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Frank Cameron Jackson (born 1943) is an Australian philosopher, currently Distinguished Professor and former Director of the Research School of Social Sciences at Australian National Universitymarker. In 2007-2008, he will also become a regular visiting professor of philosophy at Princeton Universitymarker. His research focuses primarily on philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, and meta-ethics.


Frank Cameron Jackson was born in 1943. His father, Allan Cameron Jackson, was also a philosopher and student of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Jackson studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Melbournemarker and received his Ph.D. in philosophy from La Trobe Universitymarker. He taught at the University of Adelaidemarker for a year in 1967. In 1978, he became chair of the philosophy department at Monash University. In 1986, he joined Australian National Universitymarker (ANU) as Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Philosophy Program, Research School of Social Sciences. At ANU, he served as Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies from 1998 to 2001 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 2001. He was appointed as Distinguished Professor at ANU in 2003. He now spends half of each year at Princeton University, and only one month per year at the ANU.

Jackson was awarded the Order of Australia in 2006 for service to philosophy and social sciences as an academic, administrator, and researcher. Jackson delivered the John Locke lectures at the University of Oxfordmarker in 1995. His father had delivered the 1957-8 lectures, making them the first father-son pair to do so.


Jackson's philosophical research is broad, but focuses primarily on the areas of philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, and meta-ethics.

In philosophy of mind, Jackson is known, among other things, for the knowledge argument against physicalism—the view that the universe is entirely physical (i.e., the kinds of entities postulated in physics). Jackson motivates the knowledge argument by a thought experiment known as Mary's room. Jackson phrases the thought experiment as follows:

(As a side note, this thought-experiment was dramatised in the three-part Channel 4 documentary "Brainspotting." It also forms the central motif of author David Lodge's novel Thinks... (2001). Jackson makes an appearance in Lodge's novel as, of course, himself.)

Jackson used the knowledge argument, as well as other arguments, to establish a sort of dualism, according to which certain mental states, especially qualitative ones, are non-physical. The view that Jackson urged was a modest version of epiphenomenalism—the view that certain mental states are non-physical and, although caused to come into existence by physical events, do not then cause any changes in the physical world.

However, Jackson has since rejected the knowledge argument, as well as other arguments against physicalism:

Jackson argues that the intuition-driven arguments against physicalism (such as the knowledge argument and the zombie argument) are ultimately misleading.

Jackson is also known for his defense of the centrality of conceptual analysis to philosophy; his approach, set out in his Locke Lectures and published as his 1997 book, is often referred to as "the Canberra plan" for how to do philosophy.


A partial list of publications by Frank Jackson:

  • (1975) "Grue", Journal of Philosophy, LXXI, pp. 113-131.
  • (1977) Perception: A Representative Theory, Cambridge University Press.
  • (1979) "On Assertion and Indicative Conditionals", Philosophical Review, LXXXVIII, 4, pp. 565-589.
  • (1982a) "Epiphenomenal Qualia", Philosophical Quarterly, 32, 127, pp. 127-136. Online text
  • (1982b) "Functionalism and Type-Type Identity Theories", Philosophical Studies, 42, pp. 209-225. (with R. Pargetter and E.W. Prior.)
  • (1984a) "Weakness of Will", Mind, XCIII, 369, pp. 1-18.
  • (1984b) "Petitio and the Purpose of Arguing", Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 65, 1, pp. 26-36.
  • (1985) "On the Semantics and Logic of Obligation", Mind, XCIV, 374, pp. 177-196.
  • (1986) "Oughts, Options, and Actualism", Philosophical Review, XCV, 233-255 (With R. Pargetter).
  • (1986) "What Mary didn't Know", Journal of Philosophy, 83, 5, pp. 291-295.
  • (1987) Conditionals, Basil Blackwell.
  • (1988) "Functionalism and Broad Content", Mind, XCVII, 387, pp. 381-400 (with P. Pettit).
  • (1990) "In Defence of Folk Psychology", Philosophical Studies, 59, 1, pp. 31-54 (with P. Pettit).
  • (1991) "Decision-theoretic Consequentialism and the Nearest and Dearest Objection", Ethics, 101, 3, pp. 461-482.
  • (1996) The Philosophy of Mind and Cognition, Basil Blackwell (with David Braddon-Mitchell).
  • (1997) From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defense of Conceptual Analysis, Oxford University Press.
  • (1998a) "A Problem for Expressivism', Analysis, 58, 4, pp. 239-51 (with Philip Pettit).
  • (1998b) Mind, Method, and Conditionals: Selected Essays, Routledge.
  • (2001) "Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation", Philosophical Review, 110, 3, pp. 315-360 (with David J. Chalmers).
  • (2003) "Mind and Illusion", in Minds and Persons, Anthony O'Hear (ed), Cambridge University Press, pp. 251-271. Online text


  1. Information about Jackson's father being a student of Wittgenstein's taken from "Alan Donagan: A Memoir" by Barbara Donagan, Ethics (104) 1993, p.150.
  2. Biographical information from Jackson's academic profile at ANU:
  3. Supervenience, Metaphysics, and Analysis (John Locke Lectures), Oxford University, 1994-95

References & further reading

  • Franklin, J. 2003. Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia, Macleay Press, Ch. 9.
  • Ludlow, P., Y. Nagasawa, and D. Stoljar (eds.). 2004. There's Something About Mary, MIT Press.

External links

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