Objection to Physicalism

Topics: Physicalism, Philosophy of mind, Color Pages: 4 (1272 words) Published: April 6, 2014

Brandon Ganz

PHL 101

Prof. McCormick


Mind Unit

Following contemporary philosophy, physicalism is the theory that everything in our universe is entirely physical and nothing is non-physical. In Frank Jackson’s well known objection to physicalism, “What Mary didn’t know,” he states it as “not the noncontroversial thesis that the actual world is largely physical, but the challenging thesis that it is entirely physical.”(Jackson 281) Already physicalism finds itself in the difficult position of proving that all things are physical, even though the common belief would be that there are some non-physical aspects of our universe. The center to Jackson’s argument is that knowledge of an experience (known as phenomenal qualia) or knowing what it is like to experience something is in fact non-physical knowledge about other people. Philosopher David Lewis goes on to provide a physicalist response to Jackson in his work titled “Knowing What It’s Like” by claiming that “knowing what it’s like is not the possession of information at all.”(Lewis 1) In this paper, I will create a further objection against Lewis because I believe physicalism to be false. I will do this by challenging Lewis’s claim that a person only gains the abilities to recognize, imagine, and predict behavior due to an experience.

Jackson forms his knowledge argument against physicalism around the assertion that a person does not know everything even if they possess the knowledge of all physical facts. In his objection he presents Mary. A girl who has spent her entire life inside an enclosed room where she has vigorously studied all completed sciences for her entire life. She therefore knows all there is to know about the physical aspects of the universe, but in her isolated environment she has only ever experienced the colors black and white. Everything including the walls, books, and television monitors of the room are completely in black and white. The problem for...
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