Vagueness and zombies: why ‘phenomenally conscious’ has no borderline cases

Philosophical Studies 174 (8):2105-2123 (2017)
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Abstract

I argue that there can be no such thing as a borderline case of the predicate ‘phenomenally conscious’: for any given creature at any given time, it cannot be vague whether that creature is phenomenally conscious at that time. I first defend the Positive Characterization Thesis, which says that for any borderline case of any predicate there is a positive characterization of that case that can show any sufficiently competent speaker what makes it a borderline case. I then appeal to the familiar claim that zombies are conceivable, and I argue that this claim entails that there can be no positive characterizations of borderline cases of ‘phenomenally conscious’. By the Positive Characterization Thesis, it follows that ‘phenomenally conscious’ can not have any borderline cases.

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Jonathan Simon
Université de Montréal

References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
The Rediscovery of the Mind.John R. Searle - 1992 - MIT Press. Edited by Ned Block & Hilary Putnam.

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