Frank Jackson's famous 'Mary's Room' Thought Experiment

This video triggered a certain breakthrough for me.

Jeffrey Kaplan

~ 4:45
Mary’s Room Thought Experiment,

The thing is, we are first and foremost Evolved Biological Beings.

Our “experience” is fundamentally different from intellectual “knowing”.

The problem is that Mary’s Thought Experiment is oblivious (or is it dismissive) to the fact that our intellectual experience isn’t limited to our brain’s information processing abilities - the cells of our body are an active component of the mind’s mental processing and our ‘experiencing’!

And this brings us back to the importance of a deep awareness of the physical reality ~ human mindscape divide is essential before any of the rest of it can start making sense.

8:00 Jackson discusses, “physical information” but he never seems to get to thinking about the inputs coming from throughout our bodies, or for that matter also from the physical environment constantly interactions with our bodies, which are an extension of our brain.

8:57 - Kaplan
"we were initially inclined to define physicalism in terms of objects in the world,
and now we’re talking entirely in terms of facts or information about objects.
I guess so, that’s a little weird, maybe that’s not a problem at all.

But it is the crucial move right because the example of mary’s room is an example of someone who doesn’t encounter some new objects exactly it’s an example of someone who learns a new type of fact a new piece of information"

~ 4:45 The thing is, we are first and foremost Evolved Biological Beings.

Our “experience” is fundamentally different from intellectual “knowing”.

The Mary’s Thought Experiment is oblivious (or is it dismissive) to the fact that our intellectual experience isn’t limited to our brain’s information processing abilities - the cells of our body are an active component of our mind’s mental processing and our ‘experiencing’! That’s why an experience is more meaningful than all the information in the world.

Human awareness of the physical reality ~ human mindscape divide is essential before any of those questions can start making sense of the reality we live. As opposed to the drama unfolding within out minds.

Or to put it more poetically, Jackson drives way beyond his headlights (the facts he possesses). :yum:

12:50 Epiphenomenalism -

Epiphenomenal and such, besides reinforcing my above sentiment, spotlights why I sincerely believe that philosophy without a deep thorough knowledge of our biological evolutionary roots unfolding over deep time, a doomed exercise.

As for the Princess Elizabeth Problem

17:35 - Kaplan
Princess Elizabeth points out that seems totally impossible. If the mind is not itself physical if the mind is not material stuff extended in space then it can’t get into space to move things around like move the move the the fingers or move the neurons in my brain or anything.

Like that was the problem was stuff causes stuff to happen in the world, and so that seemed like it was a problem for dualism.

It’s difficult to understand how such an Argument From Ignorance can still be batted around in this age of Electricity.

Seems like he’s covering what you’re saying, but not in your words. If Mary can learn what it’s “like” to see red, that’s a whole body experience, not just the facts of what red is and the physical stuff that produces the image in our brains.

Retelling the Princess Elizabeth story doesn’t mean we are still “batting around” her argument. We often study the early science, the discoverer, alongside what they discovered. How the first experiments were done helps our minds work through the meaning of the results.

I don’t believe in teasers, such as around 4:15 there’s a hint, at best.
Our whole body awareness during any moment of our actual lives (as opposed to, within just so mind experiments "goes well beyond “all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes.”

That’s why I tend to include “explicit recognition” - when I bring up the reality/mind divide - hints are inadequate.
Listen to what he says at 5:00, that isn’t how our biological reality unfolds.

4:46 - Kaplan
color vision the key thing. In that she gets all of the physical information, and that it’s totally possible that she could get all of this physical information because the kinds of physical information that science discovers is the kind of information that you could have explained to you, you know when you’re locked in a room through a black and white television it might be boring and it might be hard to focus …

Thats an idealized philosophical statement.
Touch and smell sensations, not to mention the timing of all the inputs of the actual experience, as opposed to the collection of facts, isn’t anywhere near so simple and straight forward.
Much is lost in such a reduction.

No ‘seeing’ is a fraction of our whole body experience.

My point is, she can’t - a cartoon idealization could, but a real living biological human, no.
Don’t forget real living consciousness is a thing of the moment, it’s not a library of collated facts.

Kaplan … it seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it but then it is inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete

This seems sloppy to me. Story goes from visual experience that morphs into "all the physical information. So of course, Ergo Physicalism is false. All I see is a just-so-story, that misses what it’s actually like to be a living biological creature.

Okay, so are we discussing, seeing, or experiencing?
I’m told philosophy is rigorous, so why such sloppiness?

And, it seems to me here the sloppiness smack right up against my complaint, that too many are unclear about the divide between Physical Reality and what’s going on inside of our minds, this “physical information”

After 18:00… breaking down this epiphenomenalism - it tells us that our thoughts are the steam of our brain’s physical engine (18:20ish), a one-way transaction.

18:21 - Kaplan
The mental stuff doesn’t move physical stuff it doesn’t cause physical events in the world it’s distinct non-physical it’s just a byproduct.

But scientists know that our thoughts are in a two-way conversation with the body. We also know that the physical world is constantly providing feedback that constrains our thoughts, so that’s interaction also.

Though Kaplan does come clean,

19:11 - Kaplan
Epiphenomenal we can’t leave our explanation of it without noting how absolutely bonkers and radical epiphenomenalism is, it’s totally cuckoo in a certain sense. …

Okay, so I’ve listen to the video again with your thoughts in mind.


Why isn’t a first base explicit recognition of the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide discussed, rather than simply rehashing all these philosophical arguments, that basically belong to generations where even the smartest scholars, didn’t have a fraction of the real world knowledge any attentive science and learning enthusiast possesses these days?

Hinting at it, isn’t enough.

Well I see it come up every now and then, ‘retelling’ without immediately point out its fallacy sure does seem like grappling with it. But that get’s back to the Philosophy, which I’m told isn’t about answers, but about questions. Maybe that’s why it often irritates me, too often it feels like argument for argument sake.

It’s nearly impossible to talk about philosophy without doing philosophy. Especially on this topic. You’re not the only person who says there is no “hard problem consciousness”, but, the debate goes on. You can bring in all the science there is, but you can’t demonstrate that you experience red in the same way that I do.

I don’t have the time or inclination to listen in detail and show time stamps where I think he is stating his conclusions vs describing the various thoughts and ideas that are out there. I think the Princess Elizabeth story is interesting, so it doesn’t bother me that we are still discussing it. I’ve only heard it a few times, and each time, the counterarguments and flaws in her reasoning were also presented. That’s part of science, like, even though there are many things Darwin got wrong, or left out, we still call it “Darwinian Evolution”.

But that is exactly Max Tegmark’s argument. If there was such a thing a s dualism it should be measurable either directly or indirectly for external influences on normal physics as performed by the brain and neural system.

Actually isn’t that framing usually used by people trying to denigrate evolution

Right and I’m constantly knocking it yet, I’ve spent my life doing it in my mind, if by my own irregular rules.
So I’m striving to offer simple, supportable, critique. Isn’t that what it’s about?

Fair enough. I wasn’t expecting that, for me it’s more about backing up my statements and being as clear as possible. Give others a handle to grab, offer something to dissect and build on in this debate.

I’m not knocking Kaplan, he didn’t state anything, he’s a professor describing the arguments, and apparently Jackson has even changed the story/argument. I’m wrestling with the words used and the ideas themselves.

Are you implying what I’m trying to do is pointless and irrelevant?
When it’s irrelevant whether your Red is my Red.
When so much more is going in actual living perception and consciousness and interactions, that such reductions feel like insults from a certain perspective.

How we frame questions restrains the answer we can hope for.

What are you trying to say here?
Because, it’s seems Philosophy has been a bit like a May Pole Dance. Am I just supposed to get in line?

When I can define and discuss an inflection point, that all too many simply dancing around.

I also know that at heart I’m not saying anything new, the recent books I’ve read (Godfrey-Smith, J.Poskett, D. Quammen, J. LeDoux) all have been mind blowing and reassuring in how well my conceptions harmonize. Heck, needed a break so am listening to Steinbeck’s “Log from the Sea of Cortez” only to be blown away by passages, that are almost riffs off some of my thoughts (sure the other way around). It’s amazing how well he summarizes the bigger picture and this in 1940. Oh to have the time and personal disciple to thoroughly review that, too.

Yes, philosophy is philosophy, but rehashing outdated ideas and arguments doesn’t make sense to me. Especially in today’s world that has so radically changed over the past century, in knowledge and power.
Talkie, talk Philosophy needs to catch up to evolutionary/biological understanding.

Actually, we can demonstrate that each individual experiences red in a different way and what we have named “red” is by general scientific consensus as consisting of a specific range of wavelengths as measured by artificial means, not by personal perception (see color blindness).

Note that we can only physically experience a very small portion of the EM, even as we can measure and represent nearly the entire spectrum by artificial means.

No. I’m saying the question is not answerable, given our knowledge. Maybe you’re right, but it’s not demonstrable. To me, it’s an interesting part of being human. Maybe redness is not that big of a deal. But similar statements can be said about pain, people experience it differently. That leads to ethical questions.

I can’t see/experience through your eyes/body,
and I’m wondering why must that be the center of attention.

Taking it back my starting point,

Why should I accept that something as simple and straightforward as explicitly recognizing the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide, with its cascading implications for how we perceive ourselves within our lives,
is undemonstrable?

We got another foot of snow :+1:t2:

What’s your thought experiment? What science backs you up? I haven’t found that in your blogs

I have a niece-in-law who hates pink, so much that if her daughter shows any liking towards it, she wants to detour that liking. Meanwhile, I love pink. Pink is a variation of red, and while red doesn’t give me feelings of anger, it is said that red can give people feelings of anger. Why? I don’t know, because I don’t feel that towards red. So we can evaluate individual feelings towards colours. I have a son that loves yellow, but I’m not too keen on it. He looks good in yellow. I don’t. My other son likes blue, which is OK, IMO. The feelings towards colours is an individual thing, IMHO.

That’s interesting, I didn’t realize I need to create a new Mind Experiment before I could complain about the inadequacy of some ancient Mind Experiments.

Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide sure seems more an observation, than a Thought Experiment. It’s based on thinking about the a deeper understanding of the products of the past centuries of scientific investigation.

My contention is we have too easily gotten lost in the wonderland of our thoughts and that leads us astray.
A big complaint I have is that people don’t take the time to absorb the full import of the amazing things we’ve been able to learn and satisfactory “prove” - but instead are always racing ahead trying to find that perfect ultimate answer, the same inner drive that forced us humans to create our gods.

But now that you’ve established that standard guess I’ll have to chew on it and see if I can come up with anything. I guess, " How does an Assumption get transubstantiated into a BEING? isn’t much of an experiment.

Still, why would a philosophy professor be unwilling to approach it?

I was told:

“Your essays consistently make conceptual confusions; the ego-God piece is a good example of this confusion.

In that piece, you waffle back and forth between having the word ‘God’ refer to a heavenly creator and having it refer to the CONCEPT of such a creator. Example: frogs are amphibians, but the concept of ‘frog’ is not an amphibian. It’s a concept that we use to think about the world.” *

The critique continued:

“It’s obvious that humans created the CONCEPT of God, and equally obvious that humans couldn’t create the BEING God.

But your essay confuses the two.”

I found this shocking. After getting my bearing I asked:

I know of Beings and I know of Things and both can be observed in one way or another. If they can’t. I’m told they are figments of my imagination.

How can something that’s never been observed on any level (beyond the human heart & mind) be categorized as a BEING of physical reality? Even the super mystery of “Dark Matter” has evidence pointing at its existence.

How do philosophers justify referring to something as a BEING if it can’t be demonstrated in any way beyond imaginative intellectual arguments and human desire?

How does an Assumption get transubstantiated into a BEING?

*As for that example, it brings this discussion back to the point I’m trying to highlight, the need to explicitly appreciate the Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide.

But you want a mind experiment, ok, I’ll keep that in mind and work on trying to conjure up something.

I get that. And I think it’s worth stating, so kudos. There should be more focus on the here and now. But, pure, speculative science has yielded results, so we can do both.

I remember that exchange about your blog, I commented on it then.

I believe it is an ancient warning of danger. It is the color of fire to be dreaded and also used by many plants and animals as a visible warning and has become a universal symbol of “danger”. Human traffic lights are an example.

Warning Colors in the Animal World

At the American Museum of Natural History’s exhibition The Power of Poison, you’ll learn how certain colors may signal that an animal is poisonous or venomous. These warning colors are good for both predators and prey and can be seen in a variety of species, ranging from moths to mammals, across the animal kingdom.

Yeah, this version is the latest, it’s an ongoing process. It’s been interesting with the Philosophy Club. Going very slow, much I’d like to discuss (write about) but . . . . . . . since it’s a surprisingly delicate diplomatic engagement, and I’m doing my best not to bruise. Hopefully in a year or two I can write about it.

In the time being I’ve got my favor little virtual pub CFI to bring it too, where I don’t have to be quite so on-guard and self-censoring. It’s an evolution and since I’m still looking for someone who’d be capable and interested in really working over my writings, rather than …

I’m fading for sure, less and less matters, still I continue working on it, which is why I keep posting revisions of the same old stuff, each version hopefully a little sharper.

For the most part my life’s been filled with people telling what I should think and who I should be, or better all the prognostication about who I ‘was’. I’ve been immersed in how I walked my talk. I’ve also listened and watched for how well the others have walked the talk they talk. The dissonance has been enlightening and edifying, and one thing is for sure to me, I am no longer the confused one, all my foibles & failings not withstanding. Now I simply keep working on explaining it better.

Metaphorically it’s like real life hitchhiking at night, I gotta make myself seen (thus the little reflector in my palm), and on a related note if the cars’n trucks keep passing me by, well keep that thumb out there, because I’ll never know if the one that stops to offer me a ride (& perhaps new adventure), isn’t coming up right now, or perhaps the next. In fact, look’s like some headlights are slowing down as we speak, but it’ll take a couple months to find out for sure, and I don’t want to jinx it beyond that tease.

1 Like

I believe you have proved that the Human Mindscape is able to observe a small part of Physical Reality, but has only a theoretical understanding of the Wholeness and has invented science to investigate and gather evidence of what the Mindscape imagines to be True.

And in principle I agree with your proposition of a “Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide”.
My example of human ability to see the “visible color spectrum” illustrates how little we experience of the entire spectrum and indeed of Reality itself.
Yet we are perfectly attuned to our environment over millenia of evolutionary adaptation.

But fact remains, we can only observe certain physical patterns and densities directly. The rest is just guesswork.

Write, I love you, but you’re still missing the point.

Maybe, but at the same time, beauty, such as that frog could also mean danger. Anything beautiful in nature, such as that frog is generally dangerous.

I’m not sure if animals in nature have a sense of beauty, other than that it attracts attention such as flowering plants do for attracting pollinators or frogs do as warning to predators. Edible frogs are a favorite food of many predatory animals.

Poison dart frog is the common name of a group of frogs in the family Dendrobatidae which are native to tropical Central and South America. These species are diurnal and often have brightly colored bodies. This bright coloration is correlated with the toxicity of the species, making them aposematic.


Aposematism is the advertising by an animal to potential predators that it is not worth attacking or eating.[1] This unprofitability may consist of any defences which make the prey difficult to kill and eat, such as toxicity, venom, foul taste or smell, sharp spines, or aggressive nature. These advertising signals may take the form of conspicuous coloration, sounds, odours,[2] or other perceivable characteristics. Aposematic signals are beneficial for both predator and prey, since both avoid potential harm.
Aposematism - Wikipedia

That’s an interesting observation and in the process of writing the following I notice, it’s a neat little example of mistaking what one thinks with what’s actually happening in the reality. Mind you, wood burning fire stove is our source of heat, so . . .

Some have argued it comes from blood which is red, after all bleeding implies injury, injury is to be avoided, and it’s personal as heck… It’s also the color of killing animals, the difference between life & death, which has always had an impact on the human mind & imagination.

The red of fire doesn’t have that sort of emotional baggage, besides, a controlled fire was heaven, heat, cooked food along with a sort of mental television to stare at for hours on end, thanks to it’s downright hypnotic effect on the human mind. It attractive as well as repulsive.

From my own experience, they represent two very different kinds of red. Fire trucks are red. A fire’s hot embers are red. But fire itself, is something else altogether, yellow to white, with a bit of orange, even with momentary hints of blue and green in the fringes, depending on what you’ve tossed in with the wood.

just making conversation. :slightly_smiling_face:

Although, of course the Red hot embers also scream a psychological warning, especially to those who’ve experienced touching some. Reinforcing the red warning, I’ll give you that. But blood is where it’s at, because it’s so personal, existential even.

Of course, neither explains why a frog would want to be painted red.