Zombies – Part 3

zombie, zombies, Renee D. Pellegrino, Intense story teller, authorZombie – Part 3

There is another kind of zombie, however: the philosophical zombie. A philosophical zombie (p-zombie, for short) would be a human body without consciousness which would nevertheless behave like a human body with consciousness. To some philosophers (e.g., Daniel Dennett) this is a contradictory notion and thus an impossible conception. If it behaves like a person and is indistinguishable from a person, then it is a person. Other philosophers (e.g. Todd Moody and David Chalmers) argue that a p-zombie would be distinguishable from a person even though indistinguishable from a conscious person. It is distinguishable, say these philosophers, because it is stipulated that it is not conscious even though it is indistinguishable from a conscious being. In case you are wondering why philosophers would debate whether it is possible to conceive of a p-zombie, it is because some philosophers do not believe or do not want to believe that consciousness can be reduced to a set of materialistic functions. Important metaphysical and ethical issues seem to hinge on whether there can be p-zombies. Can machines be conscious? If we created a machine which was indistinguishable from a human person, would our artificial creation be a “person” with all the rights and duties of natural persons? To the p-zombie advocates, consciousness is more than brain processes and neurological functions. No adequate account of consciousness will ever be produced that is “reductionist,” i.e., completely materialistic.

Zombie – Part 3

I think it is possible to conceive of a machine which “perceives” without being aware of perceiving. In fact, they already exist: motion detectors, touch screens, tape recorders, smoke alarms, certain robots. An android which could process visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory input but which would lack self-consciousness, i.e., would not be aware of perceiving anything, is conceivable. We can even conceive of such machines resembling humans in the flesh. How would we distinguish such automata from persons? The same way we do now: by the imperfect and fallible methods of conversation and observation. But that is not what would make the two distinct; self-consciousness or the lack of it would distinguish the automata from persons. “Visual perception” by a motion detector is unlike visual perception by a person just because of the difference in awareness of perception, i.e., self-consciousness. A smoke detector might “smell” certain chemicals, but it does not process odors the way a person does. In my view, the only conceivable p-zombie would be a machine which perceives but has no awareness of perceiving, i.e., no self-consciousness. Such machines are essentially distinct from conscious persons.

Zombie – Part 3

p.s.:  According to some people into the new age movement, a p-zombie would be a person who allows themselves to be brainwashed into not accepting responsibility for themselves or is preoccupied with a machine such as the iPhone, iPad, or computer.  hmmm…I might be a zombie 🙂  I’m preoccupied with my e-book reader.

Want To Use This Article In Your Ezine or Website? You have my permission to link to this article only. This is copyrighted material. Renee D. Pellegrino is of Italian decent writing a melting pot of genres.  You can visit Renee D. Pellegrino, access her free article archive, and grab some free stuff at http://ReneeDPellegino.com  Renee D. Pellegrino lives on the Crescent Moon German Shepherd Dog Kennel in central Pennsylvania with her two cats and six German Shepherds. She continues to write daily, about other things and Zombies.