The Knowledge Argument and Introspective Inaccuracy

Derk Pereboom

in Consciousness and the Prospects of Physicalism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199764037
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895243 | DOI:

Series: Philosophy of Mind Series

The Knowledge Argument and Introspective Inaccuracy

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Chapter 1 contends that it is a serious open possibility that introspection misrepresents phenomenal properties as having qualitative natures that they really lack, and that this possibility supplies a response to Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument. If this possibility were actual, then the appearance that microphysically omniscient Mary learns something new upon leaving her black-and-white room could be due to our ignorance of this misrepresentation. When Mary leaves the room and sees the red tomato we imagine her having the belief of the form: (A) Seeing red has R, On a first proposal, ‘R’ is taken to refer to a property with a qualitative nature accurately represented by the introspective what-it-is-like-to-sense-red mode of presentation. Then because phenomenal redness has no such nature, what Mary believes would be false, and thus she would not acquire a new true belief. On the other hand, if ‘R’ is conceived instead to refer to a property with a qualitative nature that appears to Mary in the what-it-is-like-to-sense-red way, yet is misrepresented by this mode of presentation, and is instead straightforwardly physical, we can suppose that her belief is true. But since in the room she already believed the truth expressed by (A), she also would not acquire a new true belief. So either the belief of form (A) is false, or it is true but Mary already had it when she was in the room. On neither option is the knowledge argument sound.

Keywords: phenomenal property; consciousness; introspection; misrepresentation; secondary quality; knowledge argument; physicalism; Frank Jackson

Chapter.  10787 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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