in which the apple experiments with new coloring

Amourshipping Week Day 2: Letters

Rain pattered against the roof as wind howled among the treetops. Students and teacher huddled near the center of the classroom, trying to stay clear of the elements raging outside.

“Well, even Melemele can deal with foul weather sometimes,” Professor Kukui told the class with a sheepish laugh, rubbing the back of his head self-consciously. “Our field trip will have to wait until tomorrow, eh?”

Disappointment weighed heavily in the air, perhaps even more smothering than the humidity from the storm.

A brief knock rapped on the door. “How about a fun assignment to chase away the bad weather blues?” 

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anonymous asked:

Hi! I just finished my course in philosophy of mind, thought and consciousness. I absolutely loved it, one of my favourite courses. I was wondering what stance you take on in the philosophical problem of Mary's Room. Do you think she learns anything? Personally, I believe she gains an ability but there is no knowledge that understood.

For those not acquainted with Mary’s room, this is a thought experiment by the Australian philosopher Frank Jackson in his 1982 article Epiphenomenal Qualia: http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/Courses/FrankJacksonphil1.pdf

He contends that there is more to the world than just the physical by arguing that certain conscious states are not physical. Imagine a person, Mary, who since birth has been living in a sealed black and white room. Nothing in the room is colored, and suppose Mary has never had visual experiences of color. She has spent her life studying all the physical information there is to know. For example, she knows the intricate science behind how light photons enter the human eye and interacts with the retina, along with everything else there is to know about the neural pathways it is connected to which leads to a person’s experience of color. Now suppose one day she finds a trap door and inside she finds, on a stool, a red apple. “So that’s what red looks like!” she exclaims. 

It seems intuitive to say she’s learned something new: Mary has learned what it is like to see red. This phenomenally conscious experience of seeing red is something that’s utterly new to her. But she had all the physical information. Therefore what she’s learned about is something non-physical. The experience itself, though it happens in the actual world to always be accompanied by certain neural firings and processes, is nonphysical. 

Though I personally hold that phenomenally conscious states are ultimately non-physical I don’t know if this particular argument is successful. I recommend Torin Alter’s excellent article on Mary’s room from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/know-arg.

I end with some thoughts on the relation between consciousness and the brain. Some have thought that conscious states must be identical to certain brain states because, e.g., when certain parts of the brain are impaired or even gone this affects one’s ability to have phenomenally conscious visual experiences. But I don’t think this should convince us to think phenomenal states just are certain brain/physical states. Just because we show that x depends on y doesn’t mean that x is identical to y. A fire may depend on wood for its existence, but that doesn’t entail that the fire is identical to the wood. Nor is it identical to any other thing that serves as its fuel. Similarly, just because the existence of our phenomenal states depends on the brain does not entail that these states are identical to any neural states.