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Title: 'In spaceships they won't understand' : the knowledge argument, past, present and future
Author: Coleman, Sam Joseph.
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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According to Jackson's Knowledge Argument, since one can know everything physical about someone, without being able to know the quality of their experience, this experience is more than physical. Jackson, now a physicalist, no longer accepts the Argument. Through chronological treatment of his evolving position, I defend it against objections, including his own. The Argument, properly understood and reinforced, should still prompt Jackson - and us - away from physicalism. The trajectory of Jackson's thought moves from presenting the Argument to refute physicalism, through developing semantic apparatus to strengthen it and supply arguments against non-reductive physicalism, to adopting reductive physicalism and embracing the Ability Hypothesis. At each stage I propose changes to his view. 1. The Argument's formulation needlessly tempts towards the Ability Hypothesis. I propose small changes to avoid this. 2. Jackson never adequately treats the Ability Hypothesis. I argue against it on two grounds: i. Abilities to which Mary's are assimilated involve phenomenal knowledge. Phenomenal knowledge being basic to abilities - not vice-versa - reduction of Mary's knowledge to ability does not render it fact-free. This depends on prior judgement of whether phenomenal knowledge involves factual knowledge. The hypothesis is dialectically unhelpful therefore. ii. I broadly endorse Tye's argument that phenomenal knowledge is factual. 3. Jackson attacks the a posteriori physicalist orthodoxy using two-dimensionalism, but: i. His neo-descriptivism requires support. I sketch a theory of reference that would provide the necessary foundations. ii. His account as formulated offers a posteriori physicalists a loophole. I defend an ambitious thesis about phenomenal/physical conceptual relations that prevents this. 4. Conceptual-dualist views, where we can't see that experience is physical due to unusual behaviour of phenomenal concepts, are criticised. Considerations involving concepts cannot have sufficient force here. The conceptual-dualist suggests that phenomenal concepts mislead about the nature of their referents. But given popular views of phenomenal concepts, there seems no room for us to be misled as required. 5. Jackson's current view, combining representationalism with the Ability Hypothesis to yield reductive physicalism, is criticised. The representationalist component does not make it conceivable that Mary could work out what it's like. And the Ability Hypothesis cannot 'capture the cognitive novelty Mary encounters. Thus neither part, nor the mixture of them, does its job, and Jackson's new position fails. 6. conclude that, the Knowledge Argument's puzzle undiminished, panexperientialism is the best solution. The theory is first motivated on a Lewisian basis: I emphasise its potential to give physicalists and anti-physicalists what they want. Next, I address some common doubts about panexperientialism, such as its initial implausibility, and the combination problem.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available