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 🧚🏻♀️