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Kevin Schutte

I wish I could remember what book it was, but I once asked a colleague of mine about a book on Frank Jackson's problem of Mary & her black-and-white room. The solution was that Mary learned a bit of know-how, rather than any knowledge-that. My intuitions suggest the same. Just because ascriptions of varying abilities to know red seem incredible, that doesn't mean that you and I both don't know how to see red (because the incredibleness could be a problem with the ascriptions rather than with the knowledge; it could be a private language difficulty rather than an epistemology difficulty).

marc moffett

Hi Kevin,

It has been a while since I have read anything about Mary, so hopefully I don't get things too screwed up!

There is a tradition of trying to solve the Mary Problem by appealing to know-how (first proposed by Nemirow). The claim, in effect, is that Mary really does know all the physical facts while in the room. What she learns when she sees her first red delicious apple is a bit of know-how. (It is worth noting that one could maintain this strategy by claiming that what she learns is an ability w/out identifying cogntive abilities with know-how; that is a further thesis.) But if she does learn some know-how, what is it? Is it that she learns how to see red? If that is the proposal, then it just seems like a non-starter to me. My inclination is to say that she already knows how to see red while in the room, namely, by looking at red things in normal conditions. In fact, if she didn't already have the ability while in the room, then it would be hard to see why she saw red when she got out!

A better suggestion would be that she learns how to identify red things by looking at them. But even this is might be susceptible to the worry that she already had the proposed ability while in the room, but that the enabling conditions just weren't in place.

Aidan McGlynn

Nemirow's original proposal was that Mary's coming to know what it is like to see red consists in her coming to know how to imagine red. Lewis added knowing how to recognize and remember red. To my knowledge, no one has suggested that she comes to know how to see red. One of those guys discusses the worry that these kinds of abilities are ones Mary could have in her room (I think - think - it's Lewis, but I'm really not sure). Whoever it is, they argue that such an objection misses the point of the kind of response to the knowledge argument allows one to make. But I can't remember the details.

marc moffett

Thanks Aidan. It has been a VERY long time since I've looked at that stuff--though I am going to be teaching it after the break.

I have to add, however, that knowing how to imagine/recognize/remember red all seem like non-starters to me as well.

In all of these cases, it is possible to imagine scenarios where it makes sense to say such things. For instance, suppose you are playing a video game and what you have to do before progressing is to get him to see any red object hidden in the game. You learn the trick (e.g., learn where a certain red jewel is hidden) and then tell your friend that you now know how to see red in the game. That sounds ok to me. But it isn't at all comparable to what is going on in the Mary case.

Does anybody else feel the same way about those cases?

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This is very good, I like your point of view and best of all is that I have to do a paper based on Intellectual definitions.

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