When I was taking philosophy courses in college, most of the thought experiments we learned were pretty “old school.” Classical. Unchanged in illustrative content since the 1700’s.
- We can conceive of a gold mountain or a unicorn, but does that make them any closer to existing than something of which we cannot conceive?
- If you were a brain in a vat, would you, like, know it?
- When you do something, what if, actually, God does it? For some reason…
- If you wrote Being and Nothingness, does that make it okay to be a wife-swapping speed-freak? (Answer: Yes.)
Despite my exposure to these and a bevy of other ponderables, I never learned until recently that there is a modern school of body-mind philosophical thought that uses zombies. Zombies, in philosophy, are things that look and act like humans, but are not human. The posited existence of such a being seems to have applications from Descartes to Kripke. What does the existence of philosophical zombies say about the quality of human-ness or being-ness? If we can conceive of a zombie, does that mean it, on some level, exists? Could a zombie eat enough brains that it would, like, actually get full? (Okay, I made that last one up.)
Anyhow, if you’d like to learn more, here’s a link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on philosophical zombies. It’s pretty interesting.