Mary’s Room

The Australian philosopher Frank Jackson devised a thought experiment to represent a Knowledge Argument in 1982.

Mary is extremely smart, she is educated on neuroscience to the point where she is an expert on the subject. Mary has read about everything there is to know about the perception of colour in the brain as well as the physical facts about how light works in order to create the different wavelengths and colours and about how the brain processes visual stimuli. She knows every scientific fact about what happens when we see colour.

Except, Mary herself has never seen a coloured object. A red strawberry, a brown chocolate, colourful m&m’s, the blue ocean, the yellow sun… Mary has never seen any of these!

Mary has lived her entire life in a black and white room. Her books are black and white, her hair is black, her T.V is black and white, and even her clothes. She has never directly experienced or seen anything in colour, all she knows about colour is given in her textbooks.

But one day, the door opens to the outside world. Suddenly, she sees what she has been researching for all these years – colour! The question is, even though she knows everything about what should happen inside her brain now, does she learn anything new? Does she learn anything new by seeing a green tree or a red apple that she couldn’t get out of reading textbooks?

If she does, we’ll have to conclude that mental states like seeing colour cannot be perfectly explained by physical facts. There has to be more to it, something that’s dependent on conscious experience.

If she doesn’t learn anything new, we’ll have to go with the idea that knowing physical facts is identical to experiencing something.

I think that there are some non-physical properties and attainable knowledge that can only be discovered through conscious experience. A tiny bit like love – we have read about it and most of us even know the hormones like dopamine and serotonin involved. But when we actually experience love for the first time, it feels like something completely out of the world!

Is the way in which we experience the world more than just simple biochemical processes in the brain? Is our mind more than our brain? What do you think?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

246 thoughts on “Mary’s Room

  1. Yes you are right I agree with you . As you have raised a question what is actually a brain. It is a greatest mysterious creation the part is so intellectual in it’s own. Not only it heals your other parts but heels itself. Electric pulses carrying information is itself a mystery.

    Liked by 3 people

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  4. Very nice summary of Mary’s Room!

    The thing to consider is what we mean by “she knows every scientific fact about what happens when we see colour”. Does that include, for instance, simulations of the effects color would have on her own nervous system? If so, then when she has the actual experience, there shouldn’t be any surprises.

    If not, then “every scientific fact” wouldn’t be all the physical facts, but then her learning something new wouldn’t have non-physical implications.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to grasp so much approximately this, such as you wrote the e-book in it or something. I feel that you just could do with some to drive the message house a little bit, however other than that, this is great blog.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Thought provoking.
    We are spiritual beings using the mind. The brain contains the electrical channels we use to operate the body.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. When you experience love for the first time, how do you know it is even love?

    The ancient Greeks had multiple words that we would translate as love. They weren’t synonyms. Each meant an entirely different thing, and each would be called “love” by an English speaker. And the ancients didn’t think any of these things could save the world.

    The early Christians maintained that God’s love (“agapon” – esteem) for mankind could save souls, but even they didn’t believe in the power of any other kind of love.

    An ancient Roman poet wrote “love conquers all” but it’s anyone’s guess what he meant by that.

    As another comment pointed out, hate is not the opposite of love. Hate, fear and love are all phases of the oxytocin response.

    I had a friend who argued that objectively there was no such thing as the color red. I disagreed, but saw no point in arguing with him. He was one of those who was always wrong about things that didn’t impact him, and always right when he needed to be right.

    My favorite color is blue, and I have no idea why. It just is.

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  8. Bonjour ou bonsoir mon amie SANIA

    Bonjour mon amie ami
    Je pense que cette journée sera illuminée de soleil
    Je viens te souhaiter une belle journée
    Sous une mélodie chanter par les oiseaux

    Journée de bonheur ou rien ne viendra te perturber
    Cette journée sera de beauté
    Bonsoir Amie AMI

    Pour cette nuit
    Je te souhaite une nuit de repos bien méritée
    Remplit de rèves flatteurs
    Des rèves que toi seule à le secret de bien gardé
    Sache que certains reves peuvent devenir réalité
    Que cette journée et soirée te soit des plus agréables
    Bisous amicales Bernard

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Exactly so. There is no way for Mary to have the mental states of seeing red without actually having the experience. It doesn’t matter how much you know about seeing red — actually seeing it is a different mental state.

    Liked by 3 people

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