Philosophical Zombies

z-phil2When 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.

One thought on “Philosophical Zombies

  1. We looked at the issue of philosophical zombies in my Consciousness and Quantum Physics course. I thought it was really interesting, too.

    Actually, most of the quantum world is quite fascinating and a bit hard to grasp.

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