On 28 February Alex Moran (University of Oxford) delivered a talk entitled 'Knowing the Qualitative: Colour, Consciousness, and Objectivity' at the University of Warsaw.
Abstract: Frank Jackson's famous "Mary argument", which aims to show that physicalism, construed as the thesis that all facts are physical facts, runs roughly as follows. We imagine a brilliant colour scientist, Mary, who has never seen red due to having always lived in a black and white room. We reason that plausibly, she could end up in a situation where (1) She knows all of the physical facts (despite not yet having seen red), but that (2) upon seeing red for the first time, she'll learn a new fact, thus making it the case that (3) at least some facts are non-physical facts. So physicalism is false. Many philosophers believe that premise (1) should be accepted while it is (2) we must deny. However, we can also run the argument with a focus on the knowledge Mary gains about the colour red itself, rather than her experience of red. And in that case, I argue, our only real option is to deny (1). This result, I claim, has broader implications for the debate about the place of consciousness within the physical world, and indeed, the place of qualitative properties more generally, including non-conscious properties such as the redness of the rose (which we can imagine Mary seeing when she steps for the first time out of her black and white room). But we will also see that this result threatens the objectivity of colour, and by extension, of the qualitative itself. One of the more speculative aims of thet talk will be to suggest a way of preserving the objectivity of the qualitative even in the face of the variant Mary argument.
Alex Moran is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in philosophy at the University of Oxford. His PhD research at the University of Cambridge investigated the nature of perception. His current research continues to focus on perception, as well as traditional problems about consciousness. He also writes about various topics in contemporary metaphysics and has interests in aspects of early modern philosophy, early analytic philosophy, and metaethics.