[ExI] Mary passes the test.

Will Steinberg steinberg.will at gmail.com
Wed Feb 10 18:48:57 UTC 2010

"Mary the Color Scientist" is often used as an iron defense of the
magicalness or platonic reality of qualia.  To some, it is enough to say
that Mary learns something COMPLETELY new about the color red when she sees
it, giving the sense that, even for all fact and physicality, something is
missing until Mary sees that color.  Why is this thesis so readily
expected?  I think that qualia, however weird or outside of normal fact, is,
at heart, inextricable from those facts.  For example:

Upon emerging from her room, The Scientists present Mary with two large
colored squares.  One is red, and one is blue.  I wholeheartedly believe
Mary will be able to tell which one is red.  When asked why, Mary says "I
had a feeling that's what it would look like."

I would say that Mary, after learning about red and its neural pathways and
physical properties, is able to form some conception of the color in her
mind's eye, regardless of whether it has been presented to her, because red
is "in there" somewhere.  Here is another example:

The Scientists invent a fake color called "bread."  They teach Mary all
there is to know about red and about bread.  When asked which one is the
real color, Mary tells the scientists that it is obviously red, because her
mind is able to, unexplainable but surely, delve deeper into the
understanding of this.  My point is that there is, at least to me, something
in the facts that will, however minutely, betray the idea of redness to her.

There was recently an article in Discover about the loss of a man's mind's
eye wherein he exhibited some blindsight-like phenomena, knowing without
seeing.  I believe that, in this sense, Mary can KNOW all there is about
red, INCLUDING its qualic perception.  She still may gain something when she
sees the red, but it is, in this case, akin to brushing the dirt of a
treasure chest she has found in a hole to reveal it in its totality.  The
hole is there and some of the dirt is scraped away, and she has a very good
idea of what red is.  Seeing it merely puts her mind at ease, knowing she
was right all along.
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