Thursday, February 8, 2024

Something Mary doesn't know

Here is something our old friend Mary, raised in a black and white world, cannot know simply by knowing all of physics:

  1. What are the necessary and sufficient physical conditions for two individuals to be in exactly the same phenomenal state?

Of course, her being raised in a black and white world is a red herring. I think nobody can know the answer to (2) simply by knowing all of physics.

Some remarks:

  • Knowledge of the answer to (1) is clearly factual descriptive knowledge. So responses to the standard knowledge argument for dualism that distinguish kinds of knowledge have no effect here.

  • The answer to (1) could presumably be formulated entirely in the language of physics.

  • Question (1) has a presupposition, namely that there are necessary and sufficient physical conditions, but the physicalist can’t deny that.

  • A sufficient conditions is easy given physicalism: the individuals have the exact same physical state.

  • Dennettian RoboMary-style simulation does not solve the question. One might hope that if you rewrite your software, you can check if you have the same qualia before and after the rewrite. But the problem is that you can only really do exact comparisons of qualia that you see in a unified way, and there is insufficient unification of your state across the software rewrite.

No comments: