Solving the Mind-Body Problem - The Real Significance of the Knowledge Argument

Nicholson, Dennis (2003) Solving the Mind-Body Problem - The Real Significance of the Knowledge Argument. [Preprint]


There is a more recent version of this eprint available. Click here to view it.

Full text available as:



The Knowledge Argument is misconstructed. Knowing that it is ‘just obvious’ that Mary will learn something new on leaving her black and white room, we nevertheless assume she can acquire a complete knowledge of the physical inside it – thereby predetermining the outcome of the thought experiment in favour of a refutation of physicalism. If we reformulate the argument to leave the question of what she can learn in the room open, it becomes clear, not only that physicalism can survive the Knowledge Argument, but also that there is only one perspective on the relationship between qualia and the physical that will permit it to do so. If physicalism is true, this perspective must be the correct view of the qualia-physical relationship – the solution to the mind-body problem, a conclusion supported by its ability to resolve a number of associated difficulties, including Kripke’s problem for proposed identities and Chalmers’ Hard Problem.

Item Type:Preprint
Keywords:knowledge argument mind-body problem physicalism hard problem
Subjects:Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
ID Code:2951
Deposited By:Nicholson, Dennis
Deposited On:19 May 2003
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:55

Available Versions of this Item

References in Article

Select the SEEK icon to attempt to find the referenced article. If it does not appear to be in cogprints you will be forwarded to the paracite service. Poorly formated references will probably not work.

Alter, Torin 1998: "A Limited Defense of the Knowledge Argument", Philosophical Studies, 90, pp. 35-56.

Alter, Torin 2001: "Know-how, Ability, and the Ability Hypothesis", Theoria 67, pp. 229-239.

Alter, Torin No Date: "Knowledge Argument". Available at

Bigelow J. and Pargetter R 1990: “Aquaintance with Qualia”, Theoria 56, pp. 129-147

Chalmers, David J. 1995: "Facing up to the problem of consciousness", Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2(3), pp. 200-219

Chalmers, David J. 1996: The Conscious Mind. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Churchland, P.M. 1985: "Reduction, Qualia, and the Direct Introspection of Brain states". Journal of Philosophy, 82, pp. 8-28.

Conee, E. 1994: "Phenomenal Knowledge", Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 72, pp. 136-150

Dennett, Daniel 1991: Consciousness Explained. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Deutsch, Max 1998: "Subjective Physical Facts",

Flanagan, O. 1992: Consciousness Reconsidered Cambridge: MIT Press.

Gertler, Brie 1999: "A Defense of the Knowledge Argument". Philosophical Studies, 93, pp. 317-36.

Graham, G. and Horgan, T. 2000: "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary", Philosophical Studies, 99, pp. 59-87.

Horgan, T. 1984: "Jackson on Physical Information and Qualia", Philosophical Quarterly, 34, pp. 147-52.

Jackson, Frank 1982: "Epiphenomenal Qualia". Philosophical Quarterly, 32, pp. 127-36.

Jackson, Frank 1986: "What Mary Didn't Know", The Journal of Philosophy, 83, pp. 291-95.

Jackson, Frank 1998: "Postscript on Qualia", in Jackson, Frank, Mind, Method, and Conditionals: Selected Essays.

London and NewYork: Routledge, pp. 76-79.

Kripke, S 1980: Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lewis, D. 1988: "What Experience Teaches", in Proceedings of the Russellian I Society. Sydney: University of Sydney, 1988. Rpt. In Lycan, William G. ed., Mind and Cognition: A Reader.Cambridge, MIT: Blackwell, pp. 499-519.

Loar, B., 1990: “Phenomenal States (Revised Version)”, in Block, N., Flanagan, O., Güzeldere, G. eds., The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates, Preprint available at:

Lycan, W. 1995: "A Limited Defense of Phenomenal Information", in Metzinger, T. ed., Conscious Experience. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, pp. 243-258

Lycan, W. 1996: Consciousness and Experience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp.91-108.

McGinn, Colin 1989: “Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem”, Mind, Vol xcviii, no. 891, July 1989. Reprinted in McGinn, Colin 1991: The Problem of Consciousness. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp. 1-22.

Mellor, D. 1993: “Nothing Like Experience”. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 93, pp.1-16.

Nagel, T. 1974: "What is it Like to be a Bat?". The Philosophical review, 83, pp. 435-450. Reprinted in his Mortal Questions. Cambridge University press 193-214.

Nemirov, L. 1980: “Review of Mortal Questions by Thomas Nagel”, Philosophical Review 89, pp 473-477.

Nemirov, L. 1990: "Physicalism and the Cognitive Role of Acquaintance", in Lycan, William G. ed., Mind and Cognition: A Reader.Cambridge, MIT: Blackwell, pp. 490-499.

Nida-Rümelin, M. 2002: “Qualia: The Knowledge Argument”, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available at

Papineau, David 1993: "Physicalism, Consciousness and the Antipathetic Fallacy". Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 71: 169-183.

Papineau, David 1995: "The Antipathetic Fallacy and the Boundaries of Consciousness", in Metzinger, T., Conscious Experience. Paderborn: Schoningh.

Robinson, Howard 1993: "Dennett on the Knowledge Argument". Analysis, 53.3, pp. 174-77.

Sleigh, R. C. 1995: “Identity of Indiscernibles”, in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (edited by Ted Honderich). Available in

Sommers, Tamler 2002: “Of Zombies, Color Scientists, and Floating Iron Bars”. Psyche, 8(22), November 2002, available at

Thomas, Nigel J.T. 1998: "Mary Doesn't Know Science: On Misconceiving a Science of Consciousness", read at the annual meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association, March 26, 1998, available at

Tye, Michael 1986: "The Subjective Qualities of Experience", Mind, 95, pp. 1-17.

Tye, Michael 1999: "Phenomenal Consciousness: The Explanatory Gap as a Cognitive Illusion", Mind, 108, pp. 705-725.

Vinueza, Adam No date: "The Knowledge Argument", in Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind (edited by Chris Eliasmith). Available at


Repository Staff Only: item control page