Before putting forward today’s thought experiment. It can be useful to briefly mention the philosophical views that brought this thought experiment about. In the philosophy of mind there two main competing views: physicalism and dualism. Physicalists believe that all of the human mind is physical. There is nothing in the mind which is non physical. Dualists believe there are both parts of the mind which are physical and other parts which are non physical. With those views mentioned, let’s begin the thought experiment.
Today’s thought experiment comes from Frank Jackson. Imagine a woman named Mary. Mary is a brilliant colour scientist. In fact, she is so brilliant she knows all the physical facts there are to know about colour. She knows how light interacts to make all the different colours and how they interact with the biology of the human eye to produce the image of various colours. She knows all that is to know about colour.
However, Mary has lived her entire life in a black and white room. She has never in her life seen any colour. Only black and white. One day, she leaves the black and white room and experiences colour for the first time.
The question Frank Jackson asks us is: Has Mary learned anything new? If yes, what has she learned?