March 28th, 2008

eyes black and white

Jackson's Mary

At a recent talk at BU about Consciousness, Steven Horst, a professor of philosophy at Wesleyan advanced an apparently well-known argument by Frank Jackson. The argument uses the thought experiment of a woman named Mary, kept in a controlled environment of black, white and grey, and at the same time made to know everything that the most advanced future (omni)science of the physical world can possibly tell her about the brain. Now, argues Jackson, when she is made to see something red at last, she learns something new that could not be contained in such knowledge. And thus, concludes Horst with Jackson, there is something beyond the physical world that is necessary for this experience to happen.

Of course this vulgar mystical argument is based on a typical confusion between object and representation — the ultimate source of insanity according to Korzybski.

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