The Knowledge Argument and the Problem of Qualia
Uslu, Ahmet Kadir
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In the history of philosophy, the mind-body problem is a traditional problem that examines the relation between mind and body. It simply seeks an answer for the question: what is the relation between mental properties and physical properties? The modern version of the mind-body problem is called the problem of consciousness. Accordingly, philosophers try to explain how and why we have conscious states or phenomenal experiences rather than nonconscious states. In other words, why is there ‘something it is like’ for a person in conscious experience? Conscious experience seems the hardest problem of consciousness because it is subjective. The subjective aspect of experience is considered as a big threat against physicalism since there is still no sufficient explanation about how it arises from a physical basis. ‘Phenomenal experience’ and ‘qualia’ are the other terms that refer to conscious experience. Proponents of qualia claim that no physical theory of mind can explain the qualitative character of subjective experience because qualia are not reducible to the physical properties of the mind. On the other hand, physicalists argue that mental states are brain states and brain states are physical states. Therefore, there is no reason to conclude that qualia lie beyond the scope of physicalist theory of mind. Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument is one of the main objections against physicalism. The main aim of this text is to argue whether ‘the knowledge argument’ really threatens physicalism. In this context, I first discuss what the term ‘qualia’ means and how it became the essential part of the consciousness debates. Then I examine the knowledge argument in detail. In the second chapter, I argue two main objections to the knowledge argument, respectively Daniel Dennett’s radical objection and the ability hypothesis. However, I show that both of them have some flaws. Lastly, I assert that the old fact-new mode analysis is the best possible answer to the knowledge argument.