, and the experience immediately causes further changes in the brain (e.g. creating memories). This is more consilient with neuroscience's understanding of color vision. Jackson suggests that Mary is simply discovering a new way for her brain to represent qualities that exist in the world.
"

Saints and Sceptics said...

So -

If I understand you guys correctly -

1) Mary has a complete, detailed accurate knowledge of the physical state that the world will be in when she leaves the room (she can predict it with complete accuracy in this *thought experiment*)

2) And she doesn't a have complete physical knowledge of what the world would be like when she leaves the room.

Because thoughts are physical.
They're not brain states, they don't even supervene on brain states but they're physical.

Thanks for clearing that up for me.

Graham

PS I stopped relying on Wikipedia when it gave me faulty information on "Person of Interest".

And it's theories on Red John in "The Mentalist" weren't helpful either.
Jackson has moved away from epiphenomenalism to physicalism, but he hasn't been able to solve his own thought experiment.

Ed Feser (who has some interesting and controversial views on the mind/body problem)has a nice piece on this

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/when-frank-jilted-mary.html

Graham

Saints and Sceptics said...

Try this - Feser might make more progress than I have.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/materialist-shell-game.html

Or this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERtHFw_fw9Y

Or these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFQ0Spu50Oc


Or this:

http://consc.net/papers/facing.html



Hugo said...

"If I understand you guys correctly"

I am pretty sure you don't.

Thoughts 'are' brain states and Mary cannot know in advance what it feels like to have that brain state of 'seeing red' because nothing has ever triggered her brain to literally see 'red'. She cannot imagine something her brain has never experienced before. Which is why you cannot imagine seeing UV, even though you know (well at least now you do) that some birds do see UV light. You cannot possibly imagine what it looks like because your brain never experienced it. But just like Mary, you understand what it is, it's a different light wavelength.

I will take a look at the links you sent though. Sounds interesting.

Saints and Sceptics said...

Oh boy. I understood you perfectly...

OK.

Mary knows what her brain state would be. But she doesn't know "what it's like" to have that brain state.

And no amount of information about brain states can tell her "what it is like". No amount of information about the physical world can tell he "what it is like".

She doesn't learn anything about her brain, her body, photons, protons, electrons, other particles, subatomic particles.

Where exactly is this "what it is like"? How do you quantify it? Measure it?

It's something over and above the physical.

Graham

Hugo said...

Mary knows what her brain state would be. But she doesn't know "what it's like" to have that brain state.

And no amount of information about brain states can tell her "what it is like". No amount of information about the physical world can tell he "what it is like".


Exactly! But you misunderstood why. It's not because "It's something over and above the physical", it is because she cannot put her brain in that state. She cannot make herself see colors without having seen colors. It's a physical limitation on how the human body works. Knowledge does not suddenly give a human the ability to do what he/she knows about. Her brain would need the actual colors, the light, to hit her eyes for the brain to be in that state. That's when she would say 'wow', to use Jackson and others' words.

Saints and Sceptics said...

So she does know every physical fact about what it would be like but she doesn't...

(and please read Jackson's reasons for rejecting the results of the thought experiment again.)

Hugo said...

"So she does know every physical fact about what it would be like but she doesn't..."

No, you changed the wording this time; you had it correctly in your previous comment (with mine inserted):

Mary knows what her brain state would be. But she doesn't know "what it's like" to have that brain state because she cannot put her brain in that state. Knowledge does not suddenly give a human the ability to do that. And no amount of information about brain states can tell her "what it is like" because she cannot make herself see colors without having seen colors. It's a physical limitation on how the human body works.

Now we are running in circles because you see a contradiction where I don't see one. The problem, I think, is that you equate 'knows everything about the physical world' with 'knows everything'. Nowhere does it say in the thought experiment that Mary literally knows everything, and that she can't possibly learn anything new. We would not ask the question 'does she learn anything by stepping out' otherwise!

Therefore, because we know she did not experience everything physical, as she lives in a colorless environment, we know that she would learn something new when coming out of the house and seeing colors for the first time. She would learn what it feels like to have the brain states associated with color viewing from a first person perspective, instead of simply knowing about how colors are processed by brains to form an image. Just like we know that some birds see UV light but we cannot really imagine what it looks like (I read that some humans appear to be able to by the way, and it's really hard for them to describe what they see because our language simply does not have the words for it...)

I would add this: if she did know how it feels like to see colors, because she literally knows everything about any experience, this would imply that she has more than just knowledge of everything; it would mean that she literally knows how it feels like to be someone else, anyone, anywhere at any time, with their memories and everything they know and experienced. She would know how it feels to be both a man and a woman. She would know how it feels to be in love, any kind of love, any kind of relationship. She would know how it feels to remember anything, without having these memories herself, etc... She would not just know how the physical world works; she would know how it feels like to experience everything in the physical world. This is way beyond what the thought experiment is about.

Cheers

Bob said...

@Saints and Sceptics


Mary knows what her brain state would be. But she doesn't know "what it's like" to have that brain state.

And no amount of information about brain states can tell her "what it is like". No amount of information about the physical world can tell he "what it is like".



The bolded bit is false.

Physically experiencing that brain state is physical information about that brain state. Therefore having that physical information can tell her "what it is like".

Language is a way to communicate associations. Our senses, of course, communicate physical information, that which is referenced by an association.

When you say "Mary knows", what you are really saying is that certain associations have been communicated to Mary. The problem being that Mary has no reference for the association, thus the association is meaningless. In fact, Mary does not know.

That said, perhaps I am completely misunderstanding the argument.

So answer this question, if you would.

What non-physical information (you can explain what this is) could be provided to Mary prior to her leaving her little room that would let her know what it is like to experience colour?

amorbis said...

Speaking as a dualist myself, I've always felt like the "Mary" argument (formally known as the "knowledge argument") was rather weak. As far as I can tell, the argument depends on the idea that sensory qualities - colors, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. - only exist in our experience of the world, and not in the physical world itself. If these sensory qualities actually do exist in the physical world itself like they seem to in experience, the knowledge argument fails to establish dualism. The lesson the argument teaches us is simply that sensory qualities are distinct from the mathematical structure and dynamics that the natural sciences deal with, not that consciousness is non-physical. (Ed Feser made this exact point in the blog post that Saints and Sceptics linked earlier.)

Hugo said...

The lesson the argument teaches us is simply that sensory qualities are distinct from the mathematical structure and dynamics that the natural sciences deal with

I don't think it succeeds at achieving that either. You cannot see 'green' without having the corresponding wavelength of light hit your eye. The physical properties of that light can be described mathematically.

im-skeptical said...

My comment on Plantinga's EEAN here

Papalinton said...

The EAAN? Oh Yes. The 'sensus divinitatis' man.