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Higher seminar in theoretical philosophy: Alexander Moran (Oxford)


Date: Thursday 28 April 2022

Time: 13.15 – 15.00

Location: D700 & Zoom

Knowing the qualitative: Grounding physicalism and the knowledge argument


This paper explores a neglected response to the well-known knowledge argument against physicalism. That argument turns on two main premises: (1) That Mary knows all of the physical facts in her black and white room, and (2) that she learns a new fact when she leaves the room and experiences red for the first time. Together, the premises entail that Mary learns a new non-physical fact, and hence that physicalism is false. The consensus in the literature is that to respond to this argument, physicalists should grant the first premise and deny the second. However, this paper explores an alternate reply, which is available to non-reductive physicalists, and that denies the first premise instead. On this view, Mary could not have known all of the physical facts while in the black and white room (prior to experiencing red), because some physical facts are knowable only on the basis of experience. The main aim of the paper is to explore and develop this response within a grounding physicalist setting.