Though not myself a physicalist, I develop a new argument against antiphysicalist positions that are motivated by zombie arguments. I first identify four general features of phenomenal states that are candidates for non-physical types; these are used to generate different types of zombie. I distinguish two antiphysicalist positions: strict dualism, which posits exactly one general non-physical type, and pluralism, which posits more than one such type. It turns out that zombie arguments threaten strict dualism and some pluralist positions as much (...) as they threaten physicalism—indeed, more so, since such positions need zombies to motivate them as alternatives to physicalism—and that the only pluralist position that escapes zombie arguments has a radically inflated ontology. (shrink)
I argue that the argument from zombies against physicalism is question-begging unless proponents of the argument from zombies can justify the inference from the metaphysical possibility of zombies to the falsity of physicalism in an independent and non-circular way, i.e., a way that does not already assume the falsity of physicalism.
Zombies are hypothetical creatures identical to us in behavior and internal functionality, but lacking experience. When the concept of zombie is examined in careful detail, it is found that the attempt to keep experience out does not work. So the concept of zombie is the same as the concept of person. Because they are only trivially conceivable, zombies are in a sense inconceivable.
Philosophers disagree about whether there could be “zombies”: beings physically identical to normal human people but lacking consciousness. Establishing their possibility would refute physicalism. But it is seldom noted that the popular “constitution view” of human people implies that our bodies actually are zombies. This would contradict several widely held views in the philosophy of mind.
I argue that if we have a rich enough description of perceptual experiences from an information-theoretic viewpoint, it becomes surprisingly difficult (to put it mildly) to positively conceive philosophical zombies (as complete physical/functional duplicates that lack phenomenal consciousness). Hence, it is at best an open question whether zombies are positively conceivable. My argument requires paying close attention to the direct relation between phenomenology and information.
Philosophers have argued that the conceivability of philosophical zom- bies creates problems for physicalism. In response, it has been argued that zombies are not conceivable. Eric Marcus (2004), for example, challenges the conceivability claim. Torin Alter (2007) argues that Marcus’s argument rests on an overly restrictive principle of imagina- tion. I agree that the argument relies on an overly restrictive principle of imagination, but argue that Alter has not put his finger on the right one. In short, Marcus’s argument (...) fails, but not for the reasons Alter gives. (shrink)
If zombies were conceivable in the sense relevant to the ‘conceivability argument’ against physicalism, a certain epiphenomenalistic conception of consciousness—the ‘e-qualia story’—would also be conceivable. But the e-qualia story is not conceivable because it involves a contradiction. The non-physical ‘e-qualia’ supposedly involved could not perform cognitive processing, which would therefore have to be performed by physical processes; and these could not put anyone into ‘epistemic contact’ with e-qualia, contrary to the e-qualia story. Interactionism does not enable zombists to escape (...) these conclusions. (shrink)
In this article I reply to the challenge set forth by Dennett in his critique of Flanagan and Polger (1995). Through careful textual analysis, I show that Dennett is presenting us with a dilemma and that this dilemma is the keystone of Dennett’s argument in his Consciousness Explained. I argue that one horn of the dilemma does not have the consequence that Dennett claims; Specifically, I argue that theories that allow for the possibility of non-conscious functional duplicates of conscious beings (...) (so called zombies) do not thereby entail epiphenomenalism about consciousness. I demonstrate how Dennett’s argument falls prey to a common mistake in reasoning about the functions of things, and recommend a correction. (shrink)
What Are Zombies? Zombies are stipulated to be creatures that are in some way identical to human beings-and thus, in some sense, indistinguishable from human beings-but which lack consciousness. Zombies are at least behaviorally identical to human beings or other conscious creatures, and they may also be like us in other ways.
Boran Berčić, in the second volume of his recent book "Filozofija" , offers two responses to David Chalmers’s conceivability or modal argument against physicalism. This latter argument aims at showing that zombies, our physical duplicates who lack consciousness, are metaphysically possible, given that they are conceivable. Berčić’s first response is based on the principle of the uniformity of nature that states that causes of a certain type will always cause effects of the same type. His second response is based (...) on the assumption that the basic statements of physicalism in philosophy of mind are or should be contingently true. I argue that if Berčić’s first defence is aimed at the conceivability of zombies, it is unsatisfactory. Moreover, I argue that a quite similar argument, offered by John Perry in his book "Knowledge, Possibility and Consciousness" , is afflicted by a similar problem. Nevertheless, under a more plausible interpretation, Berčić’s argument might be taken to attack the metaphysical possibility of zombies. This version of the argument might be effective and has the merit to point out a so far overlooked link between the discussion of the Chalmers’s conceivability arguments against physicalism and the modal strength of causal links and natural laws. Then, I argue that Berčić’s second defence of physicalism, which cannot be combined consistently with his first one, in any case, should not be formulated in the terms of contingent physicalism. (shrink)
Could there be a cognitive zombie – that is, a creature with the capacity for cognition, but no capacity for consciousness? Searle argues that there cannot be a cognitive zombie because there cannot be an intentional zombie: on this view, there is a connection between consciousness and cognition that is derived from a more fundamental connection between consciousness and intentionality. However, I argue that there are good empirical reasons for rejecting the proposed connection between consciousness and intentionality. Instead, I argue (...) that there is a connection between consciousness and cognition that is derived from a more fundamental connection between consciousness and rationality. On this view, there cannot be a cognitive zombie because there cannot be a rational zombie. (shrink)
I defend an argument from Lauren Ashwell and Eric Marcus to the effect that the zombie idea is meaningless. I consider whether this idea could be saved from the force of the argument by adopting a projectivist account of third-person consciousness ascriptions. I decide that it cannot, but commend that account anyway.
This paper presents a reconstruction of the argument for the logical possibility of zombies, proposed by David Chalmers, which has been debated in analytical philosophy for at least fifteen years now. Beside discussing it, I’m trying to analyze every of its premises. My aim is, especially, to present how the reasoning can show that: (a) zombies/zombie worlds are genuinely conceivable; (b) conceivability is a good guide to possibility; (c) the possibility of zombies is philosophically significant. I’m particularly (...) putting emphasis on some issues concerning two-dimensional semantics and distinctions of conceivability. The conclusion of this paper is that the argument is still not refuted, so a discussion over it should be conducted, instead of a priori refutation. The debate over zombies may have a positive influence on many fields of philosophical investigation. (shrink)
The uncanny valley—the unnerving nature of humanlike robots—is an intriguing idea, but both its existence and its underlying cause are debated. We propose that humanlike robots are not only unnerving, but are so because their appearance prompts attributions of mind. In particular, we suggest that machines become unnerving when people ascribe to them experience, rather than agency. Experiment 1 examined whether a machine’s humanlike appearance prompts both ascriptions of experience and feelings of unease. Experiment 2 tested whether a machine capable (...) of experience remains unnerving, even without a humanlike appearance. Experiment 3 investigated whether the perceived lack of experience can also help explain the creepiness of unfeeling humans and philosophical zombies. These experiments demonstrate that feelings of uncanniness are tied to perceptions of experience, and also suggest that experience—but not agency—is seen as fundamental to humans, and fundamentally lacking in machines. (shrink)
Zombies are bodies without minds: creatures that are physically identical to actual human beings, but which have no conscious experience. Much of the consciousness literature focuses on considering how threatening philosophical reflection on such creatures is to physicalism. There is not much attention given to the converse possibility, the possibility of minds without bodies, that is, creatures who are conscious but whose nature is exhausted by their being conscious. We can call such a ‘purely conscious’ creature a ghost.
This paper explores the idea that many “simple minded” invertebrates are “natural zombies” in that they utilize their senses in intelligent ways, but without phenomenal awareness. The discussion considers how “first-order” representationalist theories of consciousness meet the explanatory challenge posed by blindsight. It would be an advantage of first-order representationalism, over higher-order versions, if it does not rule out consciousness in most non-human animals. However, it is argued that a first-order representationalism which adequately accounts for blindsight also implies that (...) most non-mammals are not conscious. The example of the honey bee is used to illuminate these claims. Although there is some reason to think that bees have simple beliefs and desires, nevertheless, their visually-mediated cognizing is comparable to that of an animal with blindsight. There is also reason to think that the study of blindsight can also help determine how consciousness is distributed in the animal world. (shrink)
Zombies are hypothetical creatures of the sort that philosophers have been known to cherish. A zombie is physically identical to a normal human being, but completely lacks conscious experience. Zombies look and behave like the conscious beings that we know and love, but "all is dark inside." There is nothing it is like to be a zombie.
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. (shrink)
I argue that zombies are inconceivable. More precisely, I argue that the conceivability-intuition that is used to demonstrate their possibility has been misconstrued. Thought experiments alleged to feature zombies founder on the fact that, on the one hand, they _must_ involve first-person imagining, and yet, on the other hand, _cannot_. Philosophers who take themselves to have imagined zombies have unwittingly conflated imagining a creature who lacks consciousness with imagining a creature without also imagining the consciousness it may (...) or may not possess. (shrink)
Philosophers disagree about whether there could be “zombies”: beings physically identical to normal human people but lacking consciousness. Establishing their possibility would refute physicalism. But it is seldom noted that the popular “constitution view” of human people implies that our bodies actually are zombies. This would contradict several widely held views in the philosophy of mind.
Chalmers has argued for a form of property dualism on the basis of the concept of a zombie , and the concept of the inverted spectrum. He asserts that these concepts show that the facts about consciousness, such as experience or qualia, are really further facts about our world, over and above the physical facts. He claims that they are the hard part of the mind-body issue. He also claims that consciousness is a fundamental feature of the world like mass, (...) charge, etc. He says that consciousness does not logically supervene on the physical and all current attempts to assert an identity between consciousness and the physical are just as non-reductive as his dualism. They are simply correlations and are part of the problem of the explanatory gap. In this paper, three examples of strong identities between a sensation or a quale and a physiological process are presented, which overcome these problems. They explain the identity in an a priori manner and they show that consciousness or sensations logically supervene on the physical , in that it is logically impossible to have P and not to have Q. In each case, the sensation was predicted and entailed by the physical. The inverted spectrum problem for consciousness is overcome and explained by a striking asymmetry in colour space. It is concluded that as some physical properties realize some sensations or qualia that human zombies are not metaphysically possible and the explanatory gap is bridged in these cases. Thus, the hard problem is overcome in these instances. (shrink)
This paper explores the possibility that the human mind underwent substantial changes in recent history. Assuming that consciousness is a substantial trait of the mind, the paper focuses on the suggestion made by Julian Jaynes that the Mycenean Greeks had a "bicameral" mind instead of a conscious one. The suggestion is commonly dismissed as patently absurd, for instance by critics such as Ned Block. A closer examination of the intuitions involved, considered from different theoretical angles , reveals that the idea (...) of 'Greek zombies' should be taken more seriously than is commonly assumed. (shrink)
Many philosophers accept the conceivability of zombies: creatures that lack consciousness but are physically and functionally identical to conscious human beings. Many also believe that the conceivability of zombies supports their metaphysical possibility. And most agree that if zombies are metaphysically possible, then physicalism is false. So, the claim that zombies are conceivable may have considerable significance. 1.
A prevailing view in contemporary philosophy of mind is that zombies are logically possible. I argue, via a thought experiment, that if this prevailing view is correct, then I could be transformed into a zombie. If I could be transformed into a zombie, then surprisingly, I am not certain that I am conscious. Regrettably, this is not just an idiosyncratic fact about my psychology; I think you are in the same position. This means that we must revise or replace (...) some important positions in the philosophy of mind. We could embrace radical skepticism about our own consciousness, or maintain the complete and total infallibility of our beliefs about our own phenomenal experiences. I argue that we should actually reject the logical possibility of zombies. (shrink)
One reason for the recent attention to conceivability claims is to be found in the extended use of conceivability in philosophy of mind, and then especially in connection with zombie thought experiments. The idea is that zombies are conceivable; beings that look like us and behave like us in all ways, but for which “all is dark inside;” that is, for a zombie, there is no “what it is like.” There is no “what it is like” to be a (...) zombie, there is no “what it is like” for a zombie to feel pain, there is no “what it is like” for a zombie to taste, or feel, or smell something. They are creatures without consciousness. I am skeptical about the conceivability of zombies. That is not to say that I believe that there is some inherent contradiction to be found in the idea of zombies. Instead, I do not think that I am justified in believing that zombies are conceivable. The focus on justification is not common in the literature on conceivability, or for that matter in the literature on the possibility of zombies. Instead, the focus tends to be on trying to find out whether or not the notion of a zombie is contradictory. It is widely accepted in the literature on conceivability that the absence of a contradiction when conceiving of X is both necessary and sufficient for X to be conceivable. That might be true of ideal conceivability, but as I will argue below, ideal conceivability is not relevant to our (human) pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Further, as I will argue, once we focus on non-ideal conceivability the notion of justification, and degrees of justification comes into play. (shrink)
I argue that metaphysicians of mind have not done justice to the notion of accessibility between possible worlds. Once accessibility is given its due, physicalism must be reformulated and conceivability arguments must be reevaluated. To reach these conclusions, I explore a novel way of assessing the zombie conceivability argument. I accept that zombies are possible and ask whether that possibility is accessible from our world in the sense of ‘accessible’ used in possible world semantics. It turns out that the (...) question whether zombie worlds are accessible from our world is equivalent to the question whether physicalism is true at our world. By assuming that zombie worlds are accessible from our world, proponents of the zombie conceivability argument beg the question against physicalism. In other words, it is a mistake to assume that the metaphysical possibility of zombies entails that physicalism is false at our world. I will then consider what happens if a proponent of the zombie conceivability argument should insist that zombie worlds are accessible from our world. I will argue that the same ingredients used in the zombie conceivability argument—whatever exactly they might be—can be used to construct an argument to the opposite conclusion. At that point, we reach a stalemate between physicalism and property dualism: while the possibility of zombies entails property dualism, the possibility of other creatures entails physicalism. Since these two possibilities are mutually inconsistent, either one of them is not genuine or one of them is inaccessible from the actual world. To resolve this stalemate, we need more than traditional conceivability arguments. (shrink)
Reflection on skeptical scenarios in the philosophy of perception, made vivid in the arguments from illusion and hallucination, have led to the formulation of theories of the metaphysical and epistemological nature of perceptual experience. In recent times, the locus of the debate concerning the nature of perceptual experience has been the dispute between disjunctivists and common-kind theorists. Disjunctivists have held that there are substantial dissimilarities (either metaphysical or epistemological or both) between veridical perceptual experiences occurring when one perceives and perceptual (...) experiences involved in hallucination. Common-kind theorists have denied this. In this paper, I examine the nature of introspection – a faculty that has often been compared and contrasted to perception. I reflect on cases where introspection goes wrong in ways analogous to that in which our perceptual faculties can go wrong and formulate, what I take to be, an attractive theory of introspection. The cases that I focus on in which things go wrong are the case of zombies and the case of subjects with Anton’s syndrome. (Anton’s syndrome is a condition in which people who are blind claim that they can see.) I suggest that, just as it is possible to be a disjunctivist about perception, it is possible to be a disjunctivist about introspection. I argue that this is a good view of one type of introspection, namely, introspection of states that have phenomenal character, such as perceptual experiences. It has a good account to give of the cases in which such introspection seems to go wrong and it yields a plausible metaphysical and epistemological view of the nature of introspection. However, while I favour a disjunctive view of introspection, I do not favour a disjunctive view of perception. And, I suspect, that many disjunctivists about perception would not wish to condone my disjunctivist theory of introspection. I therefore go on to examine to what extent.. (shrink)
Case 1: Perhaps the phenomenal facts—facts about what it’s like to see red, or to taste freshly made pesto—do not supervene with metaphysical necessity on the physical facts and physical laws. This might be because the connections between the physical and the phenomenal are entirely unprincipled. Alternatively, it might be because whatever psychophysical laws do govern those connections are contingent. Either way, the claim is that there are metaphysically possible worlds that are just like the actual world in terms of (...) what physical laws hold, and in terms of the distribution of physical properties, but which are phenomenally different from the actual world. In some such worlds, different phenomenal facts obtain. In other such worlds, no phenomenal properties are instantiated at all. Call the latter sort of world a ‘phenomenal zombie world’, or, for short, just a ‘zombie world’. (shrink)
Philosophical zombies are exactly as physicalists suppose we are, right down to the tiniest details, but they have no conscious experiences. (It is presupposed that all explicable physical events are explicable physically.) Are such things even logically possible? My aim is to contribute to showing not only that the answer is 'No', but why. (I concede that systems superficially like human beings might exist and lack consciousness.) My strategy has two prongs: a fairly brisk argument which demolishes the zombie (...) idea; followed by an attempt to throw light on how something can qualify as a conscious perceiver. The argument to show that zombies are impossible exploits the point that in order to be able to detect our own 'qualia' we should have to be somehow sensitive to them; which the zombie idea rules out. The attempt to make clear why my zombie twin must be conscious exploits the idea that we have a reasonably clear grasp of a 'Basic Package' of psychological concepts. (shrink)
In his "Access Denied to Zombies", Gualtiero Piccinini argues that the possibility of zombies does not entail the falsity of physicalism, since the accessibility relation can be understood so that even in S5 system for modal logic worlds inaccessible from our world are allowed (in the case in which the accessibility relation is understood as an equivalence rather than as universal accessibility). According to Piccinini, whether the zombie world is accessible from our world depends on whether physicalism is (...) true in our world, which is something that cannot be answered in a non-question-begging way. In order to show this, he recalls a well known strategy of making a parody of the zombie argument. After pointing out that Piccinini's strategy of parodying the zombie argument renders his former strategy, based on the distinguishing between the two notions of accessibility, redundant, I recall the two ways of handling parodies of the zombie argument. In addition, I argue that persisting on the distinction between accessibility understood as an equivalence and universal accessibility in dealing with the zombie argument relies upon accepting modal dualism (a view that there are two spaces of possibilities rather than one), which is something usually dismissed for methodological reasons (simplicity in particular). Given that Piccinini has not provided new arguments neither in favour of modal dualism nor in favour of parodying the zombie argument, the conclusion he infers remains unsupported by the premises he uses. (shrink)
In his ‘anti-zombie argument’, Keith Frankish turns the tables on ‘zombists’, forcing them to find an independent argument against the conceivability of anti-zombies. I argue that zombists can shoulder the burden, for there is an important asymmetry between the conceivability of zombies and the conceivability of anti-zombies, which is reflected in the embedding of a totality-clause under the conceivability operator. This makes the anti-zombie argument susceptible to what I call the ‘Modified Incompleteness’, according to which we cannot (...) conceive of scenarios. In this paper I also argue that conceiving of the zombie-situation is a good starting point for rendering the zombie argument plausible. (shrink)
According to the zombie conceivability argument, phenomenal zombies are conceivable, and hence possible, and hence physicalism is false. Critics of the conceivability argument have responded by denying either that zombies are conceivable or that they are possible. Much of the controversy hinges on how to establish and understand what is conceivable, what is possible, and the link between the two—matters that are at least as obscure and controversial as whether consciousness is physical. Because of this, the debate over (...) physicalism is unlikely to be resolved by thinking about zombies—or at least, zombies as discussed by philosophers to date.
In this paper, I explore an alternative strategy against the zombie conceivability argument. I accept the possibility of zombies and ask whether that possibility is accessible (in the sense of ‘accessible’ used in possible world semantics) to our world. It turns out that the question of whether zombie worlds are accessible to our world is equivalent to the question of whether physicalism is true. By assuming that zombie worlds are accessible to our world, supporters of the zombie conceivability argument beg the question against physicalists. I will then consider what happens if a supporter of the zombie conceivability argument should insist that zombie worlds are accessible to our world. I will argue that the same ingredients used in the zombie conceivability argument—whatever they might be—can be used to construct an argument to the opposite conclusion. If that is correct, we reach a stalemate between physicalism and property dualism: while the possibility of some zombies entails property dualism, the possibility of other creatures entails physicalism. Since these two possibilities are inconsistent, one of them is not genuine. To resolve this stalemate, we need more than thought experiments. (shrink)
In the philosophy of mind, zombies often make an appearance. It seems we can conceive of zombies — beings physically exactly like ourselves but lacking conscious experience. There may not actually be any zombies, of course. But the suggestion that they could exist does at least seem to make sense. Or does it? Robert Kirk investigates.
This paper explores the viability of rejecting a largely unchallenged third premise of the conceivability argument against materialism. Fittingly labeled 'type-Z' , this reply essentially grants to the zombie lover, not just the possibility of zombies, but also their actuality. We turn out to be the very creatures Chalmers has taken such great pains to conceive and more conventional materialists have tried to wipe off the face of the planet. So consciousness is a wholly material affair. What is conceivable (...) but non-actual are not zombies, but rather 'angelic' beings possessing an acquaintance with supermaterial phenomenal states. After showing how Chalmers' recent discussion of the phenomenal concepts strategy should incline those pursuing such a strategy toward a type-Z response, this paper relates type- Z materialism to similar replies that Chalmers has found 'hard to classify' and closes with a brief remark about how a type-Z materialist might reply to the knowledge argument. (shrink)
A philosophical zombie is a being physically indistinguishable from an actual or possible human being, inhabiting a possible world where the _physical_ laws are identical to the laws of the actual world, but which completely lacks consciousness. For zombies, all is dark within, and hence they are, at the most fundamental level, utterly different from us. But, given their definition, this singular fact has no direct implications about the kind of motion, or other physical processes, the zombie will undergo (...) within its own world. Under quite standard physicalist assumptions, such as certain assumptions about the 'initial conditions' of the zombie's world and that of the causal closure of the physical. (shrink)
Moody is right that the doctrine of conscious inessentialism is false. Unfortunately, his zombie-based argument against , once made sufficiently clear to evaluate, is revealed as nothing but legerdemain. The fact is -- though Moody has convinced himself otherwise -- certain zombies are impenetrable: that they are zombies, and not conscious beings like us, is something beyond the capacity of humans to divine.
Philosophical (p-) zombies are constructs that possess all of the behavioral features and responses of a sentient human being, yet are not conscious. P-zombies are intimately linked to the hard problem of consciousness and have been invoked as arguments against physicalist approaches. But what if we were to invert the characteristics of p-zombies? Such an inverse (i-) zombie would possess all of the behavioral features and responses of an insensate being yet would nonetheless be conscious. While p- (...) class='Hi'>zombies are logically possible but naturally improbable, an approximation of i-zombies actually exists: individuals experiencing what is referred to as “anesthesia awareness.” Patients under general anesthesia may be intubated (preventing speech), paralyzed (preventing movement), and narcotized (minimizing response to nociceptive stimuli). Thus, they appear—and typically are—unconscious. In 1-2 cases/1000, however, patients may be aware of intraoperative events, sometimes without any objective indices. Furthermore, a much higher percentage of patients (22% in a recent study) may have the subjective experience of dreaming during general anesthesia. P-zombies confront us with the hard problem of consciousness—how do we explain the presence of qualia? I-zombies present a more practical problem—how do we detect the presence of qualia? The current investigation compares p-zombies to i-zombies and explores the “hard problem” of unconsciousness with a focus on anesthesia awareness. (shrink)
A zombie is a creature just like a conscious being in certain respects, but wholly lacking in consciousness. In this paper, I look at zombies from the perspective of basic ontology (“from below”), taking as my starting point a trope ontology I have defended elsewhere. The consequences of this ontology for zombies are mixed. Viewed from below, one sort of zombie—the exact dispositional zombie—is impossible. A similar argument can be wielded against another sort—the exact physical zombie—but here supplementary (...) principles are needed to get to the impossibility result. Finally, at least two sorts of zombie—the behavioural and functional zombies—escape these arguments from below. (shrink)
In his engaging and important paper David Chalmers argues that perhaps the best way to navigate the singularity is for us to integrate with the AI++ agents. One way we might be able to do that is via uploading, which is a process in which we create an exact digital duplicate of our brain. He argues that consciousness is an organizational invariant, which means that a simulation of that property would count as the real thing (a simulation of a computer (...) is a computer, and so being a computer is an organizational invariant). If this is the case then we can rest assured that we will retain our consciousness inside such a simulation. In this commentary I will explore these ideas and their relation to philosophical zombies. I will argue that dualism could be true of the zombie world and that the conclusion of the standard zombie argument needs to be modified to deal with simulation. In short I argue that if one endorses biologism about consciousness then the conceivability of zombies is irrelevant to the physicalism/dualism debate. (shrink)
The ‘real’ issue concerns the status of qualia, that is, the subjective sensory states into which we are thrown when looking at a yellow leaf, hearing a musical chord, sniffing a camembert, or running our fingers over a piece of sandpaper. Is it possible to provide a satisfactory account of such states using only the resources of a materialist functionalism? Or is it the case -- as it has seemed to many, and as it seems to David Chalmers -- that (...) once we have said all there is to say about the physical basis of, and the functional role of, such states, there remains an uneliminable residue: the brute qualitative matter of ‘what it is like’ to sniff the camembert? Since it is extraordinarily hard to tackle this question head-on, we seek the leverage afforded by the notion of the philosopher's zombie, the point being that if we have a coherent intuition to the effect that there is indeed such a residue, then we ought to be able to conceive of the zombie. Just subtract the residue while leaving all the physical/functional stuff in place. Conversely, if it transpires that the notion of the philosopher's zombie breaks down under stress, this would seem to indicate that the intuition of the ineliminable residue is itself problematic. The ‘remedy’ for a belief in zombies is the sort of Dennettian exercise in imagination proposed in this paper. One must be forced to recognize the huge gulf between the simple informational economies of the thermostat, and even the PC, and the amazingly subtle and layered informational economy of a normal human being. Taking the PC, or the severely degraded registrations of actual blindsight victims, as the model, one may fool oneself into thinking one has imagined something when one has not really confronted its detailed implications. This piece will have accomplished its aim if it encourages a few readers to take the latter possibility more seriously than hitherto. (shrink)
RÉSUMÉ: Cette étude examine la relation entre la demande que les zombies sont logiquement/métaphysiquement possible et de la position que la conscience phénoménal est epiphenomenal. Il est souvent présumé que la première entraîne ce dernier, et que, par conséquent, toute implausibility dans la notion de conscience epiphenomenalism remet en question la possibilité réelle de zombies. Quatre façons dont les zombist pourrait répondre sont examinées, et je soutiens que les deux les plus fréquemment rencontrés sont insuffisantes, mais les autres—dont (...) l’un est rarement formulés et l’autre nouveaux—sont plus persuasif. Le résultat, cependant, est que le zombist pourraient en effet être confronté à un engagement indésirables à l’epiphenomenalism de conscience. (shrink)
Zombies recently conjured by Searle and others threaten civilized philosophy of mind and scientific psychology as we know it. Humanoid beings that behave like us and may share our functional organizations and even, perhaps, our neurophysiological makeups without qualetative conscious experiences, zombies seem to meet every materialist condition for thought on offer and yet -- the wonted intuitions go -- are still disqualefied from being thinking things. I have a plan. Other zombies -- good zombies -- (...) can battle their evil cousins to a standoff. Perhaps even defeat them. Familiar zombies and supersmart zombies resist disqualefication, making the world safe, again, for materialism. Behavioristic materialism. Alas for functionalism, good zombies still eat programs. Alas for identity theory, all zombies -- every B movie fan knows -- eat brains. (shrink)
This book covers a vast amount of material in the philosophy of mind, which makes it difficult to do justice to its tightly argued and nuanced details. It does, however, have two overarching goals that are visible, so to speak, from space. In the first half of the book Kirk aims to show that, contra his former self, philosophical zombies are not conceivable. By this he means that the zombie scenario as usually constructed contains an unnoticed contradiction, and explaining (...) the contradiction reveals a radical misconception about the nature of phenomenal consciousness. His second aim of the book is to construct a theory of perceptual-phenomenal consciousness that avoids this contradiction. (shrink)
A philosophical zombie is a being physically indistinguishable from an actual or possible human being, inhabiting a possible world where the physical laws are identical to the laws of the actual world, but which completely lacks consciousness. For zombies, all is dark within, and hence they are, at the most fundamental level, utterly different from us. But, given their definition, this singular fact has no direct implications about the kind of motion, or other physical processes, the zombie will undergo (...) within its own world. Under quite standard physicalist assumptions, such as certain assumptions about the 'initial conditions' of the zombie's world and that of the causal closure of the physical1, a zombie's behaviour, as well as its underlying physical state, should be indistinguishable from the behaviour and physical state of a genuine human being. (shrink)
We're back! Actually, we've never been away, so what I really mean is that my fellow zombies and I are, I hope, about to announce to the world that we're here ! It's true I haven't yet asked anyone else to agree to expose themselves as I am now doing, but I'm hoping that my own public outing will encourage, or perhaps even shame others to come forward and join me.
By definition zombies would be physically and behaviourally just like us, but not conscious. This currently very influential idea is a threat to all forms of physicalism, and has led some philosophers to give up physicalism and become dualists. It has also beguiled many physicalists, who feel forced to defend increasingly convoluted explanations of why the conceivability of zombies is compatible with their impossibility. Robert Kirk argues that the zombie idea depends on an incoherent view of the nature (...) of phenomenal consciousness. His book has two main aims. One is to demolish the zombie idea once and for all. There are plenty of objections to it in the literature, but they lack intuitive appeal. He offers a striking new argument which reveals fundamental confusions in the implied conception of consciousness. His other main contribution is to develop a fresh and original approach to the true nature of phenomenal consciousness. Kirk argues that a necessary condition is a 'basic package' of capacities. An important component of his argument is that the necessary cognitive capacities are not as sophisticated as is often assumed. By focusing on humbler creatures than ourselves he avoids some of the distracting complications of our sophisticated forms of cognition. The basic package does not seem to be sufficient for phenomenal consciousness. What is also needed is 'direct activity' - a special feature of the way the events which constitute incoming perceptual information affect the system. This is an integrated process, to be conceived of holistically, and contrasts sharply with what is often called the 'availability' or 'poisedness' of perceptual information. This original, penetrating, and highly readable book will be of interest to all who have a serious concern with the nature of consciousness: not only professional philosophers and students, but also many psychologists and neuroscientists. (shrink)
In der Debatte zwischen Dualisten und Physikalisten spielen Zombies seit geraumer Zeit eine entscheidende Rolle – physikalische Duplikate phänomenal bewusster Lebewesen, die selbst nicht phänomenal bewusst sind. Die Vorstellbarkeit bzw. Möglichkeit von Zombies bringt, so die Standardauffassung, den Physikalismus in Schwierigkeiten: Wenn die physikalische Ausstattung der Welt die Welt in ihrer Gesamtheit determiniert, wie vom Physikalismus gefordert, dann kann es keine physikalischen Duplikate phänomenal bewusster Lebewesen geben, die nicht ebenfalls phänomenal bewusst sind. Die Arbeit argumentiert dafür, dass die (...) Standardauffassung falsch ist. Aus den üblicherweise angestellten Überlegungen ergibt sich kein zwingendes Argument gegen den Physikalismus, sondern bestenfalls die überraschende Konsequenz, dass Physikalisten wie Dualisten ihre jeweilige Position nicht als kontingent betrachten können, und schlimmstenfalls die nicht minder überraschende Konsequenz, dass der Dualismus falsch ist, wenn der Physikalismus mit der Möglichkeit von Zombies unverträglich ist.The debate between dualism and physicalism has recently been dominated by zombies—physical duplicates of phenomenally conscious beings that lack phenomenal consciousness. According to the standard view, the conceivability or possibility of zombies creates a serious problem for physicalism: If the physical make-up of the word determines the world in its entirety, as physicalism maintains, then there can be no physical duplicates of phenomenally conscious beings that are not phenomenally conscious. This paper argues that the standard view is wrong. The considerations usually appealed to do not yield a convincing argument against physicalism. At best, they result in the surprising claim that physicalists and dualists cannot understand their respective views as a contingent claim; at worst , they yield the no less surprising result that dualism is wrong if physicalism is incompatible with the possibility of zombies. (shrink)