Vol. 2 No. 1 (2020): Simon Fraser University Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy

A Narcissism of Small Differences: Reconciling Acquaintance and Ability Responses to the Knowledge Argument

Published 2020-10-21


  • The Knowledge Argument,
  • Propositional Knowledge,
  • Acquaintance Hypothesis,
  • Physicalism,
  • Mary's Room


Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument (KA) presents the case of Mary, a scientist who knows all the physical facts (i.e. those of the natural sciences) but has only ever seen in black and white. Eventually, she sees colour for the first time. The non-physicalist says that Mary learns a new, non-physical fact, as Mary already knew all the physical facts; this entails that Mary’s previous knowledge was incomplete, and therefore that non-physical knowledge exists. Drawing upon a version of the acquaintance hypothesis, as well as an intellectual account of knowledge-how, I argue for a physicalist response which says that Mary makes gains in non- propositional knowledge, but also enters a new state of propositional knowledge in gaining knowledge-how. Furthermore, I also argue that knowing what it’s like to see a certain colour entails having certain abilities to discriminate between colours.