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A Really Good Discussion of the Zombie Argument

  1. May 8, 2004 #1

    selfAdjoint

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    Here is a careful discussion of fiction, imagination, and what it would take to make Chalmer's zombie argument valid.
     
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  3. May 8, 2004 #2

    Les Sleeth

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    Before commenting on any other aspect of the paper, I wonder if you (or anyone) can explain why the author said that if zombies were possible, then physicalism is false. To my mind, just the opposite is true.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2004
  4. May 8, 2004 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    You have to understand Chalmer's idea of a zombie. It is something that has every characteristic of a human being, except qualia. It can, for example obey the red and green of a stoplight correctly, but it doesn't FEEL red and green. It can carry on every kind of conversation, but anything it states about feeling is a lie. You can't tell whether anyone you might meet is a zombie. But evey physical property of a normal human is also a physical property of a zombie, since they differ from us only in the unphysical qualia.

    So if zombies are possible then there must be something we have that they don't. Hence physical properties per se can't completely define human beings. This contradicts the assumption of physicalism.
     
  5. May 9, 2004 #4

    Les Sleeth

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    Yes, reflecting on it later I realized what the author meant. I came back to edit my post but you are too fast SA! I will reread the link.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2004
  6. May 9, 2004 #5
    Would it be a correct assumption to say¨, that if I through a pie at a Zombie, it would not be angry or happy or express any emotion? It might react by logic only, thinking to itself, I should not have pie on my face, in this situation, I think I will go washup.

    This quote from the paper does not make it clear to me, if the author sees, consciousness and subjuntive exprerience, as the same thing. What does he mean when he says the Zombie will not feel a thing. Is he meaning the physical feel or the emotional fell? A Zombie hit with a pie in the face would be full conscious of the impact, he would just react totally different, than I would, If I had a pie flung in my face.
     
  7. May 9, 2004 #6

    Les Sleeth

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    Until SA answers, I'd like to offer my opinion. A zombie would not actually be angry or happy, but he would physically be able to appear angry or happy. In other words, a zombie can behave exactly like a human (including mimicing emotional behavior), but has no conscious counterpart to that behavior.


    It depends on how we define consciousness. There are those things that happen to us, and then there is our personal knowledge of that. The way I see a zombie is that it has things happen to it, but it has no personal knowledge anything happened; it simply reacts based on its programming.
     
  8. May 9, 2004 #7

    Les Sleeth

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    After a second read, I think the author makes his case that a zombie is not "ideally positively strongly conceivable" and therefore Chalmers zombie argument is weak. However, the author also says:

    While he is happy with physicalism, I'd point out that so far all physicalistic efforts have ever produced in the category of consciousness is zombie-like stuff. Unless and until we can demonstrate the emergence of consciousness from physical factors alone, I don't know why anyone would be ready now to choose physicalism as the likely explanation of consciousness.
     
  9. May 9, 2004 #8

    selfAdjoint

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    We can differ on whether qualia are real, and unaccounted for by physicalism, or whether they are a figment of philosophers' imagination. But it does seem that the narrower issue of Chalmers' argument has been much reduced in force.
     
  10. May 9, 2004 #9

    Les Sleeth

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    Well, I wrote and then deleted my thoughts about rationalistic justification of qualia because I didn't want to seem too obsessed about my new obsession :wink:. But lately I've become very aware of just how hopeless the effort is to prove or justify something with too little experience backing up one's reasoning. Personally, even though I am more or less on Chalmer's side in terms of what he believes consciousness is, I strongly disagree with making such "positive" logic assertions, sans observational experience, as was quoted in the article you referenced. Instead, I think those of us who believe the way we do should jump on physicalist assertions because if they are wrong, then they cannot possibly get enough evidence to properly make their case scientifically.

    To make the case scientifically, the roots of consciousness have be observed. But when I want to know about qualia, I look for it the only place I can observe it, which is within my own consciousness. I don't see how one can look for it within someone else's consciousness, which if true is going to be a continuing problem for "consciousness studies" that attempts empirical investigation. But the same is true for the functionalists, who (it seems to me anyway) must do nothing short of reproducing consciousness physically before we can be sure of physicalist emergent theory. Dennett and others who want to prematurely "dismiss" aspects of consciousness, such as the "knowing self" or qualia, so the functionalist model makes more sense are undertaking a foolish strategy in my opinion. That's because if those things really exist, we are going to have to come back to them to generate a realistic model of consciousness.
     
  11. May 9, 2004 #10
    Most criticisms I've seen of the zombie argument always seem to miss the point to me. The point is that "physicalism" cannot conceive of a reason that zombies cannot exists. If it could then there is no hard problem of consciousness. It isn't about whether zombies are really possible or not. Or whether we can logically put together an a'prior argument as to why zombies can't exists. Those things don't change the main point of the argument. There is no physicalists explanation for why I am not a zombie. This to me is the crucial point of the thought exercise and it illustrates the hard problem perfectly. This exercise is not meant so much to make a statement about reality (such as zombies are possible) as much as it's making a statement of our ability to explain or know about consciousness under the current paradigm.
     
  12. May 10, 2004 #11
    I think we should make a clear distinction between the actual lack of a scientific theory which to provide a broad,'holistic',picture of how consciousness work and the principial impossibility to find one.The actual situation proves nothing for we can expect that a broad theory will be found later (there is no good reason against this,currently at least) filling in a compelling way,with sufficient reasons,the 'qualia gap' also.Simply wondering of why we are not zombies and that science does not have yet a broad theory never count as a sufficient argument against...

    From my understanding of the zombies argument it is the latter approach [there will always be a gap in our understanding of consciousness,qualia at least] which is at the heart of the argument;unfortunately,as of now at least,there is no such logical argument which to be both valid and sound.Moreover,since there is no reason to believe that logic must apply with necessity to reality,even if such an argument would be both valid and sound this woudn't be enough.At most some people would have a strong reason to believe that it's impossible for science to give an accurate account of consciousness but in any case have we the right to consider the conclusion of the argument as being part of the standard of knowledge compelling all would be rational people to believe the same.Only sufficient reasons that zombies are physically possible (in our universe) can promote the conclusion of the argument (counting as a prediction of the premises,considered true) to the level of standard of knowledge.
     
  13. May 10, 2004 #12
    I read the article carefully and have no idea what the author is on about. Maybe I'm being stupid but it seemed to be simply confusing the issues. But then I find the zombie arguments confusing anyway.

    If we need to wonder whether zombies exist or not then clearly we are not zombies. If we were we would know that they can exist. However we know we have qualia (I do anyway), and as Chalmer's points out, it's difficult to imagine a zombie doing research into consciousness. If they would not do this then zombies cannot exist.

    However if zombies can theoretically exist then although we have to admit that we are not zombies it is at least possible to argue that consciousness is non-causal. The Behaviourists tried this and failed, but perhaps there's another way of doing it.

    Mind you, exactly why a zombie would care whether it lived or died I don't know, so if they could exist I don't suppose they'd survive very long.

    Also, if one assumes that zombie behaviour is strictly phsyically determined and yet mimics human behaviour then how can we explain why they would invent pain killers? What could cause this strange and pointless behaviour?

    It is also very hard to imagine zombies discussing in an internet forum and in the professional literature whether zombies can exist or not. Yet if zombies can exist they must do this regularly, even though they don't care a damn what the answer is.
     
  14. May 10, 2004 #13
    Maybe my definition of qualia is different than yours. The only way I can understand this is, that consciousness is the physcial feel and subjuntive experience is the mental feel. If what you mean is, that a Zombie, would physically be able to appear angry or happy but not have emotions, I would agree. But you confuse me when you use consciousness as if it was subjuntive emotional experience. Now understand me, as far as you or I or for that matter animals go, the physcial feel and the mental feel is the consciousness and subjuntive experience but in the Zombie exercise, the Zombie lacks the latter while acting and reacting on logical decisions only. If a Zombie could exist, we should pick up on it. I observe in me, other humans and also in animals, through behavior patterns, what appears to be "qualia".

    Now this is again interesting, how you explain this, because I can not understand it that way. For a Zombie to react to a situation the same as we would, it would have to use its intellect based on logic, for it would not have any emotions to play a factor in its decisions. How can it not know what it is doing and make decisions, if it does not use its intellect, based on logic instead of emotions. All programs are based on logic. A program knows its basic function, which is to find the most suitable answer. A program knows what it is capable of, simply by the results it gives. Now I think I went off the deep end trying to explain what I think you meant. Are you comparing a Zombie to a computer?
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2004
  15. May 10, 2004 #14

    loseyourname

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    A program doesn't know anything. It just performs a function, completely unaware that it's doing anything. A zombie would do exactly the same thing. They wouldn't be plotting to fool us into believing that they are conscious. They wouldn't be capable of plotting. All they would be capable of doing is reacting to a given stimulus in a way that made them appear conscious. Really, they would have to all behave in exactly the same manner. Given the degree of diversity we see in human problem solving capabilities and reactions, both emotional and reasoned, it is safe to say that there aren't any zombies out there. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of evolutionary theory would also know that the very concept is the height of obsurdity from a biological standpoint. I don't know why this is so frequently discussed. It just seems to distract from the heart of the matter.
     
  16. May 10, 2004 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    I've never heard anyone seriously contend there are actual zombies. The zombie was/is simply an illustrative tool Chalmers employed to make a point. I think Fliption summed it up well above.

    But if you read the link selfAdjoint posted, the author claims Chalmers also tried to derive a bit of a logical proof from his zombie allegory (I wasn't aware of this, so I can't say if Chalmers really attempted the proof). SelfAdjoint claims the author of the paper has cast serious logical doubt on that alleged proof, and I agree. But I also say that there is no such thing as a logical proof in regard to actual reality in the absense of verifying experience a so-called "proof" says is true, so I don't believe the paper's author is saying much.
     
  17. May 10, 2004 #16

    Les Sleeth

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    Try this. A Geiger counter "feels" radioactivity, and if it detects a lot of it, the Geiger counter will get very excited, which is analogous to emotion. Yet the Geiger counter doesn't know it feels or is excited. If those talking about a zombie want to single out feeling as the defining factor of consciousness, then I can't see it because lots of things "feel" (or detect) but are not conscious.

    Or, you might look at this way. Say someone gives you an electric shock and your senses detects that. If you were in a coma, for instance, the body might jump, or recoil, or otherwise indicate it felt the shock. But, if YOU (whatever that is) were not aware of the shock, then you are like a zombie. A zombie can react, and can behave like some being in there knows what is happening to it, but in reality it is just behaving like it knows without really knowing.

    The idea of "qualia" is that same idea expressed another way. There is the detection of, for example, the color red, and then there is our unique experience of "redness." Redness is not just a particular wavelength registering in our nervous system, it is also some essence or quality of redness we feel.

    I think loseyourname explains it pretty well. Think about a robot which when it detects someone crying, starts going "waaaaaaaaaaaaa" and droplets of water run down its face. It doesn't need the intellect or logic to detect information, and then react to that according to how it's been programmed.

    You are wrong to say a program "knows" its functions or what it is capable of. Consider a computer. It performs functions and behaves according to what it is capable of, but it is utterly clueless that it is doing so.
     
  18. May 11, 2004 #17
    I have never really understood why this term,used by the supporters of the zombies argument,namely the so called 'metaphysical' possibility of zombies,really put a pressure on physicalism.I accept that the concept of 'zombies' is logically possible but I do not think we are also entitled to leap directly to their physical possibility in 'other physical worlds'.Basically there are no reasons to think they are such possibilities,there is no proof that logic must apply with necessity to reality (not to mention that we can always create new logics).Even if they are possible in other physical worlds we must provide first some compeling experimental evidence for their existence.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2004
  19. May 11, 2004 #18
    I think that may be back to front. The possibility of zombies is usually used to support physicalism, and their impossibility to deny physicalism.

    Chalmer's argues that you should not just accept that the concept of zombies is possible. The idea of zombies was introduced in order to support the idea of epiphenominalism, the idea that consciousness is a waste product of the brain, and that it has no purpose. Chalmer's and others have argued that in fcat they are logically impossible, because there is more to human behaviour than can be explained computationally.

    You may not agree with him but I wouldn't be too quick to decide. If you accept the possibility of zombies then you also accept the idea that consciousness is purposeless and that it evolved by accident. That's quite a difficult position to defend, although I must admit you have Daniel Dennett on your side.

    The argument over zombies looks a bit stupid in a way, but in fact it is an argument over whether we are zombies or not, so it's quite important to know whether or not they are logically possible. If they are not possible then we are not zombies, if they are then we probably are.
     
  20. May 11, 2004 #19

    hypnagogue

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    definition of Chalmers' zombies

    I sense there is some confusion in the discussion here. There are different notions of 'zombies' depending on the argument in which they are implemented. The article this thread is based on addresses Chalmers' notion of a zombie, so let's rigorously define exactly what that is.

    Chalmers' zombie (or, C-zombie) is a creature in a metaphysical world that is physically identical to a normally functioning human being, but which does not have subjective experience. Another way of saying this is that a C-zombie is identical to a normal human being from an objective standpoint, but is quite different from its own subjective standpoint. A C-zombie walks, talks, and behaves the same as a normal human, even has a brain that functions identically to a normal human, but there is nothing it is like to be a C-zombie. Therefore a C-zombie acts as if it has subjectively experienced perceptions and emotions and so on, but in fact it has no subjective experience at all. The implication here is that some contributing factor to subjective experience is not physical, and hence we can have physical duplicates with different subjective experiences if those non-physical contributing factors to subjective experience are not themselves duplicated.

    Thus it is wrong to say that a C-zombie should have no motivation to act, should not ponder problems about subjective experience, or should not seek to take an aspirin when it complains of a headache. To say any of these is to contradict the defining characteristic that a C-zombie is objectively indistinguishable from a normal human.
     
  21. May 11, 2004 #20

    hypnagogue

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    If you accept that a C-zombie is logically possible, it automatically follows that they can exist in a metaphysical world physically identical to our own. These are two equivalent statements.
     
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